Euroleague Preview, Week 4
Union Olimpija tries to keep the dream alive in Moscow.
Fenerbahçe Ülker (3-0) vs. Montepaschi Siena (3-0)
Oh boy. This one should be interesting. After starting the season at 11 and 14, respectively, on Euroleague Adventures’ Power Rankings, both teams have downed all comers and now occupy the top two spots. While the traditional knock on Italian teams is their lack of rebounding and toughness—Virtus Roma and Armani Jeans Milano are currently 22nd and 24th in the boards department—Siena consistently throws a wrench in your stereotype and then robs you blind, currently leading the EL in steals with 12 per game. They might have met their match, however, in Roko Ukic, Fenerbahçe’s carefully brilliant point guard who hasn’t turned the ball over once all season. If Fenerbahçe can hold on to the rock long enough to find scorers like Marko Tomas and Tarence Kinsey on the perimeter, they get it done at home and move to the top of the charts next week. Looks like Allen Iverson can count himself among the earliest adopters of the world’s most visibly emerging basketball hotbed. Fenerbahçe Ülker.
Cibona Zagreb (0-3) vs. Cholet Basket (1-2)
Fabien Causeur answered the calls for improvement with a league best 20 points last week, mainly because he started heading for the rack: 9/14 on FT’s last week, 0/0 in weeks one and two. The entire team followed his example and decided that a little hustle might cure their ill fates of weeks’ past. Former Saluki Randal Falker had himself a day with 14 rebounds and the scoring was spread quite fairly outside of Causeur, but I’m not sure they’ll be able to sustain that level of energy against a scrappy CIbona team. Though inexperienced and sloppy (19.7 TO per game, second most in the EL), Zagreb has a point guard in Rok Stipcevic who won’t let this sort of carelessness persist at the Drazen Petrovic Center. First team to 78 wins. Cibona.
Regal FC Barcelona (2-1) vs. Lietuvos Rytas (0-3)
From deep, few teams have been uglier than Barcelona at 18/62 (29 percent). Lietuvos Rytas might be able to challenge their inferiority, though: 13/56 (23 percent). Looks like the rule changes don’t agree with these two. One would think a team that includes Fran Vazquez, Terence Morris, Erazem Lorbek, Boniface N’Dong and Kosta Perovic—all starter quality post players on 23 of the EL squads—could figure out how to sidestep these temporary shooting woes. It’s on Mr. Rubio to reward good positioning with a crisp pass. Regal FC Barcelona.
CSKA Moscow (0-3) vs. Union Olimpija (3-0)
Broken record time: Moscow is missing three of their best players: Center Sasha Kaun, forward Viktor Khryapa, and former MVP swingman Ramunas Siskauskas. They have 8 steals in three games. Think about how miserable that is for a second. Complaining will get CSKA nowhere, and it’s time for Andrey Vorontsevich to put on the big boy pants and start beasting folks like he did in Turkey. I fully believe he’s every bit as talented as Khryapa; now it’s time for him to channel that athletic energy on the defensive side of the floor. Union Olimpija’s fairy tale hasn’t yet reached its final page, but I believe Dusko Vujosevic bookmarks it for now. CSKA Moscow.
Valencia (1-2) vs. AJ Milano (1-2)
Nando de Colo and Jeremy Richardson returned from injury just in time for Valencia to elude a disastrous start, and now it’s time for Nando to reacquaint himself with his teammates. For a guard who thrives on ball domination, he’ll have to do better than zero assists this week against Milano’s diminutive backcourt. Valencia needs to resist the temptation to run n’ gun with the Italians and start off with a heavy dose of Robertas Javtokas and Serhiy Lischuk. Might as well let Victor Claver post up while they’re at it. Valencia.
Panathinaikos (2-1) vs. Efes Pilsen (2-1)
After delivering a Haynesworth-esque stomp to the face of Saso Ozbolt last week in an OT loss to Union Olimpija, public outrage and cries for Mike Batiste’s suspension or even an arrest have been met with…nothing. Nothing whatsoever. He played over 10 minutes this weekend in the Greek League and the Euroleague has issued no press release (as I write this on Tuesday afternoon) regarding Batiste’s eligibility. Panathinaikos head coach Zeljko Obradovic immediately demanded Batiste’s apology to the fallen Union Olimpija guard, so the team may feel as though that plus Mike’s post-game apology to the press is sufficient team-enforced punishment. I’m certainly not asking for anything more from the Greens, but seeing him in uniform seven days after such a despicable act just wouldn’t seem right. If he plays, Panathinaikos wins. If the Euroleague pulls his plug last minute, Efes has a serious chance of overcoming homecourt. Panathinaikos.