AS Monaco and Buducnost VOLI Podgorica square off for the first time ever with some history on the line – each team looking to reach 7DAYS EuroCup Semifinals for the first time. Monaco enters the series after winning Top 16 Group E with a 5-1 record and is on a streak of winning seven of its past eight games. Buducnost, on the other hand, has won just three of its last seven games, but each of the last two came in must-win situations to sneak into the playoffs from Group G.
Not much advantage on offense
With its 11-5 overall record going into the quarterfinals, Monaco has won three more games than Buducnost this EuroCup campaign. But a look at this season's offensive stats would hardly reveal such a difference between them. Monaco has averaged 83.4 points per game, while Buducnost has been worth 80.9 on average – and that's about as much of a disparity as one will find with these two teams. Monaco is second in the competition with 13.2 offensive rebounds per game – nearly 3 more per game than Buducnost, but it evens out overall because Monaco has grabbed a total of just 5 more rebounds over 16 games than Buducnost, averaging 35.6 to Buducnost's 35.3 per game. They are the two worst-ranked quarterfinals teams when it comes to assists, with Monaco dishing 15.6 and Buducnost just 14.1. The two have also not shined shooting three-pointers, with each making a total of 122 for an identical average of just 7.6 per contest, also the lowest among the quarterfinalist. All summed up, Monaco holds a slight advantage with an average PIR of 92.7, while Buducnost as a team has accumulated 91.5 per game.
Looking for an edge
Where Monaco has an edge is its defense, which has allowed 75.3 points, more than 5 fewer than Buducnost. No quarterfinals team has allowed fewer than Monaco, however, this stat comes with a tweak because the team allowed 80.0 per game in the Top 16. On the other hand, Monaco's offense averaged 91.3 points during the Top 16, while scoring at least 90 points in five of the six games during that stage. Five Monaco players have averaged at least 12.0 points during the Top 16, led by Rob Gray's 18.5 points per game and followed by Marcus Knight (14.3 ppg.), Dee Bost (13.7 ppg.), Mathias Lessort (13.2 ppg.) and J.J. O'Brien (12.0 ppg.). Buducnost might have lost eight games, but half of those by 4 points or fewer. Buducnost has also achieved four of its eight victories by 6 points or fewer. In such games, it can all come down to free throws and Buducnost has thrived in that segment, serving as the runaway leader this season with 18.1 made free throws per game, and shot them at fifth-best 79.2% accuracy. Amadeo Della Valle is yet to miss a free throw in a Buducnost uniform, while Nikola Ivanovic and Melvin Ejim made better than 90.0% during the Top 16.
Facing a hometown team
Few people know better what Buducnost is capable of better than Monaco head coach Zvezdan Mitrovic, who will lead his troops against the club where he grew up. Mitrovic played for the Buducnost youth categories before embarking on a coaching career as a 23-year old. He spent several seasons in the late 1990s as Buducnost's assistant head coach before going on to build a respectable coaching career during which he also led the Montenegrin national team to a historic Basketball World Cup appearance, where current Buducnost players Nikola Ivanovic, Petar Popovic and Suad Sehovic played prominent roles under him. It all leads to believe there should be no surprises for Mitrovic against Buducnost. Although it might not be a crucial factor in the series, this does give him an advantage in preparing for the opponent and in games where few details determine winners, such familiarity will go in Monaco's favor.
Experience leads the way
This is the second straight season Monaco has reached the quarterfinals, but the first time it will play in a quarterfinal game because a COVID-19 pandemic stopped the last season. On the other hand, this is the fourth quarterfinals appearance for Buducnost and its star guard Ivanovic (15.2 ppg., 3.5 apg.), who played in each one of those six games in 2012, 2013 and 2018. Buducnost forward Ejim (12.6 ppg., 6.0 rpg.) has played in two quarterfinals series, both with UNICS Kazan. Ejim and Della Valle (10.2 ppg.) both have won best-of-three EuroCup quarterfinal series; Ejim did so UNICS over Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in 2019, while Della Valle with Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia against Zenit St Petersburg a year earlier. That season Della Valle and Ivanovic made the All-EuroCup team, just like Monaco center Lessort (11.7 ppg., 5.9 rpg.) did in 2018-19 with Unicaja Malaga. The other Monaco player with EuroCup playoff experience is Bost (14.4 ppg., 4.7 apg., 3.0 rpg.), who played in the quarterfinals twice, including with Buducnost in 2013. But those are the only two Monaco players with experience playing at this stage, while Buducnost has Justin Cobbs, Petar Popovic, Zoran Nikolic, Danilo Nikolic and Dragan Apic, who have all previously played in a quarterfinals series. With the majority of these players with big roles on their current teams, their experience could be of massive importance.