UNICS Kazan forward Mike Wilkinson expects CSKA Moscow to win the Russian title after the team was crowned regular season champion, he told RIA Novosti on Wednesday.
CSKA beat Eurocup holder and local rival Khimki 91-72 on Tuesday to finish the season at the top of the table and gained revenge for the 75-65 loss in December that ended the Moscow team’s hopes of a perfect season.
“I would bet on CSKA. I think they are favorites. It might be possible to snatch the victory against CSKA in one game, but playing a series against them is really hard,” Wilkinson said
CSKA qualified into the final stage from the first place of the regular championship with the result of 35 points.
In the best-of-three semifinal series, CSKA will face southern team Lokomotiv-Kuban while Khimki takes on Triumph Lyubertsy in a fight between two teams from the Moscow suburbs. The semifinals start Friday and continue through May 7.
UNICS failed to make the PBL top four, finishing sixth, but the Kazan club did much better in the Eastern Europe’s VTB basketball league, getting a pass to the Final Four in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius. In the semifinal UNICS will face Lokomotiv-Kuban.
CSKA will challenge host club Lietuvos Rytas in the other semifinal.
"Of course, we are very upset not to get to the Russian playoffs," Wilkinson said.
"But we still have the chance to win the VTB league silverware and will do our best in the decisive matches."
US-born Wilkinson, who represents Macedonia at international level, has a shoulder injury but will hopefully recover by the time of the VTB Final Four, he said.
This year’s editions of the VTB and PBL are likely to be the last, as the leagues’ managements are finalizing plans to merge and create a regional competition in the style of ice hockey’s KHL.