Contributing to Italian basketball history
One of these two teams, either EA7 Emporio Armani Milan or Dolomiti Energia Trento, will become just the second Italian team to reach the Eurocup Semifinals and the first since 2011. Over the years, Italian clubs have been quite active in the competition with a total of 20 clubs taking part since the ULEB Cup opened its doors in 2002. To date the most successful has been Benetton Treviso, which played a total of five Eurocup seasons between 2007 and 2012 and peaked when it knocked out BG Goettingen in the quarters to reach the 2011 Eurocup Finals. Benetton hosted that event, but fell in the semifinals to Cajasol Seville. EA7 Milan scorer Alessandro Gentile was an 18-year starter on that Benetton team.
When Italians face Italians
Not only is it not uncommon for Italian clubs to face one another in continental play – 109 games to date!, there have already been seven European finals in different competitions contested by two Italian clubs. Milan has a 16-11 record in games against Italian opponents in Europe, which includes three of the aforementioned finals: Milan lost the 1983 Euroleague championship game to Cantu, defeated Varese in the single-game 1985 Korac Cup final and swept Roma in the 1993 Korac Cup finals. However it has been nearly two decades since Milan faced another Italian squad in Europe; it defeated Kinder Bologna in the 1996-97 Euroleague in the best-of-three eighthfinals, but then lost in the quarters to Olimpija Ljubljana. Trento, which is making its debut in European action this season, beat Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia twice in the Last 32 stage, but before this season Italian clubs had not met in continental play since the 2007-08 Euroleague, when Montepaschi Siena swept Virtus Bologna in the regular season.
Head-to-head duels this season
Trento and EA7 Milan have already played their two Italian League contests against the other this season and the home team won each time. On opening night, Trento started its season on the right foot with an 80-73 victory behind 19 points and 7 rebounds from Julian Wright and 17 points and 8 boards from Trent Lockett. Jamel McLean posted 22 points and 10 rebounds and Gentile scored 20 in defeat. The return leg came in January in the fashion capital, where Milan pulled out an 83-79 victory with completely different go-to men; Trento held McLean to 4 points before he fouled out, but Milan Macvan racked up 24 points and 10 rebounds and Kruno Simon added 20 points and 5 assists. Milan did not find a way to contain Wright, who amassed 30 points and 9 rebounds.
A whole new Milan
EA7 Milan will be a different team against Trento than the one that swept Banvit Bandirma in the Eurocup Eighthfinals due to the return of star swingman Alessandro Gentile, who returned to action over the weekend after missing a month. Gentile scored 4 points and grabbed 5 rebounds in 15 minutes as he shed some rust against Manital Torino. And he will have another Italian League game before meeting Trento. There are other factors at work in Milan’s favor heading into the series; mid-season signing Mantas Kalnietis has worked his way into the starting lineup and his full integration gives Coach Jasmin Repesa a deeper backcourt than ever, while center Esteban Batsita may not be eligible to play in the Eurocup, but his presence can help Milan limit the minutes of Jamel McLean and Milan Macvan in domestic action and thus keep them fresh for the Eurocup games. With an already deep team, having big men with fresh legs could play a factor in the series.
Trento and its unorthodox, fast-paced game
Trento is no easy team to prepare for, because there are not many others that play quite like Coach Maurizio Buscaglia’s side. Buscaglia has overseen Trento’s rise through two divisions to reach the top level in Italy and now climb onto the big stage in Europe too. His aggressive brand of basketball has Trento ranked among the Eurocup leaders for the season in steals (first, 9.3 spg.), scoring (sixth, 83.7 ppg.), performance index rating (sixth, 92.2 per game) and blocks (sixth, 3.3 bpg.). The team plays without a natural center; Julian Wright (2.03 meters) and reserve Luca Lechthaler (2.06 meters) are Trento’s tallest active players. Wright leads the team in assists (3.3 apg.) and anyone can score; nine different players have a game with at least 10 points this season and nine different players average at least 1 three-point attempt per game, so the attack can come from anywhere.