17 October, 2023
05 May, 2024
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Meet the Final Four contenders: UCAM Murcia

BELGRADE (Serbia) - Don't remember everything that happened en route to the Belgrade Final Four? Don't worry, we got you covered!

BCL columnists Igor Curkovic and Diccon Lloyd-Smeath have watched every second of the competition since the start of the season and they love nothing more than talking about it, so we asked them to paint a portrait of all Final Four contenders,. Up next, the second team to punch their ticket to the Final Four, UCAM Murcia.


Igor: Back in May 2018, Real Madrid won their third straight UEFA Champions League with a 3-1 triumph over Liverpool in Kiev, Ukraine; Drake's 'Nice For What' dominated the Billboard Hot 100; Avengers: Infinity War topped the box office, and UCAM Murcia reached their maiden BCL Final Four. It was somewhat of an upset back then, but surely it's hardly an upset now, six years late, that Murcia are back into the elite four.

Diccon: There will surely be some mixed emotions for Unicaja head coach Ibon Navarro, because six years ago, in Athens, he was the one sitting on the end of the UCAM Murcia bench, where Sito Alonso sits now.

Indeed, back then Murcia were the plucky underdog with a fighting spirit. This time however, they arrive as one of the season’s most in-form teams in the Spanish Liga Endesa and have only lost three games all season in the BCL.

They started the BCL Regular Season with an upset loss on the road, at newcomers Bertram Derthona Tortona, but that would be the only loss in Group H for coach Alonso and his stacked team. They motored through four straight wins on the way to the top spot in the group.

The highlights of that run included a defensive masterclass against Igokea m:tel en route to a 72-47 victory, and an equally impressive display, this time on the offensive end, in the following game, where they dispatched Tofas Bursa 115-89. Troy Caupain scored 39 points across the two games, with 18 of them in just 16 minutes of action against Tofas.


There was a blow in mid-December as star big man Simon Birgander picked up a long-term injury, but the club dipped back into the market and added Marko Todorovic.

Alonso and his talented roster hardly missed a step and secured a spot in the Round of 16 by clinching an 87-75 win over Derthona on the penultimate gameday of the Regular Season.

The Round of 16 was not without challenges as Murcia suffered road defeats to Promitheas Patras and Hapoel Holon. They still topped their group though, with the standout result an 84-79 win on the road over AEK in a ding-dong battle in Athens. Todorovic came up big on that occasion, top-scoring with 21 points.

Murcia used the homecourt advantage in the Quarter-Finals to sail through in two games against MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg. Todorovic again stepped up with 33 points across the two games and Rodions Kurucs had his best game of the season in the home leg, dropping 18 points on 8-of-8 shooting from the floor.

Players come and go, but coach Alonso has made Murcia his permanent home. The Madrid-born coach arrived in town five years ago and has had enough time to leave the imprint of his coaching style in the south east of Spain. What are the main characteristics of an Alonso-coached team?

Diccon: Execution and more execution. Coach Alonso’s team is characterized by a perfect juxtaposition: on the one hand, they will run through all the options in their halfcourt offense fluidly but, at the same time, they are one of the most clinical teams in transition when they do get out and run.

They have the second-best Net Rating in the BCL, at +16.3 points per 100 possessions. That’s mainly thanks to ranking second for both offensive rating, with 116 points scored per 100 possessions, and for defensive rating with 99.7 points allowed per 100 possessions.

This is a roster with a very balanced output across the board. Dylan Ennis and Dustin Sleva take the most shots but only average 8.9 and 8 shot attempts per game, respectively, whilst new arrival Jonah Radebaugh leads the scoring with 14 points per game.

Also, watch out for the way Alonso utilizes his forwards. Dustin Sleva is one of the stories of the season at the power forward spot, but you will also see tall ball lineups with Sleva or Radovic and Kurucs on the floor at the same time as Todorovic or Moussa Diagne at center. This roster is deep and versatile.

Igor: This club does not have a lot of silverware in its trophy cabinet. Could they turn that into an advantage in Belgrade? Playing with less pressure or expectations, but with a whole lot to potentially win at the Final Four?

Diccon: Absolutely. Murcia fly into Belgrade light and free, with much less weight of expectation on their shoulders than their Semi-Final opponents, Unicaja. They already lost twice this year to the Andalucians in the Liga Endesa, but even that could help Alonso and his team. It’s difficult enough to beat a good team twice in a season, but three times is another level of difficulty. Murcia will like the chances of this tie swinging in their favor this time.

Igor: If there is one thing Murcia need to improve in do-or-die games with the championship on the line, what would it be? They haven't shown a lot of weaknesses throughout this run to the Semi-Finals.

Diccon: Murcia have never shown a moment of weakness in clutch moments this season. The only thing they might lack, is experience as a group. They are yet to play in a Semi-Final or Final together, and questions still remain about how they will execute as a team in the biggest games.

Igor: What's your favorite thing about UCAM Murcia's season? Could be a play, a player, a playcaller, a playlist, a play on words...

Diccon: It has to be the vibes in this team, and the master of ceremonies when it comes to those has to be Dylan Ennis. He has been here before, with Zaragoza, when they reached the Semi-Finals in 2020 and 2021. He brings a determined positivity in his approach and Murcia are going to need that in Belgrade.