Cedevita Zagreb started the season in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague and wants to repeat its 2011 success when it reached the Eurocup semifinals. Gran Canaria is 15-1 in the Eurocup this season and 8-0 at home. But only of them will advance to the Eurocup Quarterfinals.
The tallest matchup
Walter Tavares of Gran Canaria and Stanko Barac of Cedevita are the tallest players remaining in the competition along with Andrei Desyatnikov, who was registered by Zenit St. Petersburg, but hasn't played this season. Tavares and Barac are really different, which adds more anticipation to this matchup. Tavares is a force of nature who led the Last 32 in rebounding (10 rpg.) and was second in blocks (1.83 rpg.). At age 22, Tavares is still developing and with a wingspan of 2.40 meters, the sky is the limit. Barac is more developed and experienced after six Euroleague seasons and has a deeper shooting range. These two players are expected to guard each other. Expect that matchup to be great.
This is not the first time that Gran Canaria and Cedevita face each other in back-to-back games. They were in the same Eurocup Last 16 group in 2011 and played consecutive showdowns in Rounds 3 and 4. In the first of them in Zagreb, Cedevita edged Gran Canaria 114-110 in overtime behind 35 points from Damjan Rudez. Jaycee Carroll had 28 for Gran Canaria. The two teams combined for 34 three-pointers, 17 apiece, to set an all-time Eurocup record. The following week, Cedevita did even better, firing in 18 three-point shots on its way to an 86-89 road win. Cedevita went all the way to the semifinals that season and its playmaker Dontaye Draper was chosen as the 2010-11 Eurocup MVP.
Those two games back in 2011 were high-scoring showdowns – and if we look at what the teams have done this season, we can expect more of the same. Gran Canaria ranks fifth in scoring this season (84.9 ppg.), with Cedevita right behind in sixth place (83.3 ppg.). The teams boosted their scoring averages - Cedevita to 88.7 points, Gran Canaria to 86.8 ppg. – in front of their fans. Gran Canaria has scored more points on the road (665) than any Eurocup team this season. Only two players per team – Fran Pilepic and Miro Bilan of Cedevita, Kyle Kuric and Brad Newley of Gran Canaria – average double digits in points, which shows that anyone can step up and be decisive in this series.
Know your rival
Cedevita may have an advantage – it knows what to expect from Gran Canaria and Spanish basketball. Almost half of its players – Roko Ukic, Pilepic, Barac, Mario Delas and Marko Tomas – have played in Spain in the past. Over the last four seasons, Cedevita has played against Gran Canaria, Estudiantes Madrid, Laboral Kutxa Vitoria, Bilbao Basket, CAI Zaragoza and Unicaja Malaga in either the Turkish Airlines Euroleague or the Eurocup. In that sense, Cedevita has a scouting advantage. Gran Canaria has not played against a Croatian team since those losses against Cedevita in 2011. When the teams take the court in Zagreb, it will be Gran Canaria's 109th Eurocup game compared to Cedevita's 49th.
One thing is for certain, the tactical battle will live up to the expectations. Aito Garcia Reneses of Gran Canaria and Jasmin Repesa of Cedevita are well-respected coaches ready for the challenge. Coach Garcia Reneses won the Eurocup with Joventut Badalona in 2008 and has won three other continental titles. Just like Aito, Coach Repesa reached the Euroleague final in the past, but could not lift that trophy. Both teams have a reputation of bringing out young, talented players. Aito gave Juan Carlos Navarro, Pau Gasol, Ricky Rubio and Rudy Fernandez their first chance, just as Repesa did with Zoran Planinic, Roko Ukic, Marco Belinelli and Alessandro Gentile, just to name a few. Both Aito and Repesa coached Unicaja in the recent past.