Got the vitriol brewing? All right, then, with BallinEurope now caught up on some preseason basketball viewing, it’s time for another edition of BiE’s Official Euroleague Power Rankings. Just one quick note for irritated fans (we’re looking at you, Olympiacos, Žalgiris and Lietuvos Rytas backers): Remember that these rankings are first totally subjective and secondly are based on *trending*, not necessarily where BiE believes the teams will finish when all’s said and done. Excelsior!
1. (↔) FC Barcelona – Already looking like the dominant force they were through May last year, Barça is 7-1 in exhibition games with a sole loss to who else but Gran Canaria 2014, getting revenge by smoking the giant killers by 25 in their ACB season opener. Ah well, at least Blaugrana haters can get some consolation when the Lakers come to town on Thursday. Unless, of course, they also hate L.A…
2. (↔) CSKA Moscow got a double dose of great news last Sunday by beating Zalgiris 79-73 to win the Alexander Gomelsky Cup. Even better was the awesomeness turned in by Matjaz Smodis, who appears to have recovered from nagging injuries with a 21-point, eight-rebound, four-assist performance. A Euroleague Final Four team *plus* a healthy Smodis? Scary.
3. (↑) Montepaschi Siena – What’s in the water in Siena? MPS has racked up eight straight victories (albeit quite a few against Italian creampuffs) and, despite having problems handing Cajasol Sevilla in Florence, has demonstrated this preseason that they’re once again a scoring machine against Euroleague squads with 83 and 95 against Lietuvos Rytas and hometown Asseco Prokom on consecutive days in the Gdynia Tournament.
4. (↔) Panathinaikos looked bad against Žalgiris after disposing of three relative cupcakes (Uzice, Radniki, FMP Zeleznik) by an average of 35 points this preseason, but redeemed themselves with the win against still-coalescing Partizan in the Gomelsky Cup.
5. (↑) Olympiacos – Okay, based on the outcry maybe BiE was a little harsh on the new-look Reds in the first power rankings. They’ve performed competently against the likes of Fenerbahçe and Efes Pilsen this offseason and they look great on paper – but as we say, the games aren’t played on paper. BiE remains skeptical, but few other Euroleague teams have really impressed thus far.
6. (↓) Case in point: Caja Laboral Baskonia, who had trouble with Gran Canaria and was stunned by Valencia in the Spanish Super Cup; the 23-point ACB win over CB Granada revealed little. We should know more after the Unicaja game on Saturday. Three random thoughts on the defending ACB champs: If you squint, you can imagine the great team that could emerge before 2010-11 is over; much – very much – will depend on Marcelhino Huertas and the pick-and-roll; and forget Barça-Lakers, who wouldn’t love to see Baskonia take out the Memphis Grizzlies next Thursday?
7. (↔) Real Madrid – Since the last edition of BiE Power Rankings, at which point the only significant competition saw Madrid managing to look very, very bad against old bugaboo FC Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup, Ettore Messina’s boys have handled Asefa Estudiantes in the ACB opener despite a combined 5-of-18 performance from starters D’Or Fischer and Sergio Llull – that’s a good thing. Probably. Maybe.
8. (↓) Maccabi Tel Aviv – Call it teething troubles: After handling Asseco Prokom in the Wroclaw Tourney, Maccabi’s new roster was well contained on offense against CSKA Moscow and subsequently could not contain Spartak St. Petersburg in the Kondrashin-Belov Tourney in late September. They appear to have taken care of business against Pepsi Caserta last night, however, which might give this very talented roster a lift.
9. (↓) Partizan Belgrade – The inevitable roster changes aren’t being assimilated quite as quickly into the Partizan gameplan without coach Dusko, it seems: The Black-and-Whites are just 4-3 in the preseason and are clearly still finding their way outside of Pionir, as evidenced by losses to CSKA Moscow and Panathinaikos in the Gomelsky Tournament.
10. (↑) Efes Pilsen – After rolling over in the Lugano Bormio tournament in early September, the Brew Crew went on to whip off five straight wins (including two to Spartak St. Petersburg) before losing to CSKA, whom it seems no one can beat right now. Efes took out Asseco Prokom in back-to-back matches in Turkey and kept pace with Olympiacos last Sunday. All in all, not a bad showing for a much-changed roster.
