Can U-BT Cluj-Napoca make history in Istanbul?

One of the most interesting games in this round of the Basketball Champions League will be played on Wednesday in the Volkswagen Arena in Istanbul, where Darussafaka will host group leaders U-BT Cluj-Napoca. Group G was very balanced from the beginning and all four teams still have mathematical chances to advance at least for the play-in round.

Surprisingly for most people and maybe even for their own fans, U-BT will win the group if they come away with a victory tomorrow night. The Romanian champions had a good run in the FIBA Europe Cup two seasons ago, reaching the quarter-finals under the guidance of legendary coach Dusko Vujosevic, but they have never played before in the Champions League group stage. Vujosevic left the team in the summer, but Cluj managed to keep some key players like their captain Patrick Richard, Andrija Stipanovic and Karel Guzman. Also, they added Brandon Brown, Dustin Hogue, Stefan Bircevic and Elijah Stewart while club legend Mihai Silvasan took the head coaching job again. Cluj relies almost exclusively on their seven foreign players, as locals Nandor Kuti or Luca Colceag only play a few minutes per game. In fact, in the 5 games played so far in the BCL, the Romanian players of the team didn’t score a point. However, this shorter rotation of 7 players seems to work very well for U-BT and they certainly deserve to be in the position to qualify.

Silvasan and his team will not have an easy mission though. Darussafaka did lose (surprisingly) in the Turkish league three days ago against newcomers Merkezefendi, but otherwise, they have a very good season so far with an 8-4 record. Also, with a win tomorrow they still have theoretical chances to finish 2nd in the BCL and pair with an easier opponent in the play-in. Coach Selcuk Ernak has only five foreigners, while from the Turkish players only veteran Sinan Guler and Dogus Ozdemiroglu play a big role, so the rotation of Dacka is not very deep neither.

The betting sites that have posted the odds so far clearly give Darussafaka the better chance to win with 1.35 odd for victory. However, U-BT showed that they cannot be underestimated by anyone and a 3.30 odd for a victory of the Romanian side is certainly worth a try.

Image credit: Basketball Champions League

Imre Halasz