Well, 7DAYS EuroCup fans, the time to crown a champion is here. Welcome to the EuroCup Final Live Blog where our man in Bologna, Javier Gancedo, will take you behind the scenes at Virtus Segafredo Arena in Basket City.
LIVE BLOG: The 7DAYS EuroCup Final is around the corner!
The 7DAYS EuroCup Final is around the corner!
We are minutes away from tip-off here at Virtus Segafredo Bologna! The two finalists followed different paths, full of adversity, to get here. Virtus lost two players, Ekpe Udoh and Awudu Abass, before the season even started. A series of injuries slowed the team down, but Coach Sergio Scariolo's team got healthy and the right time and added two elite players, Toko Shengelia and Daniel Hackett, right before the transfer deadline.
Frutti Extra Bursaspor lost four players - three departures and an injury to Tolga Gecim, and only added one player, John Holland, who has proven to be the perfect fit. He has been the team's vocal leader and given Bursaspor a spark, allowing him to reach the EuroCup Finals for the second consecutive season. It is not something you see often. In fact, only one player, Edu Hernandez-Sonseca, played consecutive EuroCup Finals before Holland. Coach Dusan Alimpijevic had to redistribute the team's roles, giving Andrew Andrews and Onuralp Bitim more responsibility. Both players responded effectively and Bursaspor became the road warrior in these playoffs.
Don't miss the pre-game show because Virtus fans are preparing something special: a giant poster will drop from the top of the stands to salute the team in one of the most important games in club history. It is the first sellout crowd ever in this arena and around 250 Bursaspor fans are expected to support their team, too.
It is time to enjoy what promises to be one of the best games of the season. Have fun!
Like father, like son
Virtus Segafredo Bologna has a generational opportunity to win the 7DAYS EuroCup title. And speaking of generations, two of its players have the chance to follow their fathers' footsteps and win a continental title if Virtus beats visiting Frutti Extra Bursaspor on Wednesday night.
Amar Aligebovic is in his second season with Virtus. His father, Teo Alibegovic, had a long basketball career that took him to the United States, Italy, Germany, Spain and Greece. He led ALBA Berlin to the 1994-95 Korac title, the first trophy for any German team in European competitions. Alibegovic averaged 22.7 points and 5.6 rebounds in 16 games that season and led ALBA to the trophy in the second leg of the two-way finals. After an 87-87 tie against Olimpia Milan in the first game, Alibegovic had 34 points on 11-for-14 two-point and 3-for-3 three-point shooting plus 11 rebounds to lead ALBA past Milan 85-79 in the finale to win the title.
"He always tries to mentor me and, of course, he doesn't put any pressure on me. He always keeps it real: if I didn't play good, he tells me. But if I did, he also tells me. He is always able to look at the situation like he was a third party," Amar Alibegovic said about his father. "Having my dad always close to me and him practically playing the same position I do, it really helped me a lot. He taught me a lot of things that I know now, and I definitely wouldn't be here without his teaching."
Alibegovic is not the only Virtus player with a successful father in European competitions. Nico Mannion definitely belongs to that group.
Mannion's father is Pace Mannion, who played professional basketball for the better part of two decades before retiring in 2002. Mannion spent most of his career in Italy and played for Pallacanestro Cantu for four seasons, scoring 3,011 points in 139 Italian League games (21.7 ppg.). He helped Cantu win the 1990-91 Korac Cup title by playing a stellar role in the two-way finals against Real Madrid. Mannion scored 33 points while hitting 6 of 10 three-pointers to lead Cantu to a 77-79 road victory in the first leg. At home in Cantu, Mannion did even better, firing in 8 of 11 three-pointers for 35 points in his team's 95-93 overtime second-leg victory for the title.
Nicolo Mannion and Amar Alibegovic are now ready to become second-generation continental winners. After all, basketball is in their genes.
Basket City awaits a champion!
The day has finally arrived! Virtus Segafredo Bologna and Frutti Extra Bursaspor are meeting each other in the 7DAYS EuroCup Final on Wednesday evening, and you can feel the excitement in Basket City. Virtus can become Italy's first EuroCup champion and thereby earn its return to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague for the first time since 2008. The game is already sold out.
Meanwhile, Bursaspor team manager Cem Civan confirms that there will be 20 giant screens in different areas in Bursa for fans of tonight's visiting team to watch the game together. Bursaspor has become a phenomenon in its home city and among Turkish basketball fans in general. Back in 2016, Bursaspor was in the Turkish third division and didn't reach the first until 2019. But in just two years, Bursaspor has made it to the 7DAYS EuroCup Final and the Turkish League playoffs. Civan can also make history in his own way: if Bursaspor wins, he would be the first team manager to win the EuroCup with different teams, as he helped Galatasaray Istanbul lift the trophy in 2016.
Back to Virtus, everything seems to be in place before the big game. Mam Jaiteh was all smiles after being named the competition's MVP on Monday, and the general vibe among his teammates was really positive. Virtus has also clinched first place in the Italian League regular season for the first time in 21 years. Since mid-March, the club has won 15 of its last 16 official games.
