Lenovo Tenerife v US Monastir preview: Can the BAL champs stun the hosts?
TENERIFE (Spain) - The second Semi-Final on Friday features a battle between the hosts of the event and the champions of the neighboring continent. Spain's Lenovo Tenerife await perennial Tunisian champions US Monastir.
The winner will move on to the Final of the FIBA Intercontinental Cup, facing either Sao Paulo from Brazil or the Rio Grande Valley Vipers from the United States.
How did they get here?
Lenovo Tenerife are arguably the best team that has ever played in the Basketball Champions League in Europe. They have won it twice, reached the Final one more time, all within the first six years of the competition.
Tenerife switched through gears in the business part of the 2021-22 season, dropping just one BCL game after January 2022 en route to their second title. They picked up the trophy at the Final Four in Bilbao, Spain, defeating BAXI Manresa in the championship game, led by Final Four MVP Marcelinho Huertas.
US Monastir are coming to the FIBA Intercontinental Cup as the winners of the Basketball Africa League. The Tunisian squad finished second in the BAL Sahara Conference, only to reach new heights once the Play-Offs started in Kigali, Rwanda in May.
They defeated the Cape Town Tigers in the Quarter-Finals, then edged out the defending champs Zamalek in the Semis and went on to defeat Petro de Luanda from Angola in the Final, picking up their first international trophy, to go along with their seven Tunisian championships and four domestic cup titles.
That was last season. Where do they stand in 2022-23?
Lenovo Tenerife seem to be even stronger than a season ago. Coach Txus Vidorreta is currently enjoying the view from the top of their Round of 16 group in the BCL, and the club is also 14-5 in the Spanish Liga Endesa, just two wins behind league leaders Real Madrid and Barcelona.
US Monastir's domestic campaign started off a bit later, and they have won six of their first nine games in the Tunisian Championnat Pro A. They are currently sitting in third place, behind unbeaten Club Africain and second-placed ES Sahel at 7-2. They won't start their BAL title defense until March.
What will be the key matchup?
There are plenty of well-known international names on the US Monastir roster, including seven players who won the FIBA AfroBasket 2021 with Tunisia. However, one name stands out, with all due respect to Jerome Randle who is also a star. It's Radhouane Slimane, an absolute legend of the game, a 42-year-old who is playing his best basketball and was selected for the BAL Team of the Season in 2022.
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Slimane will probably have to help out under the rim to stop Giorgi Shermadini. The Georgian giant is coming off another MVP of the Month award in the Spanish Liga Endesa, the 11th of his career, which puts him in first place all-time. No need to add anything else to that, Shermadini will cause nightmares for coach Pantelis Gavriel and the rest of US Monastir's staff.
When and where is the game taking place?
Friday, February 10, at 21:00 local time (GMT), in the Santiago Martin Arena in San Cristobal de La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain.