The fans of all four teams headed to Vitoria-Gasteiz think that their team can bring home the trophy -- and they're right! Its unpredictability is what makes the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four so dramatic. Here are five reasons to believe in Real Madrid.
1. Stronger and healthier
Last season, Real Madrid battled all sorts of injuries to claim the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague crown. Only seven players appeared in 30 games or more. This season, Real will have nine players appearing in at least 30 games. Sergio Llull, who played four games last season, took part in 25 of them this season and will reach the Final Four with a better rhythm. Anthony Randolph missed 15 games last season and arrives at the Final Four with 32 starts. Real's roster has stayed away from major injuries and arrives in better shape in general. Its key players are in rhythm and ready to defend the title.
2. Campazzo and Tavares, new weapons
Real has kept a solid core for years, but some of the players who complimented them have become main factors now. Walter Tavares, who arrived last season, is now the EuroLeague's Best Defender and a member of the All-EuroLeague Second Team. His intimidation and ability not just to block but to change shots are second to none in the competition. Facu Campazzo has earned playing time throughout his time in Madrid and exploded in the playoffs, leading Real to the Final Four. His achievements (12.3 ppg., 8.3 apg., 3 spg. in the playoffs) allowed him to be EuroLeague MVP for April. Campazzo and Tavares can very well make the difference in Vitoria-Gasteiz.
3. Defensive rebounds, a key to run
It is a basic rule - in order to run the floor, you need to get the ball and get it going. Real is posting its best defensive rebounds numbers ever in the EuroLeague. Los Blancos average almost 27 defensive rebounds per game (26.97 drpg.), a competition-best this season and the second-best mark in EuroLeague history - Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz averaged 27.3 per game in the 2015-16 season. Tavares has allowed Real to keep opponents to a league-low 49.1% two-point shooting percentage. Fewer shots scored turn into more defensive rebounds and that leads to more easy buckets at the other end of the floor – and Real has done this to perfection.
4. Randolph, an intriguing mismatch
He comes off an injury-plagued season in which he couldn't bring out his best version, but Randolph has been healthy and solid in this campaign. Despite playing less than 23 minutes per night, Randolph has been Real's top scorer (12.4 ppg.) with the best two-point (57.0%) and three-point shooting percentages (41.5%) in his EuroLeague career. He played well against all of the Final Four teams, scoring 24 points against Efes, 21 against Fenerbahce and 20 against CSKA. Randolph averaged 2.5 points in last year's Final Four, but he is now physically and mentally ready to play a leading role at Fernando Buesa Arena.
5. History books await
When you play for Real Madrid, you know your goal is to fight for titles - and some particular lineups are remembered for being able to win a lot. Six players on Real's roster and Coach Pablo Laso are two-time EuroLeague winners. The last time a Real player won three EuroLeague titles was in 1980. Seven others won the EuroLeague title with the Spanish powerhouse last season. Real has the opportunity to go the extra mile and defend the EuroLeague crown for the first time since 1968. It would also become the first team to ever defend the title three times in EuroLeague history – and the first to win 11 titles, of course. We are talking about records that stand for 37 years, 51 years, some of them even all-time. What can be more motivating than rewriting European basketball history in golden letters?