Azovmash take the homecourt advantage into their series with Maroussi having finished 2nd in Group A, while Maroussi were 3rd. Nonetheless the Greek side finished with a superior record (9:5) and will be favoured to win the match-up.
Maroussi have been flying high all season in the Greek league where they retain the top position, while Azovmash have been equally strong at home, having lost only 1 game thus far.
Maroussi are certainly the more experienced side and they won the 2001 Saporta Cup, albeit with an entirely different roster to now. They have also made the semi-finals and quarter-finals of the Korac Cup in 2000 and 2002 respectively. Last year was less successful and Maroussi did not manage to advance past the Conference stage of the Champions Cup.
For Azovmash, this is their first season at this level in Europe. Last season they participated in the FIBA Europe Regional Challenge, and advanced all the way to the Final Four of Conference North, beating German side Bayer Leverkusen in the final in Mariupol.
They retain 6 players from last year’s squad, including Ukrainian national team player Andrey Botichev.
Both teams derive most of the scoring and leadership from the small forward position. For Maroussi, Andre Hutson has been the team’s top scorer and go-to guy, while Azovmash look to Tephen Hamilton. Hamilton averages more points than Hutson (16.3 – 14.1) while Hutson edges Hamilton in rebounding (7.1 – 6.6).
Azovmash have proved to be stronger at home than on the road this year where they have gone 4:2 as opposed to 3:3 on the road. Maroussi have identical home and road records (5:2) and the first game could well decide the series.