Banvit’s five kings
No team that qualified for the eighthfinals had two players score more in the Last 32 than Banvit with power forward Adrien Moerman (113 points) and shooting guard Dominique Johnson (104). However, as much as these two players carried the extra load in the Last 32, Banvit actually has five different players – all of whom played in all 16 games – who average double digits in scoring. Alongside Johnson (15.1 ppg.) and Moerman (13.9 ppg., 8.5 rpg.), Banvit relies heavily on do-it-all point guard Courtney Fortson (13.8 ppg., 5.6 apg., 4.2 rpg.), while big man Gasper Vidmar (10.1 ppg., 6.2 rpg.) is a force inside and A.J. Slaughter (10.9 ppg.) brings scoring punch off the bench. These five players have accounted for 81% of team's points this season, and three of them – Fortson, Johnson, Moerman – average more than 30 minutes per contest.
Milan and its depth of riches
EA7 Milan also has five players averaging double figures in scoring, but with the tweak that injured star Alessandro Gentile (11 ppg.) and recently addition Rakim Sanders (13 ppg.) each played only two games. But unlike Banvit, Milan has as deep a supporting cast as any team in the competition. After Krunoslav Simon (14.7 ppg.), Milan Macvan (12.2 ppg.), and Jamel McLean (11.3 ppg.), there are six more players that post at least 5 points per game each. Moreover, four different players average at least 4 rebounds (Simon, McLean, Macvan and Stanko Barac), and two of them dish 3 or more assists per night (Simon and Oliver Lafayette). With head coach Jasmin Repesa liking to rotate a lot, no player averages more than Simon's 27:40 minutes, and none of the 12 EA7 Milan players who have appeared in more than one Last 32 game spent less than an average of 12:31 on the floor.
Milan players have been here before
Earlier this season, EA7 Emporio Armani Milan played in its ninth consecutive Turkish Airlines Euroleague campaign. Before joining the Eurocup for the Last 32, Milan had not played in this competition in more than a decade, dating back to the 2003-04 season when it lost a home-and-away eighthfinals series against Joventut Badalona. But the club not participating in the Eurocup does not mean its players don’t have experience of being in this situation before. In fact, Mantas Kalnietis won the 2013 Eurocup with Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar and Oliver Lafayette won the Eurocup in 2014 with Valencia Basket. Looking further down the roster, Charles Jenkins played the Eurocup semis in 2014 with Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade and last season Krunoslav Simon was Eurocup Quarterfinals Game-1 MVP. Milan Macvan was voted Eurocup Rising Star for the 2008-09 season and coach Jasmin Repesa took Benetton to the Eurocup Finals in 2011.
Banvit: New faces in a familiar place
Banvit reached last season's Eurocup semifinals and has played the Eurocup in each of the past six seasons, during which it played 84 games, more than any other team in that span and the 18th-most in competition history. But, the current Banvit squad has little in common with the team from last season. Veteran Keith Simmons (5.4 ppg., 3 rpg.), who has been with Banvit in all of its six Eurocup campaigns, remains as does head coach Ernak Selcuk, who took over the team exactly a year ago. Selcuk was promoted to the head of bench just before the Game 1 of the 2015 eighthfinals and then guided the team in eliminating Virtus Roma and Paris Levallois before being ousted in the semis by Khimki Moscow Region. Two other players on the team from last season are seldom used teenage guard Ismail Cem Ulusoy and starting small forward Tolga Gecim (2.6 ppg.), who mostly contributes defensively. The rest of the roster is low on Eurocup experience. Only two other players (Slaughter and Moerman) had played in five or more Eurocup games prior to this season, with this being the first-ever Eurocup run for Fortson, Johnson and Vidmar.
Looking for an edge
Banvit's offensive rebounding dropped from 13.3 in the regular season to 8.8 in the Last 32. However, Banvit improved everywhere else offensively. The team went from making only 7.6 threes on just 30.3% shooting, which was second-lowest in the regular season, to 10 triples per game on the fifth-best 39.2% shooting in the Last 32. Banvit also improved from 50% to 51.9% in two-point shooting, and went from 65% to 72.5% on free throw shooting. It dished 15.8 assists in the last six games (up from 14), committed 13 turnovers (down from 13.8), and made 7.3 steals (up from 6.4). It all resulted in the team scoring 81.2 points per game, up from 77 in the regular season. Now, Banvit’s improved offense meets a Milan defense that allowed only 67.7 per game on its home floor, and 69 points during its four-game winning streak that secured it first place with a game to spare. No team went to the free throw line in the Last 32 more than Milan, which made 19.1 and 25 attempted foul shots per game. Milan was also the second-best three-point shooting team (41.3%) in the Last 32, but allowed opponents to make 41.1% of their shots behind the arc.