The start of the playoffs is an exciting time for 7DAYS EuroCup fans. Let's take a look at the history, themes, coaches' experiences, milestones about to be met and other stories to follow in the first week of quarterfinal action this season.
Home teams historically own Game 1
This is the third season of best-of-three quarterfinals and a road team is yet to win Game 1 of the quarterfinals. In the past two seasons, eight quarterfinal Game 1 contests finished with eight home victories. Of those eight quarterfinal series, the teams with home-court advantage won the series in either a sweep or by winning Game 3 on their respective home floors, too. Moreover, of the 14 best-of-three series openers in the past two years, all but two have been won by the visiting team (85.7% winning percentage): eventual winner Unicaja Malaga beat Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in Game 1 of 2016-17 semifinals and Darussafaka Istanbul edged Lokomotiv in overtime in Game 1 of last year's EuroCup Finals. But, despite the perfect record that teams with home-court advantage have in the quarterfinals, and their winning rate in the EuroCup Playoffs, don't think that teams without a home-court advantage don't stand a chance. In that total of 14 series, five teams without the home-court advantage won their series, including each of the past two finals and one semifinal series in each of the last two seasons.
Champs win at home
Each of the eight teams in action this week has an eye on the ultimate prize – the EuroCup trophy. One thing teams that have gone on to win the EuroCup title over the years have had in common is that they knew how to protect their respective home floors. That includes Unicaja and Darussafaka, both of which went all the way despite lacking home-court advantage the past two seasons; both still won all three of their home games on their journey through the playoffs. Starting with the inaugural ULEB Cup season in 2002-03 and all the way up to last season, the 16 eventual competition champs have all combined to win 40 and lose only one home playoff game. That includes 35 home-and-away series throughout the first 14 years of the competition and 14 best-of-three series in the last two seasons. The only EuroCup winner that lost a home game after the group stages was Lokomotiv in the 2012-13 season; it dropped the second leg of the semifinal series against Valencia 63-68. Lokomotiv won the first leg of the series in Valencia by 10 points and went through to beat Bilbao Basket in a one-game final. Before that semifinal Game 2, eventual champions were 22-0 at home, and have been 18-0 since then.
Pick your matchup storyline
As always, quarterfinals series offer many different angles to examine. In one series, LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne and quarterfinals debutante MoraBanc Andorra are entering uncharted territory and one of them will become a first-time semifinalist. In another, Valencia Basket and Rytas Vilnius have five competition titles and three additional EuroCup Finals to their respective names. Then, there are ALBA Berlin (87.4 ppg.) and Unicaja (86.1 ppg.), two of the EuroCup's most prolific offenses. On the other hand, there is the all-Russian showdown with two teams who know each other well. At the same time, that series will showcase two of the three best defenses, with UNICS Kazan allowing a total of 1,188 points (for the second-lowest average in the competition at 74.25 ppg) and Lokomotiv just 1 point more (1,189 points for 74,31 ppg. average) entering Game 1. While Lokomotiv will put its EuroCup best 7-1 road record on the line in Kazan, three teams will be looking to continue their unbeaten streaks at home, Valencia and UNICS in Game 1 and MoraBanc will be hoping to do so in Game 2. In that contest, MoraBanc's offense, which has averaged 93.1 points per game at home, will go against ASVEL's competition-best defense (71.9 ppg.). Valencia enters the quarterfinals on a 10-game winning streak and meets Rytas, which has only eight wins and as many losses this season. UNICS big man Maksim Sheletko will go against Lokomotiv, the team he played five seasons for and was on the EuroCup-winning squad in 2013. ALBA head coach Aito Garcia Reneses will be guiding ALBA against his former team Unicaja, while on the other side Unicaja guard Dragan Milosavljevic will go against ALBA, a team he spent two seasons with and was a team captain.
Who will join Aito?
ALBA head of bench Aito Garcia enters Game 1 as the lone coach of the eight remaining who has previously won a EuroCup playoff series. Aito has plenty of success in this competition; he guided Joventut Badalona to the 2008 ULEB Cup title and took Herbalife Gran Canaria to the EuroCup Finals in the 2015 campaign, the same season when he won EuroCup Coach of the Year honors. The only other coach in these quarterfinals to have won a EuroCup playoff game in the past is UNICS's Dimitris Priftis, who won quarterfinals Game 2 against FC Bayern Munich last season, but still lost the series. Of the other six coaches, four of them are in their first EuroCup seasons, hence making their playoff debuts: ASVEL's Zvezdan Mitrovic, MoraBanc's Ibon Navarro, Lokomotiv's Vlade Jovanovic and Valencia's Jaume Ponsarnau. Rytas coach Dainius Adomaitis is in his second EuroCup campaign, but first playoff appearance. Luis Casimiro of Unicaja has taken his teams to the EuroCup playoff rounds three times, but is yet to win a game and has a 0-6 record in elimination games coaching Gran Canaria and Estudiantes Madrid. In Game 1 on Tuesday, there will be at least two coaches to register their first EuroCup playoff win and by the time Games 2 conclude on Friday, there could be four coaches victorious in their first playoff series.
Moving up the ladder
With his next assist, Lokomotiv guard Dmitry Khvostov will tie Albert Oliver for third place in EuroCup history with 393. Khvostov has an eye on second place, too, where Marko Marinovic sits with 400 career assists. Valencia playmaker Sam Van Rossom has 298 career assists and needs 2 more to become just the 10th player in competition history to reach 300. With 11 more assists, he will catch Omar Cook (309) for ninth place. Lokomotiv's JaJuan Johnson is closing in on the top 10 in blocked shots. He has 69 for his career and with the next, he will tie Viacheslav Kravtsov for 10th place. Rytas big man Artsiom Parakhouski is in 12th place with 65 blocks. Unicaja's Sasu Salin enters Game 1 in fifth place all-time with 168 three-pointers made. Ahead of him, Todor Stoykov (171) is fourth and Kyle Kuric (174) is third. Former champ Jamar Smith of UNICS has 152 career three-pointers and needs 4 more to catch Sergey Monia for 10th place in EuroCup history. Rytas point guard Rok Stipcevic ranks 17th with 129 career threes and needs 2 more to catch Ali Muhammed (131) who is 15th. ASVEL big man Miro Bilan needs 5 offensive rebounds to enter the top 10 all time. Bilan sits in 14th place with 134 and Sitapha Savane is 10th with 139. The next time he enters a game, Khvostov will take sole possession of the second place with 131 EuroCup appearances, having only Valencia's Rafa Martinez (141 and counting) ahead of him. UNICS forward Kostas Kaimakoglou will be making his 100th EuroCup appearance when he takes the floor in that same series. Van Rossom, who has started 10 games this season, needs two more starts to get into the top 10 in games started.