Italian Supercup preview

Orazio Cauchi
Staff Writer
2021-09-18 13:12
Credit: Legabasket
Credit Legabasket

On Saturday, the final eight of the Italian Supercup will officially begin in Bologna. This marks the beginning of the decisive phase that will lead to the final game on Tuesday and the presentation of the first trophy of the season. Four teams had a direct invitation to the final eight: AX Armani Exchange Milan, Virtus Segafredo Bologna, Happy Casa Brindisi, and Carpegna Prosciutto Pesaro. While the other four had to pave their way through qualification tournaments. 

Bertram Tortona, Reyer Venezia, Nutribullet Treviso Basket, and Dinamo Sassari made out of qualifying games, which were held in four different groups with three teams in each. 

The Supercup quarter-finals will all be played on Saturday with the following matchups: Carpegna Prosciutto Pesaro vs Reyer Venezia, Happy Casa Brindisi vs Dinamo Sassari, Olimpia Milan vs Nutribullet Treviso Basket, and Virtus Segafredo Bologna vs Bertram Tortona. This is the second consecutive season that Legabasket has decided to go with this format that involves all teams from Serie A.

While last season was understandable, this season several teams would have preferred to have a regular pre-season, playing exhibition games and not having to play official games so early in the year. Plus, the schedule wasn't clearly planned and was in accordance with the needs of all teams. For example, Treviso will be forced to play the game against Milan not even 24 hours after their game in the final of the qualification round of the Basketball Champions League.

Despite these issues, the Supercup in Bologna remains a very interesting opportunity to watch a 'trailer' of what the Serie A season could look like and there's a trophy up for grabs, which is never a bad thing. With that being said, let's go analyze the single matchups of these quarter-finals to understand what we might expect this Saturday. 

Carpegna Prosciutto Pesaro-Reyer Venezia (Noon CET)

Pesaro, compared to last season's team, changed a lot. A new coach, Aza Petrovic, replaced Jasmin Repesa, and the arrival of several new players. Petrovic decided to bet on Brazilian talent, signing point guard Caio Pacheco and power forward Leonardo Demetrio. The other main additions of the summer were big man Tyrique Jones and veteran swingman Vincent 'Vee' Sanford. Two prospects Gora Camara and Davide Moretti arrived on loan, respectively from Virtus Bologna and Olimpia Milan.

Their pre-season hasn't been particularly positive, however. Pesaro won only one game against Cedevita, while they lost all the other matches. Pesaro is a very young team, aside from a couple of veterans, including Carlos Delfino, it'll take a while before they are able to adapt to coach Petrovic's system. They could probably be considered as underdogs for this cup matchup. 

For Venezia, the qualification group went pretty smoothly. The team coached by Walter De Raffaele won all four games. They crashed Fortitudo Bologna twice, while the two games against Reggio Emilia were closer but Venezia still showed a certain superiority over the opponents. Going a little bit against their tradition, Venezia went through several roster changes this summer. Yeah, some 'old' faces are still there but there were a lot of newcomers as well, including Lithuanian big man Martynas Echodas, former Olimpia Milan forward Jeff Brooks, and American point guard Tarik Phillip. The expectation is, once again, that Venezia will be among the top 4-5 teams during the Serie A season. And on Friday they'll definitely need to prove that against Pesaro. 

Happy Casa Brindisi-Dinamo Sassari (15:00 CET)

Last season was absolutely fantastic for Brindisi. They finished the regular season in second place, coach Frank Vitucci was named the best coach of the season and D'Angelo Harrison was the top scorer in the league. Their incredible run was only stopped in the semifinals by Virtus Bologna.

Over the summer the Apulian team lost two of its best players: Darius Thompson and D'Angelo Harrison, recruited by Lokomotiv Kuban and BC Prometey respectively. Most of the offensive load in the backcourt will rely on the newcomers Josh Perkins and Wes Clark. Nick Perkins, who extended his contract for another two years, will remain one of the keys in the frontcourt with his energy and explosiveness. In the pre-season, Brindisi produced a couple of convincing wins but there's still some work to do for coach Vitucci and his guys. The matchup against Sassari won't be an easy one.

