Preview by Yarone Arbel
|KRKA do not allow any easy baskets, especially in the paint, so a lot will depend on whether Oostende's frontline duo of Will Thomas and Caleb Green can take their chances|
In the second semi-final the host team, BC Telenet Oostende of Belgium, takes on KK KRKA Novo Mesto from Slovenia.
The success of both these clubs isn't surprising at all if you've followed the EuroChallenge until now, but also the bigger picture in European basketball.
BC Oostende continues a great season for Belgium teams in European Competitions after Charleroi qualified to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague and put on a very impressive performance, including a huge win over powerhouse Real Madrid.
As one of the two biggest clubs in Belgium, BC Oostende wasn't far behind and wrote a big achievement, bringing the club one step from making history.
KRKA wrote one of the best seasons in the club's history as well , by making it also to the Final Four of the Adriatic League.
Now each club stands very close to writing a new big headline in its books and perhaps even in those of its country.
BC Oostende have reached the semi-final stage of a European competition just once before, when a double loss to Estudiantes Madrid kept them out of the Korac Cup finals in 1999.
KRKA played the ULEB Cup title game in the competition's debut season back in 2002/03 and lost as well to a Spanish team.
With a win on Friday night, BC Oostende will be only the second team from Belgium to reach a European final after Antwerp reached the top game of the Korac Cup in 1973, and by going all the way they will become the first Belgian club to win a European title.
KRKA on the other hand could join Olimpija Ljubljana on the list of Slovenian winners, after the latter won the Saporta Cup in 1994.
Long Hard Road
Both sides had pretty much the same road to the Final Four, though towards the finish line their stories were separated.
KRKA and Oostende won their Regular Season and Last 16 groups and marched into the quarter-finals with the home court advantage, but then things changed.
Oostende won the opening game against Ventspils but were forced to a third deciding game after a double-overtime loss on the road.
KRKA lost the home court advantage to Lukoil Akademic in Game 1 but recovered with two wins in a row, including a two-point victory in the deciding game.
What Makes Them Special?
If the first semi-final is between two of the best offensive teams in the EuroChallenge, this one is all about defense.
The two teams that allowed the fewest points the entire season are KRKA (69.9 ppg) and BC Oostende (71.7), yet there's more to it.
The 2011 version of KRKA is a beautiful European basketball story.
Such success cannot happen in another style of basketball, but the European game allows a group of hard-nosed fighters without an outstanding talent on the roster to have a great season.
40-year-old coach Aleksandar Dzikic, in his second season with the club, managed to glue together a pack of players that play great team basketball with an intense team defense, the type that makes the opponent count the minutes till the buzzer.
One American, one Bosnian, one Serbian and nine locals form the great success of this season from Slovenia.
Only two players on the team average points in double-digits - Goran Ikonic and Christopher Booker - but even they don't reach 13 ppg.
Coach Dzikic has six players who score between 7.9 and 12.9 ppg and aggressiveness that can be found in almost any player that steps on the floor.
That is also an outcome of Dzikic's floor sharing system, where the player with the most minutes per game is on the floor only for 23.8 mpg and the last player on the roster is averaging 11.8 mpg.
Oostende is the exact opposite story.
They have a local coach, not a common sight in Belgian basketball, in the form of former national team star Jean-Marc Jaumin, but if you're looking for a Belgian player on the floor you must be very patient.
Quentin Serron, an up and coming 21-year-old guard, is the domestic player with most minutes on the roster, with 12.7 mpg, but he's only ranked 10th in that category.
No less than five Americans, two Africans, one Serbian and another Bosnian spend more time on the floor than Serron, and their offensive workload is clear as well.
The five Americans are also the top five scorers on the team, scoring between 7.8 and 15.1 points.
Serron comes in ninth, averaging 2.4 ppg this season.
KRKA play aggressive defence and thanks to their athletic ability on the perimeter and around the rim, they keep opponents in low figures.
It would be tough to find two teams with more opposing styles than these two.
Yet at the end of the day it's still basketball, and they are two of the best defensive teams in the competition.
Stand Out Figures
KRKA already faced a team from Belgium this season - Antwerp - and it wasn't a nice sight for the fans of Belgian basketball.
Antwerp totaled only 91 points in both games after scoring 46 in the first game (62-46) and 45 in the second in a 19-point loss in front of their fans.
Yet the defence of KRKA stands out in more than just those two games.
The best example to tell the story is the fact that no team in the EuroChallenge allow fewer two-point field goals than KRKA, who concede only 17 per night - a total of 34 points.
If you're looking for another figure to strengthen this argument is the fact no other team in the competition commits more fouls than KRKA.
They do that 25.9 times in a game, 2.5 more (which is a big difference) than the runner-up in this category. The message is clear - no easy lay-ups around the rim of KRKA.
This means a lot will depend on the abilities of Caleb Green and Will Thomas - the more productive inside players of BC Oostende - to produce points in the paint, but if they face difficulties, as most players this season, the hosts will need to look for their perimeter shooting or rely on their good free throw shooting.
The first option doesn't seem that promising as the team's season average stands on 32.5%, and the team is ranked only 11th in made shots from the arc with 5.5 - a total of 16.5 points.
What can help Oostende is the fact they are ranked 3rd in Free Throws Percentage with 73.5%.
They are just average in walks to the line, but KRKA will send them there more often than the usual, and if Green, Matt Lojeski and Darrel Mitchell produce points from the foul line in good accuracy, Oostende will be one step closer to the title game.