Virtus Bologna, already leading the regular season of the Italian Serie A, plays the final of Eurocup, the second European basketball tournament, on Wednesday evening against the Turks of Bursaspor. It will be the first Eurocup final not only for Virtus, but also for Italian basketball. Virtus will also have the advantage of playing it at home and in the city, where the basketball tradition is among the most deeply rooted in Italy and where two historic teams coexist (the other is Fortitudo), the expectation is very high: about 9 thousand available tickets were sold out in half a day.
For the second most successful team in the history of the Italian championship, this is a great moment, which could in a certain sense crown a cycle that began five seasons ago and that comes only six years after relegation to the A2 series in 2016, and almost twenty years after. historic failure of 2003. So far in nineteen editions of Eurocup – until 2008 called the ULEB Cup – the best result for an Italian team had been the third place obtained by Reggio Emilia in 2018. Last season Virtus had lost in the semifinals by coming fourth.
In case of victory he will qualify for the Euroleague, the European competition of reference, which however is a private league with its own rules, so it is not enough to win the championship – as Virtus did – to qualify. Most of the participating teams – in Italy only Milan – in fact have their place guaranteed by multi-year agreements, to which others are added annually, one of which is the winner of the Eurocup.
Virtus had recovered from relegation from the following season, in 2017, with the entry into the company of the Venetian entrepreneur Massimo Zanetti, owner of the sponsor Segafredo, who later became the majority shareholder. He immediately returned to Serie A and three years ago won the Basketball Champions League, the third continental basketball tournament, coached by Serbian Aleksandar Djordjevic. With Djordjevic the team also returned to winning the championship after twenty years, last season. However, in the summer the Serbian coach was replaced by Sergio Scariolo, winner of the NBA title with the Toronto Raptors – by Nick Nurse’s deputy – and world champion with Spain in 2019.
In Bologna Scariolo found a ready-made team with a base of Italian players around the national team, such as Amedeo Tessitori, Alessandro Pajola and Awudu Abass, then integrated with former NBA players Milos Teodosic and Marco Belinelli, the latter returning to Virtus to finish his career in the team he grew up in. Last summer another player from the NBA was added, 20-year-old Nico Mannion, an Italian-American from the Golden State Warriors, who came to Italy to continue growing. The French center Mouhammadou Jaiteh, the strength of Virtus this season, was also hired with him. elected best player of the Eurocup.
With a large squad capable of defending the Scudetto they won last year, Virtus also reinforced mid-season with Daniel Hackett and Tornike Shengelia, hired after leaving CSKA Moscow due to the effects of the Russian invasion on sport. of Ukraine. Hackett and Shengelia have further raised the level of the group, which is leading the championship, favorite for the Scudetto, and will now return to play a European final. The opponents of Bursaspor are considered within reach: in Eurocup they surprised but in the Turkish championship they are eighth.
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The basketball match half of Bologna awaits – Il Post
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