After a week two loaded with upsets and shocking blowouts, BallinEurope’s Euroleague Power Rankings go through quite a shuffling going into Top 16 round, week three … except of course at the top, where all indications have the championship matchup between CSKA Moscow and FC Barcelona feeling more inevitable than ever. How is your team faring on the (sorta) big board this week?
Traditional advisory warning: These ratings are pretty much highly subjective, as they are formulated from one source, i.e. BiE, and are based on the way teams are trending at present. While play in other leagues was considered, emphasis was put on Euroleague performance especially, and particularly on the two games each has registered in Top 16 play.
And on to the rankings!
1. (↔) CSKA Moscow (12-0 in Euroleague play overall; 9-1 in VTB United League, 8-1 in PBL)
2. (↔) FC Barcelona (9-1 EL; 13-3 ACB)
3. (↑) Montepaschi Siena (10-2 EL; 13-5 Serie A) – No surprises here, unless you count the emphatic statement wins recorded by each of these elite teams in week two at Maccabi Tel Aviv, vs. Anadolu Efes, and at Real Madrid, respectively. NBA fans are chattering about a shortened season? Ha! With each of these teams at 2-0 and having knocked off the no. 2 contender within their groups, they’ve all made the 2011-12 EL Top 16 round a hell of a lot more urgent for nearly every side in the big league.
4. (↑) Unics Kazan (9-3 EL; 10-1 VTB; 4-3 PBL) – Two exclamatory questions: One, who would have thought that the most important American player in Russia this season would be Henry Domercant? And two, how ‘bout this dark horse, huh? Right now, Bad Henry is penciled in on BiE’s Euroleague All-Star squad, and he’s certainly to be worth watching tonight against Emporio Armani Milano after his amazing 7-of-11 overall shooting display for 21 points at Panathinaikos in week two.
5. (↑) Galatasaray Medical Park (5-7 EL; 13-3 TBL) – Unlike other sides that squeaked through into the Top 16 (Olympiacos, Milano, BiE’s looking at you…), Galatasaray has shown itself to be capable of playing with the big boys after all. The inspiring overtime win against the Reds in week resulted in a huge step toward the tournament round and a big jump in these power rankings. Of course, with the Big Red Machine hosting this Turkish side tomorrow night, this may be as high as Galatasaray ascends on this table.
6. (↓) Real Madrid (9-3 EL; 15-3 ACB) – Perhaps BiE is calling this one a bit early, but could the disappointing home loss to Montepaschi – to be fair, one of the few teams in Europe who can keep up with this season’s free-shooting, fast-running Real – indicative of the team’s traditional late-winter swoon that annually seems to set them firmly in second place at home and abroad behind FC Barcelona? (Unfortunately, ACB wins against Caja Laboral Baskonia and at Fuenlabrada don’t tell us especially much.)
7. (↓) Panathinaikos (8-4 EL; 14-1 ESAKE) – Every week this Euroleague season, BiE measures his estimation of PAO’s true standing on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 represents utterly superstitiously believing that the Greens can’t advance to the EL championship and 10 represents the faith that clever coach Obradovic has his boys playing possum and conserving energy for later rounds, NBA-style. After the six-point loss to Kazan in which “the Greens allowed a Euroleague opponent at OAKA the most points in the regulation 40 minutes in [just over five years when] Partizan won there 93-80 on January 24, 2007,” the meter’s around a 3.5.
8. (↓) Maccabi Tel Aviv (8-4 EL; 17-1 ABA; 12-2 Ligat Ha’al) – BiE can’t decide which loss is more perplexing: The crazy 26-point beatdown Barcelona handed them last week (with Juan Carlos Navarro limited by injury, no less) or the five-point upset by visiting eight-place Maccabi Ashdod back home on Monday night. What is going on in Tel Aviv…?
9. (↑) Gescrap Bilbao Basket (6-6 EL; 9-9 ACB) – Still hanging on in its inaugural Euroleague bid with a sweet win against the reeling Unicaja Malaga, Bilbao must face Real in Madrid tonight for the second time in three days … and on Sunday, Madrid delivered a 22-point defeat.
10. (↔) Anadolu Efes (6-6 EL; 14-2 TBL) – Yet another backer-in, Anadolu is now in complete stumbling mode after the drubbing handed them by CSKA Moscow last week. This Turkish side is a disappointing 1-3 in its last four Euroleague games and pretty much needs to win against Olympiacos to keep in the race for the tournament. No word yet on Tarance Kinsey, whose playing time has been limited in January due to a minor injury.
11. (↑) Bennet Cantu (6-6 EL; 11-7 Serie A) – Like Anadolu Efes, Cantu is on a 1-3 “run,” with its own losing streak snapped thanks to the heart-stopping one-point win against Zalgiris Kaunas. Like Galatasaray, this week’s ranking could represent the peak for this team in 2011-12.
12. (↓) Fenerbahce Ulker (7-5 EL; 11-5 TBL) — The return of Roko Ukic was enough to get Fenerbahce past Milano last week … barely. There doesn’t seem to be much chance of them holding Panathinaikos to just 32 two-point attempts tomorrow night, either.
13. (↓) Olympiacos (6-6 EL; 14-1 ESAKE) – Vassilis Spanoulis’ Euroleague stat line: 31.0 minutes, 19.4 points, 4.5 assists, 0.5 steals per game. The best marks posted by other Olympiacos players: 21.0 mpg (by Georgios Printezis), 9.4 ppg (Printezis again), 3.1 apg (Lazaros Papadopoulous), 0.8 spg (Lucas Kalin, Evangelos Mantzaris). The solution to the Reds’ woes: Clone Spanoulis three times over and put them on the floor with, say, Pero Antic.
14. (↔) Zalgiris Kaunas (4-8 EL; 5-6 VTB; 9-0 LKL) – Poor Zalgiris. Into a tailspin in VTB United League competition, Zalgiris caught a nasty case of Lebron’s Disease for the EL Top 16 round, first managed to play Maccabi tough in Lithuania and secondly running up a double-digit lead on Cantu in Italy before falling apart in the fourth quarter each time. Zalgiris is still in the running, one supposes, but a miracle – like maybe the return of Ty Lawson and not this sort – will indeed be needed with a Barcelona back-to-back on tap.
15. (↓) Unicaja (4-8 EL; 12-6 ACB) – The power rankings are all about trending … and BiE dares say no high-level team outside of Washington, D.C., is trending worse than Unicaja right now. After starting the season at a combined 8-2 in combined Euroleague and Liga Endesa play, this Spanish side has bottomed out to go 2-5 in 2012 thus far for an overall mark of 16-14, sinking into a fourth-place tie on the ACB table and essentially facing EL elimination vs. Montepaschi Siena tonight.
16. (↓) Emporio Armani Milano (5-7 EL; 11-7 Serie A)BiE’s said it before and BiE’ll say it again: “So much talent on paper, such limited success on the court…” Are all fingers officially pointed at Sergio Scariolo yet?