EUROCHALLENGE FINAL FOUR
Everything is in place in Debrecen, Hungary for the showpiece event of the EuroChallenge season which tips off Friday at 18:00 CET.
By Thursday evening all four teams had already held two practice sessions in Fonix Hall, an impressive venue to which even the Final Four hosts, Szolnoki Olaj, have to get accustomed, as it's located 140 kilometres away from their home court in the town of Szolnok.
|Four giants will battle it out in Debrecen for the EuroChallenge title. From left to right: Artem Kuzyakin (Triumph), David Hawkins (Besiktas), Blake Schilb (Elan Chalon), Marton Bader (Szolnoki Olaj) |
The state-of-the-art Fonix Hall, the second largest multi-purpose indoor arena in Hungary, has a seating capacity of 8,500.
On Sunday night, it will provide the stage for the coronation of the EuroChallenge 2012 champion.
So who will it be?
Szolnoki Olaj and Besiktas Milangaz will battle it out in the first semi-final, and they both feel a historical burden on their shoulders.
Szolnoki are well aware this is the first time that Hungary hosts the Finals of a men's European club competition since Budapest in 1986 and that no Hungarian club has ever won a European title in men's basketball.
Expectations are equally high for Besiktas, an enormously popular club in Turkey, who know that on Sunday night they can finally win the silverware to match their tradition.
Efes Pilsen is the only Turkish club so far to have won a European title, the Korac Cup in 1996, and although Besiktas have already won the Turkish Cup this season, they know that the EuroChallenge title will make a huge difference not only to their own fans, but every basketball fan in Turkey.
|Don't miss the EuroChallenge Final Four action! Watch all four games LIVE and for free on FIBA Europe TV. Remember that, come Sunday, only one gets to take the coveted trophy home. |
The second semi-final on the other hand, at least from the outside, seems to be between two teams that do not feel they have anything to prove to anyone.
Elan Chalon are en route to complete the best season in the club's history.
They already have one title in the bag, the Semaine des As, they are in the Coupe de France (French Cup) final and they are second in the Pro A league.
The EuroChallenge title would be the ideal, extremely tasty icing on the cake.
Triumph Lyubertsy are the surprise package of the Final Four, a team that made it this far against all odds with an impressively youthful roster.
The Russian side had lost all three of their first games in the Top 16 but then pulled off an improbable comeback by winning the next three to go through to the play-offs.
Not content with that, they also knocked out hot favourites Fuenlabrada in the quarter-final series, winning twice away in Spain in the process.
Anything Triumph can take from the three-day tournament in Debrecen, will only be positive.
If it is the trophy of course, they will have provided European basketball with a fantastic Cinderella story for years to come.