Euroleague Preview, Week 6
Igor Rakocevic is thankful for the Sinan Erdem Dome.
Cibona (0-5) vs. Regal FC Barcelona (3-2)
If Cibona wants to win a stunner, they’ve come to the right place. Barcelona is reeling a bit off a loss to Montepaschi SIena and now word arrives that Pete Mickael will miss time due to injury. With Gianluca Basile and Juan Carlos Navarro already hurt, it will be up to the underperforming Ricky Rubio to orchestrate an offense without its lead instruments. Newly acquired Joe Ingles should get a nice chance to get his feet wet in the Barca offense and Victor Sada will need to use his wits to make things happen behind Rubio. But you know what? Cibona.
Cholet Basket (3-2) vs. Montepaschi Siena (4-1)
A lot has changed since Montepaschi took down Cholet 76-44 in week one. But not 32 points’ worth. Sorry. Siena.
Lietuvos Rytas (1-4) vs. Fenerbahçe Ülker (4-1)
There was definitely a different buzz in Siemens Arena with Sarunas Jasikevicius in Rytas garb, but it might have just been because the red and black took an 11-point lead out of the first quarter and never looked back. Six players got busy with double-figure index ratings, potential top five pick Jonas Valanciunas among them, but they’ll need to calm down and re-focus to beat a Fenerbahçe team that doesn’t want to throw away a 4-0 start with a second straight loss. Ülker has struggled with energy inside since Gasper Vidmar’s injury, and have signed Sean May to fill the void. Having another body is great, but unless May has lost 15 pounds and gained eight inches on his vertical, he’ll be Oguz Savas Part II on a team that already has the original version. Fenerbahçe Ülker.
Panathinaikos (4-1) vs. Valencia (1-4)
I would say that Aleks Maric’s injury was a devastating blow for Panathinaikos, but last year’s All-Euroleaguer had been limited in practice and games all season long due to back and elbow injuries, so his month-long absence won’t affect Zeljko Obradovic’s rotation as much as you might think. I’d look for Maric’s 10 minutes to slide over to Ian Vougioukas, the St. Louis Billiken from 2003-2007 who has increased his scoring output in each of Panathinaikos’ five Greek League games (4, 6, 11, 12, 16) despite riding pine in Euroleague contests. For Valencia, Svetislav Pesic is giving his young guys a chance to shine (Nando de Colo and Victor Claver played 60 minutes for 24 points, 13 boards and 7 steals in Pesic’s first game as head coach), but he might require a weaker opponent to make it click. Panathinaikos.
AJ Milano (2-3) vs. CSKA Moscow (1-4)
It really is strange how a 1-4 team can have more positives than a team that beat it 88-73 in week one, but that’s the case for CSKA Moscow, who saw Defensive POY and All-Euroleaguer Viktor Khryapa suit up last week for the first time since the 2010 Final Four. Clearly a bit rusty, Viktor still pulled down a few rebounds and had a couple of steals for the team that was last in the pilfer department with him gone. Now, with Coach Dusko Vujosevic reportedly on the hot seat, CSKA needs to pull out all the stops and save his job. And their Top 16 chances. CSKA Moscow.
Efes Pilsen (3-2) vs. Union Olimpija (4-1)
All this talk of Ljubljana’s Stozice being Europe’s new man-eating arena has the folks in Istanbul up in arms, as they’ve welcomed visitors to the Sinan Erdem Dome with an average 13-point defeat in three tries this year. This pair’s overtime clash in week one is still the game of the year in my mind, and EL-leading scorer Igor Rakocevic would like to remind them that Stozice is nice, but that Sinan Erdem saw six of Efes Pilsen’s 12 guys win FIBA silver this summer for Turkey, and that they plan on walking out winners once again. Efes Pilsen.