Updated: 16.00 CET/11.00 EST on Thursday 11 June
With the domestic league playoffs in full swing, BallinEurope is going to keep a regular eye on who is going to be in next year’s Euroleague and who needs a little help.
Working out the composition of Euroleague can be, challenging, for even the hardiest observer. The removal of the qualifying tournament, while missed by those of us who liked the general madness of it, has cleared up some matters but in its place has come a bunch of other things that need to be dealt with. The allocations of A and B licences have changed. For those unfamiliar, fundamentally A licences are given to teams which they get to keep no matter how they do in their domestic league although some have a bar they have to reach to keep it. The B licences are awarded directly to the leagues so one or two teams from each league depending on finishing position and how they meet criteria get them.
There’s also a C licence for the winner of Eurocup but that’s not an issue this year as Khimki, who lifted that title, locked up a B licence by reaching the VTB United League final.
There are also wild cards to be awarded and that, BiE readers, is where things are going to get really interesting.
Note: This post will be updated as the domestic league scenarios shake out to lock up specific spots in next seasons competition.
FC Barcelona (A)
Crvena Zvezda (B)
Cedevita Zagreb (B)
CSKA Moscow (A)
Anadolu Efes (A)
Fenerbahce Ülker (A)
BC Khimki (B)
Maccabi Tel Aviv (A)
Olimpia Milano (A)
Olympiacos Piraeus (A)
Real Madrid (A)
Saski Baskonia (A)
Zalgiris Kaunas (A)
Zielona Gora (B)
For those too lazy to count, that’s
14 15 of the 24 slots for next season already filled. There are also three spots where we know how they will be decided.
Spots that must be filled:
France – B licence: Winner of Pro A
The Pro A playoffs are nearly over. Strasbourg are already in the final and, as we will see in a moment, that’s probably enough for them. Limoges play Nancy this evening in Game 2 of their best-of-3 semi-final series. A win tonight and, like Strasbourg, you can probably put Limoges in next year’s Euroleague.
Update: Limoges and Strasbourg did what was necessary to make the finals. Our forecast has both in Euroleague and this is, by some margin, our most confident assessment of a wild card allocation.
Germany – B licence: Winner of Bundesliga
Brose Baskets Bamberg are in the final, having swept Ulm in the semi-finals. They will face either Alba Berlin or FC Bayern Munich in the finals, which start on Sunday. One of Bayern and Alba looks a lock for a wild card but Bamberg know they almost certainly have to win the title to make it back to the big show next season.
Update: As of 10 June the finals between Bamberg and Bayern are tied at 1-1. Bayern look a lock either way, we still have Bamberg needing to win the title to make Euroleague. If they fail, we have Alba Berlin taking Germany’s wild card.
Italy – B licence: Winner of Serie A
Much of this comes down to Milano. If they make the finals, whoever they face gets their ticket punched to Euroleague next season. If they don’t, then it’s a winner take all affair in the Serie A finals. It’s no wholly beyond the realm of possibility that Italy gets a wild card because of events elsewhere although it looks quite unlikely.
Update: On 10 June Dinamo Sassari eliminated Olimpia Milano. In theory, that makes the winner of Serie A, Sassari or the winner of Reyer Venezia/Reggio Emilia, the second Italian team in but we are forecasting a third spot for Italy with the runner-up being given a spot by Euroleague.
Poland – B licence: Zielona Gora as Winner of Ekstraliga
Unlike Germany and France, it’s a near certainty that Poland won’t see any of its teams get a wildcard. Turow Zgorzelec currently lead the best-of-7 finals series with Zielona Gora 2-0.
Update: On 10 June Zielona Gora completed its comeback to take the title and book its place in Euroleague.
Spain – B licence: Unicaja or Valencia
The format of how this gets decided is the interesting part. We know, barring a massive change of heart from Euroleague, that Spain is only going to have 4 teams. We know, for certain who three of those teams are. Valencia or Unicaja will take the last spot and assuming neither upsets Real Madrid or Barcelona in the semi-finals, neither will have finished above the other in the ACB playoffs. Unicaja however hold the better finishing position in the league which coupled with a deeper run in last season’s Euroleague should be enough to get the edge. Essentially, the only plausible way Valencia make it is if they pull an upset on Real in the semi-finals. Unless of course Euroleague suddenly starts to look at the scenario developing…
Update: As it stands after 10 June, both Valencia and Unicaja are 2-1 down in their respective series with Real Madrid and Barcelona. We are still forecasting Unicaja for the fourth spot.
Khimki’s win over Lokomotiv Kuban in the VTB United League boosted the wild card field from 4 to 5. That’s a whole lot of spaces to fill. Euroleague’s official priorities are to France, Germany, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. The UK however won’t get a slot this season and likely won’t get one for a very long time.
That leaves three countries where we can lock down wild cards. If Limoges make the Pro A final, it looks a certainty that both they and Strasbourg play in Euroleague irrespective of who wins the title. Nancy could make things interesting but we’ll know a lot more after tonight.
In Turkey, barring an upset win of the league title by either Trabzonspor or Karsiyaka and many other things on top of that, the spot is going to the heavily financed Darüşşafaka who finished third in the regular season before getting dumped out of the playoffs in the first round by Trabzon.
Update: Trabzon got swept in the semi-finals, they are done. Karsiyaka looked mighty impressive in their semi-final series win over Fenerbahce and trail Efes 1-0 in the finals having lost Game 1 in OT. A Karsiyaka title win would almost certainly force Euroleague to grant them a slot, failing that they may yet get wildcard consideration.
Germany is a touch more complex. Bamberg have never truly disgraced themselves in Euroleague but Berlin and Munich are more appealing markets, that’s why the odds are one of Alba and Bayern gets a wild card irrespective of who wins the title. Whoever loses that semi-final series will surely be hoping their conquerors lift the Bundesliga crown.
Update: As mentioned above, Alba are rooting for Bayern who are tied 1-1 in the finals with Bamberg.
After all that there are still two spots to fill and it’s not a sure thing who gets them. The VTB League has to be confident of being high up the list, it’s got real depth in terms of talent if not fan interest. Either way, the smart money must surely be on Lokomotiv Kuban to make the strongest case.
That still leaves one slot and it’s an absolute doozy. Italy could probably back its way into a plausible claim on league strength but Serie A is not what it once was. Germany couldn’t plausibly get two slots from wild cards and the same goes for France. A fourth Turkish team would appeal in terms of market expansion but, again, two wild cards for one league seems unlikely. Suddenly the desire to not have 5 Spanish clubs begins to look foolhardy. The field really is wide open. Belgium hasn’t had a team in Euroleague for a few years but it’s also fair to say it’s not a priority market. Were Hapoel Jerusalem to pull off an upset in the Israeli League finals they could have a case but their utterly abysmal season in Eurocup will have damaged their case significantly. At this stage a third team from the Adriatic League, the type of move fans would definitely approve of but not high on Euroleague’s priorities, isn’t unthinkable. That’s how much of a mess the last wild card spot is.
So we can guess up to 23 of the 24 spots with a reasonable amount of certainty, or at least how they are going to shake out. It’s that last spot where we have doubts.
Update: As we said, that last spot is currently forecast to go to Italy. This would mean wildcards in Russia, Germany, Turkey, France, and Italy.