As we head into week three of EL play, things haven’t quite normalized to preseason expectations, but BallinEurope’s Official Euroleague Power Rankings are looking a tad more normal. Well, except CSKA Moscow’s placement, that is. Rankings are based on current Euroleague record, plus play in other leagues and intangibles (like, for instance, this writer’s preconceived notions).
Enjoy the games this week and let the debates begin!
1. (↔) FC Barcelona (2-0 in Euroleague; 4-1 in ACB). How does Barça respond to (as far as detractors are concerned) a rare one-point defeat by Zaragoza? First by spoiling Cholet Basket’s EL homecoming, then utterly torching Menorca in a weekend ACB game, 84-44. The Spaniards continue their Continental domination.
2. (↑) Panathinaikos (2-0). Repeat after BiE: 2009-10 never happened. At least as far as PAO is concerned, it seems, after simply toying with Valencia and CSKA Moscow. Could we be in store for a Euroleague finals featuring the last two champions? Sweet.
3. (↔) Montepaschi Siena (2-0; 2-1 in Serie A). With Bo McCalebb aboard, BiE was stoked to see the scoring machine MPS would be running this season. While Siena hasn’t exactly run the opposition off the court – barely getting past Žalgiris Kaunas last week – this team clearly has enough weapons to compete with any Euroleague team. And the defense isn’t too bad, either.
4. (↑) Caja Laboral Baskonia (2-0; 4-1 in ACB). See? Y’all laughed at BiE when Baskonia was ranked third in the first edition of the 2010-11 power rankings. Despite losing Tiago Splitter, Baskonia may have had the best 2010 offseason of any team not named the Miami Heat.
5. (↑) Union Olimpija (2-0; 4-1 in ABA). And the Euroleague record is no fluke: Through five in the Adriatic League, Olimpija boasts the second-best defense statistically and responded to this season’s first loss by defeating Partizan last Sunday. The season’s toughest test will surely be tonight, when Panathinaikos comes to town.
6. (↑) Fenerbahçe Ülker (2-0; 3-0 in TBL). While everyone’s looking to Besiktas Cola Turka out of curiosity and wondering what’s up with Efes Pilsen, Fenerbahçe could sneakily run up quite a cumulative record by the time the Euroleague Top 16 comes ‘round. Unfortunately, the undefeated run thus far figures to end tomorrow night in Barcelona.
7. (↓) Real Madrid (1-1; 4-1 in ACB). Does this feel like a 5-2 team to you? While Madrid has convincingly beaten Unicaja and Valencia already this season, they looked positively anemic against Olympiacos in week one and showed no perimeter defense whatsoever in an embarrassing loss to Meridiano Alicante this weekend. Anything less than a blowout of Milano and BiE remains convinced this is one of the most deceptive tailspins ever.
8. (↑) Efes Pilsen (1-1; 2-1 in TBL) sure can run up the points, but can they play defense? Quick-shooting Milano may be their kryptonite with speed to burn, five double-digit scorers, and deadliness from outside. Efes’ll need to work the home crowd tonight for an already-necessary Group D win.
9. (↓) Olympiacos (1-1). Hey, a loss to Bamberg is a loss to Bamberg. Also, Matt Nielsen is questionable for tonight’s game.
10. (↓) Maccabi Tel Aviv (1-1; 3-0 in Ligat HaAl). Still gelling, still gelling … but how about that potential career year for Sofoklis Schortsanitis, eh?
11. (↑) BC Khimki Moscow region (1-1; 1-1 in VTB United League) played Partizan tough in Belgrade, but the game truly exposed Khimki’s extremely short bench – and one severely lacking in quality shooters. Can muscle alone win out?
12. (↔) AJ Milano (1-1; 3-0 in Serie A). An awesome week one win over CSKA Moscow was negated by the Olimpija loss – a hard-fought, inspiring loss, but a loss nevertheless – last week. To prove they’re a contender, however, they’ll need to take the Efes Pilsen game tonight.
13. (↓) Unicaja (1-1; 3-2 in ACB). Still frustratingly erratic, Unicaja looked positively awful and unprepared against Real Madrid in last week’s Euroleague play. And tonight it’s Olympiacos in Piraeus, where the Reds have won 16 straight games.
14. (↓) Partizan (1-1; 2-3 in ABA). Could this finally be the year when Partizan Belgrade is simply too young and/or inexperienced to even depend on the Pionir mystique?
15. (↑) Virtus Roma (2-0; 1-2 in Serie A). The good news: Roma is 2-0 in Euroleague play thus far. The bad news: Those wins came against Bamberg and Spirou Charleroi. The seriously sobering news: They’re 1-2 in Italy, for Naismith’s sake. The punchline: Tonight, Roma plays in Madrid.
16. (↑) Brose Baskets Bamberg (1-1; 7-0 in BBL). After fearlessly predicting Bamberg as the surprise of the 2010-11 Euroleague season, so BiE’s pleased as punch to have them ranked this high this early on.
17. (↓) Zalgiris Kaunas (1-1; 2-0 in VTB). Things will get better when Marcus Brown returns. BiE thinks. (Anybody know when that might be, by the way?)
18. (↓) CSKA Moscow (0-2; 2-0 in VTB). While CSKA spent the summer again apparently focusing on defense, they suddenly can’t shoot a lick. The Red Army is ineffably the fourth-lowest scoring team in the Euroleague, behind only Valencia, Spirou and Cholet – a classification which alone should give CSKA fans fits. And now they’re looking at a medium-term future with no Sasha Kaun or Ramunas Siskauskas, while Viktor Khryapa’s return date remains a mystery. But surely they can handle Valencia tonight anyway…?
19. (↓) Asseco Prokom (0-2; 2-1 in VTB). Poor Prokom: The reshaped roster looks great, J.R Giddens and Ratko Varda may enjoy breakout seasons, and they’ve proven they can play ball with tough Group A teams. Unfortunately, an 0-2 hole may simply be too much to overcome in this pool. You gotta love their chances in the VTB, though.
20. (↑) Cibona Zagreb (0-2; 3-2 in ABA). Could this be the first European club designed specifically to win the Adriatic League? Early on, it’s evident Cibona’s chances for a championship are about 72,308 times better there in 2010-11. Hell, at least they’re letting Euroleague fans thrill to the fantastic game of Bojan Bogdanovic.
21. (↓) Lietuvos Rytas (0-2; 0-2 in VTB). Any time your team’s first-year coach – the guy hired to replace the last guy, who was almost out-coached by nobody in the national league championship, incidentally – resigns after fewer than three games, you know you’re in for a long season. When was the last time an L.Rytas fan was scared at the prospect of facing Cholet Basket?
22. (↓) Valencia (0-2; 1-4 in ACB). This is what happens when you put five Spanish teams into the Euroleague.
23. (↑) Cholet Basket (0-2; 3-1 in LNB).
24. (↓) Spirou Charleroi (0-2; 3-0 in BLB). Or maybe that should be the other way ‘round…