It was a wild 2OT thriller in the Audi Dome but FC Bayern pulled off their biggest ever Euroleague win over front runners Fenerbahce. Now the hard work really begins. Emmet Ryan on their quest to end a long German absence from the post-season
It took a whole lot of guts, no shortage of character, and real nerve but FC Bayern got the big win at home to record their most important ever Euroleague win, admittedly through only four seasons of experience at this level, to put themselves in with a real shot at the playoffs.
The juxtaposition is rather normal for hoops fans over here but it’s still a bit odd for those with only a cursory knowledge of the sport to realise the gulf between Bayern and Fenerbahce. It’s almost the reverse of their standing in football. Getting a home win over Fener is a very big deal for the Munich club as it looks to cement its place as a team that belongs at this level.
The primary aspect of that is supposed to be the Bundesliga. Through the midway point of the German season, Bayern remain unbeaten with an average margin of victory of 14 points. They are, quite simply, kicking ass. It’s not been a perfect season domestically, Bayern fell to Alba Berlin before Christmas in the German Cup. That’s not completely a shock, the league and cup double has only happened four times this century in Germany and Bayern played that game just two days after a tough clash with Real Madrid.
With a big lead over all comers, it’s near impossible to see Bayern not securing home court throughout the Bundesliga playoffs and, while Alba may have what it takes to win a game, it’s hard to see any side really challenging them in securing back to back championships for the second time in their history and a fifth ever Bundesliga crown. The first two were in 1954 and 1955 before waiting until 2014 for their next championship. They’ll still be another 9 away from the record, held by Bayer Leverkusen, if they end the season with the title.
That lead in Bundesliga has given Bayern more reason to concentrate on Euroleague itself. While their place in the competition is secure through the next two seasons no matter what, a playoff run would be another matter entirely. Alba made the quarter-finals of the Suproleague in 2001, the FIBA run competition in the odd year where there were two competitions claiming to be the top flight in Europe, having previously made the same stage in the 1998 season when everything made sense. No German team has ever made it to the Final Four going all the way back to inception in 1958. There have been better performances and even the odd trophy in Europe’s lower cup competitions but Bayern are essentially looking to set a new standard this century.
Brose Bamberg sure had a good crack at it in their more recent seasons in Euroleague but were out of postseason contention before the deciding weeks. Alba lost a last day decider to Maccabi Tel Aviv to miss out in 2015. Bayern even flirted with it in their maiden campaign in 2014, notching a win over eventual runners up Real Madrid along the way but dropped their last four including a classic against eventual winners Maccabi to miss out.
For our analysis series The Ballin After, post-game interviews, and more, subscribe to BallinEurope’s YouTube channel
Germany has long had one of the most fun leagues, it’s offensively driven and the crowds are generally great, but it’s rarely had top tier strength and nobody is picking Bayern for the Final Four this year. That’s fine because nobody saw them as being relevant in the playoff conversation at this point of the season.
The expectation for this season was a dignified by uncompetitive year. A 10-20 or 11-19 would have easily been accepted by neutrals and prior to the arrival of Derrick Williams the team they had probably wasn’t a whole lot above that.
BallinEurope now has merch, like actual merch, t-shirts, phone covers, and even pillows. Check it all out on our RedBubble page.
Williams has been the most effective new signing for any club this season. His arrival in Munich was due to an injury crisis but he immediately became by far the most important player on the floor for them and his regular threat has made life so much easier for players like Nihad Dedovic and Vladimir Lucic. The latter came good just when it mattered most against Fener the other night and both are the only players other than Williams to average double digits through 21 games for the Bavarians. Williams leads the club in points and rebounds, very much putting it on his back but there’s just enough help elsewhere on the floor to get them to an 11-10 record.
Right now, they sit in 7th but only hold a 1 game lead on 9th. The run in is not pretty. Bayern have six road games out of the last nine, with four of those at playoff sides or contenders. Their home games are against a surging Maccabi, a Barcelona side that is streaky but wins more than it loses, and then the final game of the season against Gran Canaria when their fate might already be known.
Having a signature win over Fenerbahce before three straight road dates, is going to stand to them. Bayern have seen that they can live with the best in the business, albeit a side that was feeling the injury absence of Jan Vesely. Their next clash is against a Baskonia side that has its own injury woes but is getting Ws in spite of them. Heading to the Fernando Buesa Arena is no easy task right now but at least Bayern know they’ve done enough to deserve sharing the floor with them.
To keep up to date with everything on BiE, like BallinEurope on Facebook