• Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Caja Laboral Baskonia. The Israeli side’s home ‘paper Haaretz is taking a conservative stance vis-à-vis its team – though if any series looks like a sweep for the favorite, it’s this one – in headlining today that “Maccabi Tel Aviv faces a tough coach in Dusko Ivanovic of Caja Laboral Vitoria, maybe too tough for his own good.” This news outlet also points out that Ivanovic has twice been bounced from a Euroleague title by Maccabi: David Blatt’s 2002 team beat Vitoria in the final eight round, while Tel Aviv took the EL championship by beating TAU Vitoria in the final game of 2005.
In analyzing Ivanovic’s tactics, El Mundo Deportivo editor Jose Hueget speculates that “Lior Eliyahu, who played under Ivanovic in Vitoria last year, returned to Maccabi in part because of the coach, not just because he missed Israel.”
• FC Barcelona vs. Panathinaikos. PAO personnel are publicly relishing their roles as underdogs against favored Barca. At a Saturday press conference, Dimitris Diamantidis proclaimed that he “believes in his team,” Mike Batiste stated that he “loves challenges” and Zeljko Obradovic declared “Let’s go to battle!”
In terms of head-to-head matchups, much hype is centered on RR vs. DD, so how about a review of the last Ricky Rubio-Diamantidis clash, namely Spain vs. Greece in the 2010 FIBA World Championship?
• Real Madrid vs. Power Electronics Valencia. In regular-season ACB play, these teams last met in a not-so-pretty 59-52 Valencia win during which Madrid utterly fell apart in the fourth quarter to manage a measly five points:
On the other hand, Real manhandled the Electronics in the Copa del Rey on the Madrid floor:
• Olympiacos vs. Montepaschi Siena. In the minds of the media, this series seems mostly to be about the injury list. Coach Ivkovic has stated that Milos Teodosic and Marco Kesely have not fully recuperated from their respective injuries; while Bo McCalebb’s absence is often played up, the Reds head doesn’t believe that Montepaschi is anything less than a full unit.
And maybe he’s no Bo in terms of playmaking, but Malik Hairston showed he can pick up a bit of slack – at least in Serie A – with his 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting with five assists against Teramo on the weekend.