It may be March Madness across the Atlantic but Euroleague served up plenty of insanity this week as the races for the final playoff spots entered crazy territory. Emmet Ryan breaks it all down.
The story of this week should have been the return of Zeljko Obradovic to the OAKA and, in fairness, it was but only barely. The love-fest for Zoc’s return was quite heart-warming under any circumstance but moreso considering the importance of Panathinakos’ game with Fenerbahce. The Greens took the lead in the race for the final two spots in Group E with a 76-67 win over Fener. The whole celebration has been documented well by Eurohoops who also did a great job on Twitter in the build-up with their #ReturnOfZoc tweets.
That win not only moved Panathinaikos to 6-5 and third spot but also gave them the season head to head advantage over Obradovic’s side. Olympiacos ran riot over Baskonia but they only hold fourth on tie-breakers over Unicaja and Fener. Malaga for their part looked limp in defeat against visiting Barcelona. The Blaugrana moved to 21-0 in Euroleague play, 11-0 in Top 16 play. A win next week and top spot is their’s, fortunately if that does happen their two dead rubbers almost certainly won’t influence who makes the next stage. EA7 Milano effectively ended any shot at the playoffs for Anadolu Efes and look certain to take second spot following their 76-69 win.
Before I move on to Group F, on behalf of the whole BiE family I’d like to extend our support to all of our readers and followers in Turkey. With Twitter being blocked, you guys responded the only way you should have; by finding ways around the block. This is not a political site but we believe that everyone should have a voice. There is nothing right with silencing people, it was good to see so many of our friends finding ways to keep their voices.
Group E was nuts, Group F brought crazy to a new place. Real Madrid not only beat CSKA but did so by the exact margin required for the season series to be tied with a 93-79 triumph, so if the sides finish level we’ll need to go down another level of tie-breakers to decide top spot. That win punched RMB’s ticket to the next round along with CSKA. Partizan kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a 72-70 win over Maccabi Elektra Tel-Aviv. Fun fact, I was meant to be in Israel most of this week but ended up being sick for more than a week with sinal and chest infections. I share this with you solely to give you some rest before getting to the battle for fourth.
You had one job FC Bayern, one job. Hold fourth for a week. Instead you went to Istanbul, played ugly, lost 76-69 and dropped two places. That win for Galatasaray could have moved them into fourth spot but for Lokomotiv Kuban somehow not falling on their faces in Kaunas, escaping with an 86-85 win. They now hold fourth on tie-breakers over Galatasaray and Bayern. The Germans look in the weakest position for the run-in but given the rate at which things change in this chase, I’m not ruling anyone in or out. Seth Davis can keep his sharpie for another two weeks.
Which is a nice way of linking into March Madness. The highlight for me so far was Stephen F. Austin’s win over VCU, only partially because I had money on the Lumberjacks. The Austin 3:16 references all over the internet made it more than worthwhile. Far more useful than that however is Sam Meyerkopf’s guide to all of the international players taking part in the NCAA Tournament which you can find over at Euroleague Adventures.
Employment means I’ll miss the must-see game in Group E next week live. Unicaja and Olympiacos meet in a huge game in the race for fourth, fortunately I’ll be able to watch it on the train back to Dublin the next morning. Barcelona can send Panathinaikos back into the dogfight if they beat the Greens on Friday but the Friday game in Group E I’m looking out for is Milano at Fener. The Istanbul club needs this win badly whereas a win for the visitors and their post-season bid is locked up. Over in Group F, the match-ups aren’t quite as interesting, we’ll have to wait until Round 13 for that. Bayern travel to CSKA. Yeouch. Partizan can make the race utter bedlam if they win in Krasnodar and given Kuban’s propensity to make life difficult for themselves can anyone rule out a road winner? Gslatasaray have a must-win road game at Kaunas, it’s the type of game where if you don’t break serve your hopes of holding later are slim.
Finally, thank you to all of our Twitter followers. Our account hit the 4,000 follower mark this week. Without you guys, this site and that account are pointless. You all rock. You can follow us here if you don’t already.