First-time quarterfinalist MoraBanc Andorra faces an LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne team that has matched its best result in the competition in 13 years. ASVEL boats the competition's best defense, but MoraBanc has the weapons to attack it.
The 7DAYS EuroCup is guaranteed to have a first-time semifinalist this season and it will come from this series. MoraBanc, in its second season in the competition, reached the quarterfinals for the first time after not getting past the regular season group a year ago. Moreover, no MoraBanc player has ever played in a EuroCup elimination series nor has Coach Ibon Navarro, who is in his first EuroCup season. Meanwhile, ASVEL has a lot more experience in the competition, but not at these stages. ASVEL is in its ninth EuroCup campaign and with 102 games played is one of only 15 clubs ever to have reached the 100-game milestone. Over the seasons, it has compiled a 53-49 record, but has not reached the quarterfinals since its debut in 2005-06. That season ASVEL ousted FMP Zeleznik in the eighthfinals before getting swept in the two-game quarterfinals by Aris Thessaloniki. While both clubs, and MoraBanc players and staff, are entering uncharted territory, a couple ASVEL players have had the experience of going far in the EuroCup. None has done it bigger than playmaker Mantas Kalnietis, who helped Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar to the title in 2013, while DeMarcus Nelson reached the semifinals with Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade a year later.
Interestingly, both ASVEL and MoraBanc badly lost their last Top 16 game, but those losses happened on the road. However, these two teams have been stellar at home. MoraBanc is one of three teams still undefeated on its home floor this season, having won all eight games in Andorra. No team that got past the regular season has scored better than MoraBanc's 93.1 points per game at home and has won games by an average margin of 9.6 points. Meanwhile, ASVEL has a 7-1 record at home and was undefeated in front of its fans in the Top 16. Five of its seven wins at the Astroballe have come by more than 10 points. While MoraBanc will need to get at least one road win in this best-of-three series, home-court success alone would get ASVEL through the series.
Can ASVEL's defense be enough?
Each of the past two seasons, the two teams that allowed the fewest points on the season ended up in the EuroCup Finals fighting for the title. It was Darussafaka Istanbul and Lokomotiv last season and Unicaja Malaga and Valencia Basket a year before. ASVEL certainly hopes to continue the trend by having clearly had the best defensive numbers in the competition this campaign. ASVEL enters the quarterfinals allowing a league-low 71.9 points per game and holding opponents to a 48.4% two-point shooting. Those numbers were even better in the Top 16, leading the way by allowing 68.5 points and 46.0% on two-pointers, in addition to also holding opponents to just 32.9% shooting from behind the arc. But now it faces a potent MoraBanc offense, which was hot in the Top 16 with 85.2 points through the first five games before ruining the average by managing just 53 points in the Top 16 finale at UNICS Kazan.
This series will also clash the two assists leaders remaining in the competition. ASVEL's Kalnietis ranks third this season with 5.9 assists per game, just a notch better than MoraBanc's Andrew Albicy, who posts a fourth-best 5.8 per contest. Albicy had a huge Top 16, ranking fourth with 14.6 points, third with 6.2 assists and second with 2.0 steals per game. The playmaker also accumulated the second-highest performance index average, 21.0, in the Top 16. Along with 14.3 points from swingman Dylan Ennis, and 12.0 from forward John Shurna, MoraBanc was the only Top 16 team with three players averaging 12 or more points per contest. Having as many in-form guys as possible will be key for MoraBanc against ASVEL's suffocating defense. Meanwhile, Kalnietis will have the task of getting ASVEL's offense going after it struggled for most of the season. No quarterfinal team averages fewer than ASVEL’s 77.3 points or shoots worse than 50.5% for two-pointers and only one playoff team, Rytas Vilnius, dished fewer than ASVEL's 17.8 assists and made fewer than ASVEL's 34% from long range.