The 2021 EuroLeague Final Four is just a couple of days away, with the four qualified teams ready to fight for the title at Lanxess Arena.
That said, what are we expecting to see in the upcoming semifinals and who is entering the floor as the favorite?
CSKA Moscow vs Anadolu Efes
This is a rematch of the 2019 EuroLeague Championship Game, which CSKA Moscow won, claiming the title.
The Muscovites are coming off a stellar performance in the playoffs, where they swept the series against Fenerbahce (3-0). With Will Clyburn as the leader, CSKA played very well on both ends and secured its place in the EuroLeague Final Four for a record ninth straight time.
The Russians had to deal with the departure of Mike James, who parted ways with the club, after being suspended twice. However, coach Dimitris Itoudis, who re-signed with the club until 2023, managed to keep his players on the same page and, as a result, they advanced to the postseason and, eventually, the Final Four.
On the other hand, Anadolu Efes reaches the Final Four for a second straight season. They have been the best team of the EuroLeague over the last three years and enter the Final Four as one of the grand favorites, according to BritishGambler.
The Turks have been unstoppable since early January and won 14 of their 17 games in the second part of the season.
In the playoffs, they dominated Real Madrid in the first two games and were one step away from closing out the series. But, the “Whites” turned things around in Games 3 and 4 to force a Game 5. In the final game of the series, Efes stood tall, defeated Real (88-83) and clinched its place in the Final Four.
With Vasilije Micic and Shane Larkin leading the way and a roster full of talented and versatile players (Adrien Moerman, Rodrigue Beaubois, Chris Singleton, among others), Anadolu Efes wants to dethrone the defending champions and reach the top of the EuroLeague.
A high scoring game is expected, as both teams thrive on transition and have an up-tempo playing style. CSKA and Efes were the top two scoring teams in the league this season, with 84.4 and 84.1 points, respectively.
FC Barcelona vs Armani Milano
FC Barcelona and Armani Milano will square off in the second semifinal, with the Catalans entering the game as the clear favorite. FC Barcelona returns to the EuroLeague Final Four for the first time since 2014, having one of the most talented rosters in the history of the club.
Nikola Mirotic headlines the roster, while Cory Higgins, Brandon Davies and Nick Calathes make the difference on both ends. The “Blaugrana” also brought back European and NBA legend Pau Gasol, who has his sights set on winning the EuroLeague title for the first time in his illustrious career.
FC Barcelona had to come back from a big upset in Game 1 vs Zenit Saint Petersburg, but managed to reclaim the home-court advantage and clinch a spot in the Final Four (3-2).
Based on their roster and performance (best defense in the league, allowing 73.2 points per game), they are the favorite to claim the championship, along with Efes.
Last but not least, Armani Milano returns to the EuroLeague Final Four after almost three decades and wants to defy the odds and reach the Championship Game for a chance in the title.
The Italians faced many ups and downs during the season, but stood tall and edged Bayern Munich in Game 5. With Malcolm Delaney as the leader and Sergio Rodriguez, Shavon Shiels and many more players as the supporting cast, Armani will seek for an up-tempo game against FC Barcelona.
At the same time, though, they will need an excellent defensive performance in order to contain the superstars of the Catalans and take the upper hand.
Prediction: FC Barcelona vs Anadolu Efes in the Championship Game, with the Turks claiming the title.
With the Final Four set to take place between May 28-30, EuroLeague Basketball is expected to announce its plans for the 2022 Final Four.
In the meantime, there are ongoing discussions about a possible expansion to other countries, with the UK being among the candidates for a team, most likely through the EuroCup.
The competition has been exploring the option to expand to the UK for years now, while they even awarded London to host the Final Four back in 2013.
Another scenario the EuroLeague is considering is the creation of a closed league, where EuroCup will no longer be necessary. Even though there is still no final decision, it seems many EuroLeague clubs are in favor of a closed league, which could be created as early as the 2023/24 season.
For the time being, though, Jordi Bertomeu and EuroLeague Basketball have their sights set on the upcoming Final Four, therefore no announcements are expected, aside from the host of the 2022 Final Four.