20 September, 2018
01 May, 2019
22 Cameron Wells (WURZ)
to read

History in the making: Who will take their chance in the Semi-Finals?

MUNICH (Germany) - There are just four teams left in the race for the FIBA Europe Cup crown and the stakes have never been higher for three of them. Dinamo Sassari, s.Oliver Wurzburg and UNET Holon already made history by reaching the Semi-Finals for the first time ever, but that doesn't mean that Pallacanestro Varese will be less motivated than the remaining title hopefuls.

Before action resumes on Wednesday, let's take a quick look at what we can expect from the upcoming round of the Play-Offs, which features two exciting matchups.

UNET Holon v Dinamo Sassari

Time: 18:45 CET, Wednesday
Domestic form: Entering the tie as the top-ranked team in the Israeli Basketball Super League with a 19-7 record, Holon picked up a couple of defeats against Hapoel Eilat and Ironi Ness Ziona in their most recent fixtures to sour their memorable victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv. Having strung together four wins in a row, the in-form Sassari (13-12) climbed to 9th place in the Lega Basket Serie A standings following their latest triumph over Olimpia Milano.
Head to head: The teams met in the Regular Season of the 2017-18 Basketball Champions League, with Sassari winning both of the games. After securing a 98-84 win at home, Dinamo scored another win in Israel, 103-92.
Key matchup: No one in the competition has grabbed more offensive rebounds than Dinamo big man Jack Cooley, who has 59 offensive boards to his name this season. Shawn Jones and the rest of the Holon frontcourt will have their hands full, especially as they were outrebounded in three of their four previous Play-Off contests.
Fact of the game: Holon are the first team from Israel to reach the Semi-Finals of the FIBA Europe Cup, while all three Italian teams to have reached this stage of the competition (Varese in 2016; Umana Reyer Venezia and Sidigas Scandone Avellino in 2018) advanced to the Finals.

2-2  W-L 15-1-2
84.3 PTS 92.3
32.0 REB 41.5
24.0 AST 24.6
7.0 STL 6.3
3.8 BLK 2.6
13.0 TO 11.8

It is the first time that either of UNET Holon and Dinamo Sassari are in the Semi-Finals of a European competition and both clubs will be looking to make the historic opportunity count. The hosts of the first leg, Holon squeezed past Balkan Botevgrad in the Round of 16 before topping Alba Fehervar in the Quarter-Finals, but their form on the European front has been worrying. They have only three wins in their last 10 games in the FIBA Europe Cup and the Basketball Champions League combined. Meanwhile, Sassari have suffered just two defeats in 18 contests in the FIBA Europe Cup, having started their campaign back in the Qualifiers. The Gianmarco Pozzecco-coached Sardinian club have the largest combined victory margin in the Play-Offs, beating ZZ Leiden by 30 points in the Round of 16 and then downing Pinar Karsiyaka by 19 in the Quarter-Finals. 

Pallacanestro Varese v s.Oliver Wurzburg

Time: 20:30 CET, Wednesday
Domestic form: Just one win away from 4th place, Varese are currently ranked 7th in the Lega Basket Serie A with a 14-11 mark but haven't inscribed back-to-back wins since early March. Wurzburg have won five of their last six games in the Bundesliga (including twice against former FIBA Europe Cup champions Frankfurt in the stretch) and are ranked 7th with a 15-12 record.
Head to head: This will be the first time the teams meet in an official setting.
Key matchup: Boasting an impressive 57-53-88 clip, Jordan Hulls has reached double digits in scoring in 12 of his 13 FIBA Europe Cup games for Wurzburg. Limiting him offensively will be easier if Aleksa Avramovic and Ronald Moore can keep the German club's top scorer busy on the defensive end.
Fact of the game: Having taken part in the Final Four in the 2015-16 season, Varese will be making their second Semi-Final appearance. They are only the second team to accomplish the feat after Elan Chalon, who reached this stage of the competition in 2016 and 2017.

13-3 W-L 13-3
83.7 PTS 87.1
36.7 AST 38.7
19.4 AST 23.6
6.8 STL 6.6
2.8 BLK 2.4
11.9 TO 11.4

Having been one of the most dominant clubs on the continent throughout the 1970s, it has been a while since Pallacanestro Varese last triumphed in Europe. Their opponents, s.Oliver Wurzburg, will not have a rich history to lean on, but will aim to write it themselves in their first-ever Semi-Final appearance in what is only their third international campaign. In comparison, the 2018-19 season is the 36th international season for Varese. While their backgrounds could hardly be any more different, they have both been equally dominant in the FIBA Europe Cup. The third German team to reach the Semi-Finals of the competition after Fraport Skyliners and Telekom Baskets Bonn, Wurzburg went undefeated in the Second Round and eliminated Avtodor Saratov and Bakken Bears in the Play-Offs. Meanwhile, Varese made their title aspirations known by knocking out Z Mobile Prishtina and Filou Oostende in the Round of 16 and Quarter-Finals, respectively, with four consecutive wins.