07 December 2012

AFRICA : First impressions of 2012 ACC

The race to the podium at this year’s African Champions Club (ACC) is starting to shape up after 18 games were played over the course of three days.
Since last Thursday (29 November), 12 clubs from nine African countries have been battling for the ACC crown in Equatorial Guinea's capital of Malabo.
This past Sunday was a rest day, a reflection break, as the hardest part of the tournament is just around the corner.
Obviously, it is still early days to evaluate the highs and lows of the tournament, but some figures are relatively alarming and I can’t resist sharing with you. After all, this is Africa’s highest club competition, and teams have invested heavily.
Either contenders improve urgently some aspects of their game in the next two games or they risk spoiling their ambition of progressing in the competition.
Clearly, one the first impressions indicates that the ACC defending champions, Etoile Sportive du Sahel of Tunisia, need to make some adjustments, especially after suffering a 70-69 defeat to Angolan side Petro de Luanda on Day 3.
Although the Tunisian champions registered a 2-1 record over the first three days, their offensive game is excessively reliant on their perimeter game, and Makram Ben Romdhane seems to be performing under his potential.
Etoile defeated Egypt's Al Alhy (49-44) and Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo (70-48), but they are scoring only 40 per cent in the paint and converting only half of their free-throws.
However, Linos Gavriel’s men confirmed their reputation as a tough defensive team by conceding only 54 points per games, fewer than any other team.
Gavriel has motives to be confident, not only because of his team tough’s defense, but because they are one of the best teams moving the ball around, averaging 14 assists per game. Primeiro D’Agosto of Angola averages 18.6 assists per game in three games.
The stats show Angolans Petro de Luanda (Group B) and Recreativo do Libolo (Group A) as the frontrunners, with both teams still undefeated.
Libolo appears to be a new team, since head coach Luís Magalhaes - a 2010 ACC winner with D’Agosto - took over two weeks ago.
A 72-68 win against a very good Abidjan Basket Club (ABC) side from Ivory Coast in opening day action has surely bolstered Libolo’s confidence, especially when the trio of Olympian Olimpio Cipriano, Mali international Mohamed Tangara and Eddie Tommie seem to adjust to their roles in the team.
Tangara has contributed highly to the 42 rebounds per game that Libolo has averaged in their three games to date, while Tommie has the tournament-high so far with 33 points.
Although Libolo has scored 76 points against 67 in every game, they have showed some sloppier plays, turning the ball over 21 times per game. Only Nigerian side Kano Pillars and tournament host club Mongomo Basket Club have turned the ball 22 times per game.
At the other end of the table, Al Ahly and Rwandese side Espoir are still winless.
Although the Egyptians show a reasonable good team game with 11 assists per game, their defense seems to need some toughness as they conceded 66 points against 56 points scored.
Perhaps one of the reasons Espoirs remains winless is the persistence of putting individual play ahead of team play. They register the lowest assist per game in the tournament with only six, one fewer than hosts Mongomo who unlike Espoirs, have won one of their three games.
Three days of competition have passed and the three-point shooting is clearly the Achilles’ heel of most teams, although Etoile Sportive du Sahel records the highest percentage, hitting on 39% of their attempts.
But if things don’t work out from behind the arc, they should work better inside the paint.
Nevertheless only Mongomo Basket, D’Agosto, Petro de Luanda, ABC and Libolo are converting 50% or better of their shots in the paint.
With one win apiece, the next two rounds are decisive for Al Alhy, Espoir, Manga BB of Gabon, ASB Mazembe of Democratic Republic of Congo, Kanos Pilar of Nigeria, and Mongomo. The ACC showdown finishes on 8 December.
You can get all the latest news on the ACC by going here.
Júlio Chitunda

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