Euroleague may not have officially started, but Tuesday night’s games sure felt like top-level Continental basketball. After a heckuva lot of edge-of-your-seat action in the first games of the Euroleague Qualifying Round, game twos start tonight at 6pm CET. A brief look at each matchup follows, along with the return of the ever-popular BallinEurope fearless predictions.
Maroussi BC vs. Aris BSA 2003. In game one, Maroussi managed to scare their Greek rivals in an expected backcourt vs. frontcourt battle with Aris, who entered the game as runaway favorites. Maroussi’s shooting was deadshot indeed, but all they’ll need tonight is a three-pointer similar to Nikos Hatzivrettas’ in game one: A margin of victory equal to one longball advances the underdogs. BiE fearless prediction: First upset of Euroleague, anyone…? Maroussi by three.
Alba Berlin vs. Le Mans. Le Mans wasted a chance to be able to ease up a bit in game two by managing to nearly blow a 15-point lead to start the game. Now the team enters O2 arena, where the well-balanced Alba Berlin will have as 13th man one of the toughest Euroleague stadia to visit. In game one, Marc Salyers had too much game for the likes of Kenan Bajramovic and Dragan Dojcin, and so chances for advancement may rest solely on this big man’s shoulders. BiE fearless prediction: Alba Berlin wins on the way to qualifying for the big league.
Entente Orleans vs. Spirou Basket. If you thought Le Mans’ evaporating lead against Berlin was bad, Spirou Basket’s fourth-quarter collapse almost made the 1999-2000 Portland Trail Blazers look like exemplars of grace under pressure. The key question for tonight’s game is “Can Orleans hold the momentum?” Orleans closed the game with a 23-4 run after managing just 30 points through three-plus quarters. If it hadn’t taken them quite as long to find their collective stroke, these guys might have been punching tickets for the next round two days ago. BiE fearless prediction: Orleans maintains the hot hand while Austin Nichols tops 20 points.
Benetton Basket Treviso vs. BK Ventspils. After Treviso managed to kick off the rust, looked pretty good in game one despite the loss. Though outclassed by Ventspils’ first team, 10 players scored for the green-and-white in a swell display of depth. BiE fearless prediction: Benetton Basket looks like an honest-to-Naismith Euroleague team this year, and Ventspils ain’t stopping them in Italy. Treviso in a walk.