EUROCHALLENGE FINAL FOUR
There is little doubt that Final Four hosts Pinar Karsiyaka can, and quite probably will, raise a defensive wall to protect their basket in the second semi-final of the EuroChallenge, against EWE Baskets Oldenburg.
The Izmir side are the best defensive team in the competition, only allowing 69 points on average after 15 games in the competition, and this did not come about because all their opponents' offences had an off day against them.
Karsiyaka's fame is compounded by the fact they also have the second-stingiest defence in the Turkish BEKO Ligi, and by what occurred in the quarter-final play-offs, when they stopped free-scoring Paris Levallois in their tracks.
The Parisians had the best offence in the competition going into the play-offs with an outstanding 86.3 points on average, yet they only scored 70.3 per-night during the three games of the quarter-final series.
What can however raise legitimate doubts, and is a question that will only be resolved on Friday night, is whether Karsiyaka can raise their defensive wall as high when they don't know what direction it should be facing.
Oldenburg are the only team with eight players averaging 7.6 points or more per-game, and any one of them, either from the perimeter or inside, can emerge as the top scorer of their team on any given night.
The German side are also the ones who protect the ball better than any other in the competition, committing just 11.9 turnovers per-game, so Karsiyaka's traps on the ball handler might not be as effective as usual.
Last but not least, they can always score in transition, as Karsiyaka head coach Ufuk Sarica knows only too well:
"Oldenburg are a good team that like to play fast, they are a very quick," he told fibaeurope.com.
"All teams are strong; they did their best to get to the Final Four.
"But we are also having a good season and have the strength to win this cup."
Karsiyaka of course are playing this semi-final at home and another factor will be whether this will help them melt down the German resistance, or function as an extra weight on the shoulders of the hosts.
"In a tournament like this all games are tough and important.
"There will be pressure, but it's positive when you can control it," said Sarica.
"For both Turkish basketball and for Karsiyaka, this is a very important occasion."
"I won a European cup as a player (the Korac Cup with Efes Pilsen in 1996) and my dream is to live this again as a coach."
|Ronald Burrell has been posting good figures domestically of late for EWE Baskets |
Karsiyaka were not in domestic league action at the weekend, as their scheduled game away at Olin Edirne was postponed to afford them more time to prepare for the EuroChallenge Final Four.
They have however won four of the five BEKO Ligi games they played since the end of the EuroChallenge quarter-finals and most importantly, they have welcomed back a key player who was sidelined through injury for the series against Paris.
Shooting guard Jon Diebler has not only returned in the side but also looks to have fully recovered his previous form, leading all scorers with 18 points on 4-for-8 three-point shooting in Karsiyaka's last outing, an 80-75 win on the road at Aliaga Petkim.
Oldenburg on the other side arrived in Turkey with the sense of a job well done back home.
Sebastian Machowski's team saw through in the best way possible a very hectic game schedule during the last three weeks and concluded their regular season campaign by clinching second place in the German BEKO Bundesliga and the home-court advantage until the semi-finals of the play-offs, should they advance to that stage.
They were the only one of the EuroChallenge semi-finalists to see action just three days before the Final Four tips off and finished the work in style, with a 90-59 win over LTi Giessen 46ers on the road.
Point guard Sean Abdul-Hamid led the way with 15 points and six rebounds while Ronald Burrell finished with 13 points in the final game of the Bundesliga Regular Season.
SEASON SO FAR
|Expect Robert Dixon to be a major factor in the semi-final|
Karsiyaka lost one game in the Regular Season and two in the Last 16 stage of the EuroChallenge, but all three of these defeats came on the road and did not stand in the way of them clinching top spot in their group, in both phases.
Their only home defeat came in Game 1 of the play-offs, when they gave up a nine-point lead in the last five minutes and were shocked by Paris, 76-74.
Point guard Robert Dixon has been their leading scorer in the competition with 17.9 points-per-game while power forward William Thomas, the all-time leading rebounder in the history of the EuroChallenge, quite fittingly leads the Turkish side in boards with 7.7 per-night.
Oldenburg's play-off series against Khimik Yuzhne, also went to Game 3 after they lost the second clash on the road but they never looked in danger as they defeated the Ukrainian side 100-78 in the decisive encounter.
The German semi-finalists were the only team, together with Krasnye Krylia, to still be unbeaten in the EuroChallenge up until their 11th game in the competition, on the penultimate day of the Last 16, when they lost at home to Telekom Baskets Bonn, 92-88.
Those two defeats were the only ones in 15 games this season for Oldenburg, whose top scorer in the EuroChallenge has been guard Julius Jenkins with 13.9 points-per-night, followed closely by Rickey Paulding, with 13.3 points-on-average.
Oldenburg are the least strong on the glass among the four semi-finalists, as they bring down 35.3 rebounds per game, led by Adam Chubb's 5.3 boards a night.