BiE’s official Irish awards ballot +++ Joakim Noah wins NBA Defensive Player of the Year +++ Swee’ Pea makes the cut – Reaches Funding Target +++ The Dish – Too Rude for Masai Uijiri +++ The BBL experience – Rowdy in Frankfurt +++ Fearless predictions: Euroleague playoffs +++ A Dario triple-double? Now that’s good timing +++ Swee’ Pea needs your help +++ Final Four: What the bookies say when the bookies talk +++ The greatest Eurodance tribute to Goran Dragic ever +++

BiE’s official Irish awards ballot

BallinEurope editor Emmet Ryan is voting in this year’s Irish Premier League awards. Here’s who BiE is voting for and why.

Men’s MVP – Michael Bonaparte, Killester
This was absolute murder. Bonaparte had 23 ppg, 4th in the league, ranked 10th in rebounds and 9th in blocks for the league champions. Staring him down directly was Lehmon Colbert, the cup final MVP, 20 ppg, ranked 5th in boards and 8th in blocks for UCC Demons. Then there was the real wild-card, Michael Callaghan of Moycullen who led the league in scoring and rebounds. Callaghan was a nasty call as he had fantastic stats, 26 and 11, on the second-worst team in the league. In the end his team’s finishing position played a big role as while he carried the load for Moycullen he also benefitted by not having the same talent around him in terms of dominating the scorekeeper’s book. In the end it came down to literally one game to give Bonaparte the edge on Colbert, it really was that close, as the Killester man shot 64 per cent and scored 24 points in the match-up between the two that decided the league.

Men’s Young Player of the Year – Roy Downey, Bord Gais Neptune
This was a crowded field and Downey arguably stood out the least on initial inspection. He was overshadowed by some of his elders on the Neptune squad but still managed to contribute in multiple ways. Downey had 11 ppg and 3 apg for the season. They were hardly earth-shattering stats but it’s not a young man’s league and he did enough to be the best.

Men’s Coach of the Year – Jonathan Grenell, Killester
You take a middling side from 2012/13 and turn them into league champions in the most dramatic style possible? That really helps when it comes to style points. Still, Colin O’Reilly from Demons had a lot going for him as a candidate here. His side finished second in the league, beat Killester in the semis en route to winning the cup, and beat them again to win the Champions Trophy. The run of Killester to claw back Demons in the league is what eventually made me go with Grenell. Another tough call, I won’t be upset if I’m wrong.
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Joakim Noah wins NBA Defensive Player of the Year


Joakim Noah has become just the second European ever to win the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year title. The Chicago Bulls and France big man is also the second European in as many years to be given the honour, after Spain’s Marc Gasol won for his stellar season with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2012/13. Congratulations to Noah, whose Bulls could do with some of that Defensive POY swagger to help them get back into their series with the Wizards.


Swee’ Pea makes the cut – Reaches Funding Target

A couple of weeks ago we introduced you to a Kickstarter to help fund a documentary on streetball legend Lloyd ‘Swee’ Pea’ Daniels. Here’s the trailer:

Just yesterday we tweeted you, the BiE faithful, to help get this movie over the finish line. At the time it still needed another $12,400 to reach it’s total. As of this afternoon, on the final full day of fundraising, The Legend of Swee’ Pea has surpassed its $50,000 target.

I think it’s safe to say the European basketball community did its part to get the movie made so great job everybody. Daniels, who had several stints playing in Europe, has a fascinating story, and we’re looking forward to seeing it hit the big screen.


The Dish – Too Rude for Masai Uijiri

Barca sweep
It’s been a long and busy week in Basketball for Europe’s top teams and players and tonight we could see even more drama. Let’s get you set for another wild week of playoff action in Euroleague and the NBA.

As fearlessly predicted by BiE Barcelona got the brooms out against Galatasaray. While the Istanbul club was always expected to fall in this series, they put up a brave fight to make Barca earn the sweep on Monday before falling 78-75. This makes it five final fours in six years for Barcelona, with the one they missed out on notably having taken place in their backyard.