Sassari received their quarter-finals invitation after winning all four games in Group B with Cremona and Brescia. Gianmarco Pozzecco's era officially came to an end after a tumultuous relationship with president Stefano Sardara. The new head coach, Demis Cavina, is a more malleable one and already knows the environment (he was the head coach of the team from 2007 to 2009). Most of the remained intact and the new additions are very interesting: Christian Mekowulu is coming from a strong season in Treviso and he's already one of the best defensive bigs in the league, Tyus Battle is a very versatile and athletic swingman, while the veteran David Logan will provide leadership and 3-point shooting coming off the bench. Sassari look a bit more prepared than Brindisi for Saturday's game, having more minutes in their legs, but this is probably going to be the most balanced game of the quarter-finals.

Olimpia Milan-Nutribullet Treviso Basket (18:00 CET)

Olimpia Milan kept most of their cards under the table during the pre-season. The first three exhibition games, one against Cantu and two against the EuroLeague reigning champions Anadolu Efes, were played behind closed doors and the team coached by Ettore Messina won two out of three. The only real chance to see them playing was during the Paris European Games, against Paris Basketball and LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne.

The game against Paris was an easy one, as Milan won without facing any real problems. The following day they lost against ASVEL, suffering against the athleticism of the French club. Messina tried several options in the starting five but so far it looks like having three big guys on the court is intriguing for the Italian coach. Mitoglou, Melli, Ricci are all versatile players and can play multiple positions. Malcolm Delaney missed the first couple of games but he's now quickly finding his best condition, something that Milan hopes will last for an entire season.

The game against Treviso would have been very interesting if it wasn't for the scheduling conflicts. Treviso will arrive in Bologna only 24 hours after their game in the Basketball Champions League. It appears that Milan is the clear favorite to advance.

Again, Treviso has been put in a very unfair position. They're playing for a spot in the BCL main tournament, a very important target of their season. Without any kind of real rest, they'll also play in the quarter-finals of the Supercup after also having to go through additional four games in the group phase.

Young guard Giordano Bortolani, who's on loan from Milan, has been impressive so far, showing great scoring skills. Veteran big man Henry Sims is already providing the experience under the basket and point guard DeWayne Russell, already in his second season with the team, is confirming himself as one of the most interesting players in the Italian league. Again, if it wasn't for the schedule, this could have been a really nice game, but unless something crazy happens, Treviso doesn't stand a chance. But coach Menetti is doing a great job with this group and the Italian league playoffs look like a real possibility for them.

Virtus Segafredo Bologna-Bertram Tortona (21:00 CET)

Virtus Bologna is one of the most anticipated teams of the upcoming season. There's a lot of hype and enthusiasm surrounding coach Scariolo and his players. For the Supercup, Virtus will have both Milos Teodosic and Amedeo Tessitori, who recently have been out with minor injuries. Ty-Shon Alexander, the newest member of the team, will also be available. The only missing players will be Nico Mannion and Marco Ceron.

In their last exhibition game, Virtus lost after two overtimes to Panathinaikos. This time they'll probably face the biggest surprise of the Supercup, a recently promoted Bertram Tortona. On paper, this looks like an easy game for Virtus but Tortona has already more official games in their legs and coach Scariolo's guys might find some difficulties playing on the road. Defensively they've shown some issues so far but at this point of the year, it's quite normal that the system is not yet fully integrated. 

Tortona is one of the best stories of the season so far in Italy. They just got promoted from the second division and over the summer they've built a very capable roster with some intriguing additions. First of all, there's Mike Daum, aka the Dauminator. A wing with great shooting abilities who has quickly become one of the favorite players among the fans. JP Macura arrived from Turkey along with Chris Wright. For a newly promoted team, Tortona has a strong organization and a clear path going forward. During the Supercup group phase, they won all four games, with Daum being constantly a threat for the opponents and with Italian guys Mascolo and Filloy providing solid contributions. Of course, the match against Virtus won't be an easy one for coach Ramondino, but I believe they might be able to give some hard moments to Virtus. 

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