CSKA Moscow, 5 reasons to believe

May 15, 2019 by Euroleague.net Print
CSKA Moscow, 5 reasons to believe

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 CSKA Moscow.

1. So many go-to guys

The CSKA Moscow roster has two former MVPs, two members of this season's All-EuroLeague team, two of the league's top five scorers and two of the top five three-point shooters. Even though there is some overlap from that list, the main point is that Coach Dimitris Itoudis has so many go-to weapons that other teams can hardly keep up. At many points this season, Will Clyburn, who was just named to the All-EuroLeague team for the first time, and Cory Higgins, who ranked second in the league in scoring, became CSKA's prime producers down the stretch. And then Nando De Colo was at his best at Fernando Buesa Arena for Games 3 and 4 of the playoffs. Add in Sergio Rodriguez and co. and CSKA is one tough team to stop.

2. Strong results vs. Real

No matter how you slice it, CSKA has gotten the best of Real more often than the other way around. CSKA swept their regular season series, has won seven of the team's last 10 clashes – which have all come during Real's golden run over the past five seasons, and is 17-7 in games between them this century. Of course, Madrid has won some big ones – most notably in the semifinals at last season's Final Four in Belgrade, but CSKA has won more often and in many different fashions. This season, Cory Higgins has torched Real for 19.5 points per game and Nando De Colo 18.0 points and 4.5 assists. Beating Madrid is not enough to win the title, but it is half of the job.

3. Free throw masters

In a close game, CSKA can be quiet that it can outshoot other teams from the foul line. CSKA ranked second this season in free throw accuracy at 81.2% - and was even better in the playoffs (82.9%). Nando De Colo is the greatest free throw shooter in EuroLeague history (93.8%) and Cory Higgins (89.3%) and Alec Peters (89.3%) have been among the best this season, not to mention Sergio Rodriguez (86.5%). If any game comes down to free throws, CSKA can be comfortable.

4. The inside scoop?

In Sergio Rodriguez and Othello Hunter, CSKA boasts a pair of former Real players. Rodriguez spent six seasons with Los Blancos, was the 2013-14 EuroLeague MVP and won the championship the following season. Hunter joined Real for one season in 2016 and helped it reach the Final Four. Between them, they have played alongside 10 current Real players. No Real player has previously worn the CSKA uniform. If CSKA gets to the championship game, between Coach Itoudis, Will Clyburn and Cory Higgins, CSKA will have three guys who previously coached or played in Turkey, too.

5. Fernando Buesa Arena

Let's face it, the fact that CSKA played and won its final two playoff games at Fernando Buesa Arena is only a minor advantage since all of the teams heading to Vitoria-Gasteiz have also played there before. However, these types of games are often decided by small details and the positive vibes and confidence boost that winning Games 3 and 4 in Vitoria-Gasteiz gives the CSKA players heading into the semifinals could be just enough of a difference maker to help decide a game.