A reverse sweep is the only way Olympiacos will prevent there being a Clasico at the semi-final stage. Trailing 2-0 to Real Madrid, the back-to-back reigning champions need something big at the SEF later today. This column has predicted Real getting the job done in four games but for the Reds to force a Game 4, they must prove the bookies wrong as Olympiacos are -1.5 underdogs on their own floor.

Before getting to the basketball issues with the next game, a quick point. Don’t do proposals at games.

Nope, not buying it CSKA. You can’t fool me. Sure, I know you’ve got a better team than Panathinaikos but I’m not going to let an impressive Game 2 win over the Greens make me think you can finish this off in Athens. It just wouldn’t seem right for CSKA to take care of this in a comfortable fashion. Yes, the Greens have all sorts of issues but tonight’s Game 3 screams of CSKA gonna CSKA. I’m locking this one down for a Game 4 at the very minimum.

In a shock to pretty much no-one, EA7 Milano and Maccabi Electra Tel-Aviv have the makings of the best series in the playoffs. After a dramatic overtime win for Maccabi in Game 1, Milano came back to win 91-77 in Game 2. Home court still favours the Israelis but it would be a brave observer who calls this series ending before Game 5. Admittedly BiE did just that, now we’re frantically reconsidering.

Before jumping across the pond, the ABA Liga has announced its team of the year. DeMarcus Nelson (Crvena Zvezda), Bogdan Bogdanoivc (Partizan), Dario Saric (Cibona), Joffrey Lauvergne (Partizan), and Boban Marjanovic (Crvena Zvezda) received team of the year honours. This week also sees the culmination of the ABA Liga with the Final Four in Belgrade. Crvena Zvezda takes on Cibona in the first semi-final on Thursday while Cedevita play Partizan in the second semi on Friday. The winners will meet in Sunday’s final.

And now to jump across the pond…
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The BBL experience – Rowdy in Frankfurt

Quantez Robertson's last ride

BiE’s editor headed to Frankfurt to catch a supposedly nothing game between Fraport Skyliners and medi Bayreuth on Sunday. It was 11th vs 15th, the atmosphere was like a playoff spot was at stake.

The stakes could hardly have been lower. Fraport Skyliners were all but eliminated from the playoffs and medi Bayreuth only faced a relegation threat in the mathematical sense. A few hundred miles away Bamberg and Bayern were going to duke it out in the battle for home court advantage but the fans in Frankfurt didn’t care for the bigger picture. They had one foe, one goal, help their team get the W by being as loud as humanly possible. No-one is going to confuse the Fraport Arena with the OAKA any time soon but when you head to a mid-table game, you don’t really expect this:

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Fearless predictions: Euroleague playoffs

BallinEurope only went 6 of 8 in picking the teams to make the post-season and one of those sides we didn’t have faith in won’t be happy with how we see the playoffs shaping up. It’s fearless prediction time.

Barcelona vs Galatasaray

Pick: Barca in 3.

So we didn’t think Galatasaray would make it this far and now we’re saying there roll a doughnut in the post-season. Harsh? Perhaps but we’re standing by it. Barcelona’s slump at the end of the Top 16 can’t disguise a 22-0 start to Euroleague this season. This team is going to Milan, the question is how many games it will require. Much as Galatasaray deserve credit for holding their nerve in the wild battle for fourth in Group F, they look to have drawn a pairing suited to exploit them. If it’s any comfort, we seem to have given Pops Mensah-Bonsu some added motivation.

Real Madrid vs Olympiacos

Pick: RMB in 4.

This was a tough call to make and not for the reason you might think. Real Madrid look to have the most complete team in Europe this season. If they weren’t utterly unbackable, I’d take RMB to walk into a 2-0 series lead without blinking. The question in my mind is whether they will be able to finish the Reds off quickly or if it will require them going back to Madrid. In the end I split the difference and called it Real in a 3-1 win.

CSKA Moscow vs Panathinaikos

Pick: CSKA in 5.