11. (↑) Unicaja Malaga – As though there weren’t enough Spanish powerhouses in the Euroleague, Unicaja may finally return to greatness (or at least the Final 16 round) – if their play against basically every other mid-level ACB team is any indication. In the past three weeks, Unicaja has mostly easily handled Valencia, Asefa Estudiantes, CB Granada, and Cajasol; they squeaked past CAI Zaragoza in their away ACB opener as well. The utter 101-62 destruction of Crvena Zvezda for the Pollinica Trophy was quite impressive in showing that Unicaja deserves to play with the big boys in 2010-11.
12. (↔) Power Electronics Valencia qualified for Euroleague play by winning the 2010 Eurocup and they’re starting to look it a bit with losses to Real Madrid, Unicaja, FC Barcelona and BC Khimki in which the retooled Electronics were clearly outmatched. On the other hand, Valencia posted a swell win against Baskonia in the Spanish Super Cup – plus the show put on by Nando de Colo and Rafa Martinez against CB Granada last weekend is worth some bonus points. Unfortunately, realism will set in before long as these guys now appear to be playing in the league’s toughest group.
13. (↑) AJ Milano – Hey, they looked good in a losing effort against the Knicks; think they’ll be good for 113 points per Euroleague game…?
14. (↑) Žalgiris Kaunas – See Lietuvos Rytas at no. 17.
15. (↓) BiE’s docking Fenerbahçe Ülker a few spaces simply for the offseason inactivity. The sole significant result put in by the defending TBL champs thus far? A loss to Olympiacos. Next Wednesday will see the President’s Cup game go down, with Fenerbahçe meeting traditional rivals Efes Pilsen: Finally, we’ll get to see what exciting key additions like Darjus Lavrinovic, Engin Atsur and Marko Tomas can do for this club.
16. (↓) Say this for Asseco Prokom: They should be ready for this season, having taken on Lietuvos Rytas, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Efes Pilsen, and Union Olimpija. Unfortunately, with the noted exception of L. Rytas, Prokom lost most of those preseason games handily. BiE thinks Poland will not be home to the EL Cinderella story of 2010-11.
17. (↓) Lietuvos Rytas – Almost as reviled as BiE’s take on Olympiacos in the last power rankings were the marks given the two Lithuanian entries in the Euroleague, so you guys explain these teams to me. Žalgiris took losses to Le Mans Sarthe, Unics Kazan and Baskonia, then beat Cholet Basket and Panathinaikos, then succumbed to CSKA Moscow.
Meanwhile, Lietuvos Rytas completed their roster and started training for 2010-11 earlier than probably any team on the planet and have lost to everybody – well, okay, “just” Asseco Prokom twice, Montepaschi Siena and Tartu Rock (!), but it seems like everybody – since. What gives? The prevailing opinion is that Žalgiris will own the LKL this season and both of these teams could advance to the next round of EL play as no. 4 seeds, but shouldn’t Lithuanian fans be concerned about this season?
18. (↑) Belated congratulations from BiE to Cholet Basket, who beat Entente Orleanaise 85-79 in overtime to take the French Super Cup. Top performers for the 2010 Pro A champs were Samuel Mejia with a 17/6/6 showing, Vule Avdalovic with 18 points and Antywane Robinson with eight rebounds.
19. (↓) Without much to go on, BiE will reserve wider judgment on Virtus Roma until this weekend’s Sassari Tournament.
20. (↓) Cibona Zagreb – Let’s see, this offseason, they’ve lost to KK Cedevita, lost to Buducnost, barely beat Bosna … and they’ve been essentially out of sight since September 16th – anybody know anything?
21. (↓) In September/October, Union Olimpija has lost twice to Alba Berlin (albeit on the Germans’ home court), has been crushed by CSKA Moscow, and even fell to Venoli Cremona. Lump on top of this the official complaints filed by Vlado Ilievski and Sašo Ožbolt vis-à-vis non-payment and FIBA’s recent penalties due to same, and Olimpija has had one hellish offseason. On the plus side, they did win the Lecce Tournament…
22. (↓) Brose Baskets Bamberg has yet to play outside Germany this offseason; how much higher could they be ranked?