Stanislav Eremin On The Semifinals

VTB-League.com presents a new Expert Opinion, our blog featuring in-depth analysis of the VTB United League from the top minds in the sport.

USSR national team star and Russian coaching legend Stanislav Eremin joins the blog for today's post. He's broken down the UNICS - Zenit and CSKA - Khimki semifinals, highlighting the players to watch and giving his predictions.


The playoffs always bring surprises and breakout performances. Only the best of the best remain at this stage. I'm confident that the semifinals will prove memorable and give the fans a wonderful time. Let's break down each semifinal pairing...

UNICS - Zenit

Personally, I find this matchup interesting because of the showdown between two leading Russian coaches, both of whom have worked with the national team.

Evgeny Pashutin and Vasily Karasev preach opposite playing styles. Karasev prefers up-tempo, free-flowing, attacking basketball. He's a big believer in quick transition offense. Zenit's fast breaks are very dangerous and Karasev always chooses quick, deadly shooters. Teams that employ a traditional half-court offense often have a tough time against teams like this.

But that's precisely the style of basketball that Evgeny Pashutin teaches: physical, gritty defense-minded basketball with a structured offense. The leaders on the team play a big role and each player has a very specific job to do. Of course, UNICS boasts a stronger roster than Zenit. Kazan has players that have already been around the block a few times in the playoffs.

But Zenit poses a danger to any opponent, if it can get out and run. Karasev's men have already exceeded expectations, reaching the final four of the VTB United League. The players will be loose. There's no pressure on the outcome, while a victory means a possible spot in the Euroleague. That's terrific motivation to reach the finals.

Pashutin has been successful in the domestic campaign, but UNICS suffered an early elimination from the Eurocup this season. As a result, club president Evgeny Bogachev expects his team to make the finals. If the semifinals go poorly for UNICS, I think Evgeny Borisovich won't have any confidence left in Evgeny Yurevich.

The key factor in the UNICS - Zenit matchup will be Keith Langford's ability to balance his personal play  with the team's needs. If I had to make a prediction, I still think that Kazan will manage to advance, thanks to its players' superior experience and the home-court advantage.

CSKA - Khimki

In my opinion, Khimki has a terrific roster and can give CSKA a fight. For once, the Army Men won't have an advantage on the perimeter. The teams are even in that component. Moscow Region's issues were psychological. With a new coach, the atmosphere in the locker room has improved. Dusko Ivanovic is on the same page with his players, which has helped the discipline.

During the first round, Khimki got lucky that Lokomotiv-Kuban mostly didn't give the necessary effort. Ivanovic's men, however, got a positive boost from the series and became much more confident in their abilities.

Tyrese Rice and Alexey Shved are indispensable to Moscow Region's style of play. If they can complement each other and play at their best, Khimki could test and even eliminate CSKA. At the same time, the Yellow-Blues have one major problem: the team hasn't played in almost two weeks. It's hard to know what impact that will have.

What about CSKA? Yes, the Army Men are always favored and can't fathom losing. Still, I would guess that after the historic win in the Euroleague Final Four, the team is exhausted physically and mentally. I'm confident the coaching staff got its players to peak for the big games in Berlin. If Khimki can take advantage and go up early, they will have a chance to spring the upset.

After the Army Men's win in the Euroleague, I think it's even odds between CSKA and Khimki right now. But that's just hypothetical. It's going to be so much more interesting to watch everything on the court!

Stanislav Eremin,

Olympic bronze medalist, world champion, two-time European champion
former CSKA, UNICS, Triumph, Krasnye Krylia and Russian national team head coach