Basketball, Serie A: the primacy of Virtus Bologna seen by Dan Peterson

The former coach of V Nere and Olimpia takes stock after the big match won by the black and whites that gave the primacy to Bologna

Sergio Scariolo, coach of Virtus Bologna, despite very important absences (Teodosic, Pajola, Cordinier and Ojeleye), broke the Milan Forum 75-69 on Sunday, breaking the balance for first place in the standings between his team and Olimpia , which is also largely incomplete. Now Bologna is in the lead by itself. He did it by playing with an often small quintet, with three full-backs (Nico Mannion, Daniel Hackett and Marco Belinelli). Ok, with his 196 centimeters Belinelli isn’t exactly small, but he played like a small, a front end, even as a small forward in defense. Scariolo, who in his NBA experience has seen “small ball”, small quintets, this year has made an “overbooking” of wingers: Mannion, Hackett, Beli, Teodosic, Cordinier, Pajola. A system that worked well against Olimpia: 26 points in the first quarter, with 10 points in a flash from Beli, now “The Doctor”, or rather Doctor B for me for his surgeries, always devastating in the hottest moments . Not only did Virtus have the three fullbacks on the pitch, they also put in Kyle Weems, certainly not a long man, who moves around the perimeter and knows how to hit from three points. It was also a decisive move to compensate for the fact of having only two real centers in the team, the French Jaiteh and the Belgian Bako who at the Forum showed some difficulty in finding space under the basket.


Scariolo himself explained at the time that he has a somewhat unbalanced staff, with many small players and few long players. In this case he knows the correctives well: lengthen the field with pressing and widen it with five men who rotate around the perimeter. I don’t want to give advice to Don Sergio, he’s super, but this solution seems more suitable to me with the Mickey-Shengelia duo, because both can find a basket from outside. Having said that, Milan is no less in the outdoor sector. Ettore Messina also has a surplus of small ones: Pangos, Mitrou-Long, Napier, Tonut, Baron, Shields, Luwawu-Cabarrot and Hall. Even Baldasso. This abundance has also paid off for Olimpia this year, partly by choice, partly to cover injuries. Someone (my lips are pursed, I will never divulge who this someone is) asks me if three little ones and “small balls” are an idea that is valid only in Italy but not in Europe, considering the fact that Virtus and Olimpia struggled in the Euroleague because they were put in difficulty by the skill and physicality of the other teams’ big men. Meanwhile, I don’t see results obtained in this Euroleague season in a negative key by our two big names. Virtus returned to the big tournament after 14 years and got off to a bad start, with a few defeats too many, but later improved and made great shots on the road. Milan, should the Euroleague begin these days, would potentially be among the top four, but they have paid dearly for absences and injuries. Next year I’m sure both will be better.


Let’s go back to Italy. So, all finished in Serie A? That is, Virtus first and everyone at home? Absolutely not. And Sergio Scariolo knows it well. Indeed, if they finish on equal points at the end of the championship, Milan would be first in terms of goal difference. So, Virtus will play to the death every game because they know they can’t afford one misstep. Milan will play to death because they only have to recover one game, the calendar doesn’t give discounts, there will be many traps for both. So, between now and the end of the regular season it will be battle every Sunday. Will the little ones decide? Or the long ones? No, no predictions. That someone says my prediction in favor is the kiss of death. But can it?