Honestly, this was the easiest call of the lot. You could slot in any opponent and I’d have trouble believing this CSKA team would take care of business the easy way. It’s just not been their style all season. If any series goes the max, this will be it. Panathinaikos still look capable of taking care of business back home but neither of the Greek giants looks like final four material this year.

EA7 Milano vs Maccabi Elektra Tel-Aviv

Pick: Milano in 4.

This is about as good a style match-up as Milano could have hoped for. They have the weapons to hurt Maccabi and to do so repeatedly. Home court in the final four isn’t something that comes around every year and that’s plenty motivation for Milano. It could have been a source of nerves but the maturity this outfit showed in the Top 16 makes me think otherwise. For the first half of that phase Milano kept stumbling, not quite doing enough to convince skeptics like me (who said they wouldn’t make the post-season) of their worth and then boom they caught fire. The Barca win is what most remember but the change had already happened. They had evolved from could-bes to probablys.

So where have I gone horribly wrong? Please vent your frustrations in the comments.


A Dario triple-double? Now that’s good timing

March Madness ended on Monday. On Tuesday Dario Saric, having just signed a new agent, delivered a triple-double with perfect timing to get the attention of NBA scouts. His 20 points, 13 board, and 10 assists in Cibona’s 96-70 Croatian Cup semi-final win over KK Zagreb. Super Dario certainly knows when to pick his moment.


Swee’ Pea needs your help

The Legend of Swee’ Pea- extended trailer from Benjamin May on Vimeo.

A couple of weeks back we told you about a great Kickstarter looking for support in developing a documentary on Lloyd “Swee’ Pea” Daniels, a player who spent a couple of seasons in Europe having risen from playground legend to the NBA with the San Antonio Spurs. Right now it’s not looking like this film will get made as the producers are a long way short of their fund-raising goal.

BiE has literally zero bias here, no-one in the site stands to make a dime from the movie. We just really want it to get made because it looks awesome. From the footage we’ve seen outside of the extended trailer above (which for rights reasons we can’t share), it looks like a tale any basketball junkie wants to see told.

So, purely because we think you’ll enjoy this movie, we’re urging you to go to the Kickstarter page here and pledge your support.


Final Four: What the bookies say when the bookies talk

APTOPIX SEC Kentucky Florida Basketball
Those familiar with this site’s Twitter handle may be aware that our editor, Emmet Ryan, spent a few years working in the gambling business. He looks at how the bookies see the odds for the NCAA Championship and what it says about their confidence in the four combatants.

Lets take a look at the odds (NCAA Basketball championship odds taken from a prominent bookmaker) and see what the bookies are seeing.

Florida -120
Kentucky +240
Wisconsin +350
Connecticut +750

There are two quick takes here. Firstly, despite it being an utterly awful year for the SEC per the stats, the oddsmakers love Florida and Kentucky and it makes sense. The Gators have experience, talent, and have the edge in every area of note over all three of their opponents. Being odds-on with two games to go, even if it’s only narrowly, is no easy feat and Billy Donovan’s team must be seeing a lot of action. Make no mistake, this is a defensive stance from the bookies. They expect Florida to beat UConn and to then get a heap of action for the championship game on Monday. This is an effort to force that run until after Saturday.

The other key observation is importance of profile in terms of action. Wisconsin have done more over the course of this season to merit support, despite an ugly start to Big Ten play, but they haven’t laid a market down. Kentucky has the profile of being Kentucky, John Calipari as coach, and a lottery pick in Julius Randle. Throw in a hot run through March Madness and suddenly a team that lost three times to Florida is second favourite.

The value play here is, in fact, the team favoured to win it all. At -120, Florida aren’t priced out of the market and unless you seriously think they will lose to the Huskies, a bettor can back them now and then lay their bet with a bit of wriggle room on Monday.


The greatest Eurodance tribute to Goran Dragic ever

Also, admittedly, possibly the only Eurodance tribute to Goran Dragic ever. It’s so good we briefly considered forgiving Lipko, then we remembered that we hate Lipko.