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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

CSKA Goes for 2nd Euroleague Title

ATHENS -- Europe's Final Four basketball tournament features three coaches with 12 titles among them.

Ettore Messina, CSKA Moscow's Italian coach, is seeking his second straight and fourth title overall in Europe's elite club competition, which starts Friday at the Athens Olympic Hall.

"I am wearing the same tie as last year," Messina said. "We are very superstitious in Italy and Greece. But who knows? This could be my last day as champion of Europe."

Not even the mighty Soviet-era CSKA teams were able to repeat as champion of Europe.

The Moscow club snapped Maccabi Tel Aviv's two-year run in last year's championship game in Prague.

In Friday's games, Moscow plays Unicaja Malaga of Spain, while Greek champion and host team Panathinaikos meets Tau Ceramica, another Spanish team. The final is on Sunday.

Zeljko Obradovic, a Serb who coaches Panathinaikos, has won five European titles with four different clubs. Boza Maljkovic, another Serb, is back at the Final Four after 11 years, this time with Tau Ceramica, and will be looking for his fifth title.

The only coach without a Final Four championship is Unicaja's Italian coach Sergio Scariolo. But don't be fooled -- he was the youngest coach to reach the Final Four at age 30, 16 years ago, then at Scavolini Pesaro.

On paper, CSKA is the team to beat -- again. In a record-breaking fifth consecutive Final Four tournament, the Moscow club tied its Euroleague record by winning 18 straight games.

Trajan Langdon, an American guard, leads CSKA with 13.4 points a game, not many by NBA standards. But Messina, like many other European coaches, spreads the playing time more or less evenly among his top players.

Slovenia forward Matjaz Smodis, Jon Robert Holden -- a U.S-born naturalized Russian guard -- and Venezuela forward Oscar Torres are other players to watch.

And then there is Theodoros Papaloukas, who is sure to get the crowd behind him, at least in the semifinals. The Greek guard was the MVP of last year's Final Four and led the Euroleague's regular season in assists with 5.7 a game.

Wingman David Vanterpool is doubtful with a back injury.

Unicaja arrives without center Daniel Santiago, who will miss the Final Four due to eye surgery. Power forward Marko Tusek is questionable with a sprained ankle.

The Spanish team has a top guard in Pepe Sanchez, who helped Argentina win the Olympic gold medal in the same hall at the 2004 Athens Games.

Panathinaikos, a three-time champion, has the continent's most successful coach and the deafening crowd behind it. Guard Dimitris Diamantidis is the league's top defender.

Tau, making its third straight Final Four appearance, beat the Greek team in last year's quarterfinals.

Maljkovic, however, is also at home in Athens, having guided Panathinaikos to its first European title in 1996.