The first winner-take-all, single-game final in the 7DAYS EuroCup since the 2012-13 season is coming on Wednesday, May 11. Here's a look at what each finalist brings to this momentous occasion.
Stats Review: The finalists
Virtus Segafredo Bologna vs. Frutti Extra Bursaspor
Virtus and Bursaspor met twice during the regular season, ultimately finishing fourth and seventh in Group B respectively. Virtus won both games, beating Bursaspor by 18 in Turkey in Round 1 but more memorably edging them by just 4 points in Bologna in Round 10 as Andrew Andrews scored 37 points.
In that pair of wins, Virtus scored at will against Bursaspor's bottom-ranked defense averaging a massive 1.25 points per possession. That figure sits well ahead of the EuroCup-best 1.03 points per possession Bursaspor has scored this season and ranks among the top marks posted by a team against a single opponent this season. Creating quality shots consistently out of motion sets in half-court situations, Virtus picked apart a Bursaspor defense that struggled then, but has improved in postseason play.
After allowing a dismal 1.06 points per possession during the regular season, Bursaspor has allowed just 0.91 points per possession so far in three elimination games. Rotating with a greater sense of urgency in recent weeks, Bursaspor has seen its intensity pay dividends. Its defense has gone from being the league's worst by a comfortable margin to performing on par with the second-best. Given its season-long offensive explosiveness, Bursaspor has become a daunting matchup recently, looking far different even than the team Virtus beat by a narrow margin in early March.
Given the final scores in the regular-season matchups between these two teams – 83-101 in the season opener and 98-94 in Round 10 – the final probably won't be a defensive battle. Nonetheless, defense still feels like it will be a key differentiator as to whether Virtus or Bursaspor earns this season's lone EuroLeague berth.
Bursaspor's upside in this matchup is rooted in whether it can maintain the defensive momentum that has brought the team through the eighthfinals, quarterfinals and semifinals unscathed despite playing against higher-ranked teams in jam-packed road games on each occasion.
For Virtus, the ability to come up with timely stops is a point of interest. The hosts of Wednesday's final have done a terrific job limiting shots in transition and around the rim in recent weeks, but those skills will be put to the test against the EuroCup's best offensive team.
Who to Watch
Part of what makes this such an intriguing defensive battle is how explosive both teams have been on the offensive end of the court this season. Bursaspor leans heavily on its core scorers, a group has delivered in impressive fashion in postseason play. Virtus has gotten a tremendous effort from Mam Jaiteh in recent weeks and in that way has made it to the final without having to thrive on perimeter scoring.
The first EuroCup postseason in more than a decade to be played wholly under one-and-done circumstances has been filled with surprises. The resulting final matchup – between the competition's hottest team, Bursa, and one if its early favorites, Virtus – has delivered upon to the potential that this new format has for delivering drama.