Euroleague Weekly Preview
Where Marko Jaric and Scoonie Penn still exist.
After a two-week hiatus, the Euroleague has returned to either give us some answers or leave us with questions. With eight spots still up for grabs, week nine could put as many as six teams in the Top 16; however, it could also leave all slots blank heading into the final week of play. Since breaking down the exact scenarios requires math that goes beyond finger counting, I’m not qualified to shed light on the big picture and hope instead that you’ll accept my game-by-game approach:
*Montepaschi (7-1) vs. Fenerbahce Ulker (3-5) – Fenerbahce needs a win and a Cibona loss to secure a spot in the Top 16. Meanwhile, Terrell McIntyre and Romain Sato don’t care. Montepaschi.
Zalgiris Kaunas (1-7) vs. Cibona (2-6) – You might think a 1-7 record would immediately eliminate you from playoff contention. Well, meet Zalgiris and the Euroleague’s polarized Group A. Speaking of polarization, Martynas Pocius averages an index rating of 10.5 in four home games this year. In four away games, all the way down to -2.5. Yikes. Luckily the home team is listed first in Europe. Zalgiris.
Asvel Basket (3-5) vs. *Regal Barcelona (8-0) – Asvel gave them a serious run for their money last time and Jaka Lakovic looks like he’ll miss this one for Barcelona, but that’s just me playing Asvel’s Advocate. Barcelona.
Partizan (4-4) vs. Lietuvos Rytas (4-4) – After losing to the hapless (and winless) Orleanaise the last time out, Partizan has had about 19 days to kick themselves. A win there plus one more would have landed them in the Top 16, no questions asked. Now, they’ll need to beat Lietuvos, get some rest and then root Efes Pilsen to a victory the following day. For a team that has had the Euroleague’s most consistent performer (Aleks Maric), they sure have left me shaking my head quite a few times. Partizan.
Efes Pilsen (3-5) vs. *Olympiacos (6-2) – With Von Wafer out of Piraeus, former Ohio State guard and member of the All-Cool-Name team, Scoonie Penn, joins Papaloukas, Beverley, Halperin and Teodosic in the loaded Olympiacos backcourt. If everyone figures out how to play together—or if Kleiza can flip the O-switch for more than a quarter at a time—I still like Olympiacos to go the distance. This week, however, I think Rakocevic and Nachbar will have Efes Pilsen hungry and ready to win at home. Their Top 16 lives depend on it. Efes Pilsen.
*Unicaja (6-2) vs. Entente Orleanaise (1-7) – Even a blind squirrel finds a nut. Two nuts is pushing it. Unicaja.
*Caja Laboral (6-2) vs. Maroussi BC (3-5) – I haven’t been able to figure out either of these teams this season, but I do know one thing: Caja dropped 103 at Maroussi in Week 4. And this one will be played in Spain. I guess that’s two things. Caja Laboral.
Maccabi Electra (5-3) vs. Lottomatica Roma (3-5) – Lottomatica has to be wondering what went wrong. After starting 3-0, they’ve lost five straight, made a coaching change and seen one of the league’s best guards, Ibby Jaaber, turn into one of the most inefficient. Hell, they might have even won their first four if it weren’t for a 92-90 overtime loss at the hands of Maccabi. Over in Tel Aviv, the boys in yellow seem poised to take off despite two straight losses. Former Eurocup MVP and South Carolina Gamecock Chuck Eidson is getting comfy and Andrew Wisniewski is doing his best to spread the ball to eight anxious hands, all while Alan Anderson ups and downs his way to 13 PPG. Maccabi.
Union Olimpija (1-7) vs. *CSKA Moscow (6-2) – CSKA swapped Arizona Wildcat Ivan Radenovic (2.5 points, 1 rebound per game) for Michigan Wolverine Courtney Sims (hopefully better than 2.5 and 1) as they hope to add to their five-game winning streak. Union Olimpija has the individuals to keep it close—Walsh and Becirovic on the perimeter, Golubovic down low—but the team concept is foreign to them, as are solid fourth quarters. CSKA.
*Panathinaikos (6-2) vs. Asseco Prokom (3-5) – Asseco Prokom is 15-0 in the Polish League, but Panathinaikos ain’t the Polish League. Panathinaikos.
*Real Madrid (6-2) vs. EWE Baskets (1-7) – With Marko Jaric safely jettisoned out of Memphis and into Madrid, Coach Ettore Messina is clearly focused on working him into the rotation (41 and 34 minutes in his first two Spanish League games, respectively). These next two weeks should unveil a lot about the “new” Real Madrid, but I think we already know plenty about EWE, and it won’t be pretty. Real Madrid.
BC Khimki (5-3) vs. AJ Milano (3-5) – Khimki is in with either a win here or a Prokom loss in Athens, but why not take advantage of a chance to clinch at home? BC Khimki.
Nick Gibson is the co-creator and producer of Slam and Freaknick’s Euroleague Adventures, which features a blog, podcast, prospect watch and a closer look at Americans playing overseas. Gibson is a broadcast journalism student at Syracuse University and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.