The last two unbeaten teams in the VTB League meet in Kazan.
Basket Hall (capacity 7,000)
4:00 PM (4:00 MSK), December 10, 2017
Nash Sport, VTB-League.com
Face to Face
UNICS and CSKA have a long history of battling for top seeds and playoff championships. Over the years, the Army Men have dominated the series, enjoying a 75-17 advantage across all competitions. Within the VTB United League, CSKA has a 15-2 edge.
Last season, Dimitris Itoudis’s club won twice in the regular season. The teams also met in the 2016 playoff finals with the Red-Blues picking up a 3-1 series win. It’s also the last time UNICS was able to record a victory vs. the Army Men.
Despite a poor head-to-head record, Moscow is Kazan’s #1 rival. Every game vs. the Army Men is circled in red months in advance and the fans are eager for a chance to take down the reigning champs. This year, the stakes are especially high. It may take a minor miracle to defeat unbeaten CSKA, but after the dramatic win over Khimki last week, anything seems possible in the Tatar capital.
These are the only two remaining unbeaten teams in the League. CSKA is 7-0 and UNICS 6-0, including wins over Zenit, Khimki and Lokomotiv-Kuban. On Sunday, Kazan will try to collect one more scalp from the League’s Big Five.
It goes without saying that Sunday’s winner will take over 1st place in the League as well as pole position in the race for the #1 playoff seed.
Balance of Power
CSKA and UNICS both played in Europe this week, taking down Bamberg and Levallois, respectively. The Army Men are in 1st place in the EuroLeague; Kazan has qualified for the next round of the EuroCup.
Injuries, though, have been a concern for CSKA. Leo Westermann has been out since November, and both Andrey Vorontsevich (ankle) and Othello Hunter (hip) missed the game in Germany.
UNICS made a change on its roster, replacing Martins Meiers with Senegalese forward Maurice Ndour, who’s expected to provide more power under the basket.
Dimitris Priftis may not have as many stars at his disposal at Dimitris Itoudis, but his team is unselfish, compensating for lack of talent with smart, disciplined play. The Greek boss was able to lead his team to a victory over EuroLeague side Khimki and coach Georgios Bartzokas last week. Now he’s facing another fellow Greek, Dimitris Itoudis, who’s earned a reputation as one of Europe’s finest basketball minds. Priftis and Itoudis will have a big impact on Sunday’s game.
Quino Colom vs. Sergio Rodriguez.
Here’s another match-up to watch as two of Spain’s top playmakers duel on the Basket Hall court. Colom recently took Rodriguez’s place on the Spanish national team, impressing in two November appearances. He’s been on fire ever since, and will try to prove he can hold his own against his compatriot face to face. As for El Chacho, he’s always ready to go. The clash between Spanish playmakers will bring some heat to a bitter, cold Russian winter.
UNICS head coach Dimitris Priftis:
– CSKA is an elite European team. The Army Men are very tough to play against because they can attack at any moment and in any situation. They truly play team basketball, especially since many of the players have been on the team for a long time under the same coach.
On defense, our opponent is physical, but also smart and knowledgeable. It will be a very tough game and we need to be focused for all 40 minutes and play our best.
CSKA head coach Dimitris Itoudis:
– Another tough game with a strong opponent awaits us. On the road, your energy is especially important, not to mention your concentration and motivation.