It is also a comeback of sorts for the "Vu Nere" – the club's nickname due to the black V in its logo. When current owner Massimo Zanetti arrived to the team in 2016, Virtus was in the Italian second division. Six years later, the team is the reigning Italian League champion and sits one win away from lifting the EuroCup trophy.
It is one of the biggest games of the season by any measure! So, even if you cannot watch it live at Virtus Segafredo Arena or on the streets of Bursa, make sure you tune in and enjoy what promises a hard-fought battle to win the 7DAYS EuroCup and earn the right to play in the 2022-23 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague!
Bursaspor is ready, too!
The stage is set for the 7DAYS EuroCup Final after Frutti Extra Bursaspor practiced on Tuesday evening, 24 hours before tipoff. The visitors came with an entourage of sponsors, executives and Turkish media, which gives you a feeling of how important this game is not just for the club, but for Turkish basketball. They all took a family picture along with the players and club's staff at center court to remember the historical moment.
Of course, everyone keeps talking about Bursaspor's new nickname, The Pitbulls, which helped the team play with the right mentality. John Holland put the words out there in what already has become an iconic halftime interview during the quarterfinals, and the whole team followed.
We talked to Dave Dudzinski, who was all smiles after practice. He has some reasons to be happy. Dudzinski played a major role in Bursaspor's amazing run, and he recently re-signed his contract for two more years. He confirms that the buzz about "The Pitbulls" is real and Bursaspor wants to show it in the final.
"We talk about it, and it is something we identify with. For sure, John [Holland] is kind of the microphone of the team. He is saying what the mood of the team is right now," he told us. "We really feel like underdogs, pitbulls. We are ready to fight against anyone in every moment."
Bursaspor knows that a whole city will be pushing for them, and its sellout crowds in recent home games prove it.
"It's insane," Dudzinski said. "The energy that we have in the city right now is really something special. It is something that maybe a lot of players never get to experience in their careers. I am really thankful to the fans in Bursa and the city of Bursa. We are trying to get this one for them. There will be big screens in the city showing the game, and there will be a lot of people there. We hope we can put on a show for them."
Virtus is prepped for the battle!
Virtus Segafredo Bologna was the first team to practice the day before the EuroCup Final. Several players – Kyle Weems, Daniel Hackett and especially Toko Shengelia – stayed on the court longer to put up some extra shots up before the big game against Frutti Extra Bursaspor on Wednesday night.
Shengelia has a golden chance to win a second EuroCup title 12 years after his first one with Valencia Basket in 2010. No player has gone so long between titles. Simas Jasaitis is the longest until now, eight years between winning with Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius in 2005 and Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in 2013.
Incidentally, that final between Lokomotiv and Bilbao Basket in 2013 was the last single-game final in EuroCup history until this one. The format returns after nine years. There were two-way series to the title from 2014 to 2016, then best-of-three finals to decide a champion from 2017 to 2021.
During the media availability for Virtus, when asked about his All-EuroCup First Team guard and team leader Milos Teodosic, head coach Sergio Scariolo had a funny comment.
"If I could think that Milos wouldn't be ready, I better not go to the game!" he laughed. "Milos will be ready, and we know the opponent will try to do their best, legally of course, to slow him down... but he is used to it."
Bologna welcomes another European final!
The game 20 teams dreamed of playing in will tip off at 20:30 CET on Wednesday with Virtus Segafredo Bologna and Frutti Extra Bursaspor battling for glory. Bologna has already witnessed Virtus reaching the peak of European basketball, but also the biggest disappointment a team can have at the highest level.
Bologna was home to the 1966 EuroLeague Championship Game. The semifinals and finals were played in a Final Four format in Bologna and Milan. Simmenthal Olimpia Milan played both of its games in Bologna, including a 77-72 victory over Slavia Prague 77-72 in the championship game.
More than 35 years later, another EuroLeague final was played in Bologna, this time in a best-of-five playoff format. Virtus, then known as Kinder Bologna, faced Tau Ceramica Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz. After the teams split the first four games, Bologna was the site for Game 5 and saw Virtus prevail 82-74. Antoine Rigaudeau led the way with 18 points and Manu Ginobili and Marko Jaric each added 16 to get the party started in Bologna.
A year later, the 2002 EuroLeague Final Four took place in Bologna. Kinder and Panathinaikos Athens survived their respective semifinal showdowns and Virtus fans were eager to celebrate back-to-back EuroLeague titles, but the Greens rallied from a 14-point deficit to register an 83-89 win and claim the EuroLeague crown. Ibrahim Kutluay led Panathinaikos with 22 points and Dejan Bodiroga added 21 and earned the 2002 Final Four MVP honor.
Bologna is a city rich in basketball history and another chapter on the topic will be written this week as Virtus and Bursaspor give their all to finish on top. Stay tuned for exclusive content as we prepare for a champion's coronation!