BallinEurope hasn’t done this lately, so on the eve of the 2012-13 Euroleague season’s penultimate round of regular-season play, the BiE EL Power Rankings run below. Quick recap of the rules: The rankings are based on the way current teams are *trending* and not necessarily overall quality. Recent play in Euroleague games is the most important consideration in these ultimately subjective rankings, but play in other leagues was also factored in.
Who’s riding waves of prosperity and who’s going under for the third time? Read on and enjoy this week’s slate of games!
1. FC Barcelona (8-0 in Euroleague play; 6-4 in Liga Endesa). Though not looking as vulnerable as when getting off to an 0-2 start for 2012-13 in Spain, Barça is hardly perfect … yet. More than their youth talent’s steady rise and excellent, multi-talented backcourt depth, the Blaugrana have been helped Euroleague-wise by a pretty easy schedule over the past month: In four wins by an average victory margin of 23.75 points, Barcelona has beaten Beşiktaş, Lietuvos Rytas, Brose Bamberg and an oddly out-of-sorts CSKA Moscow – in the meanwhile losing to Caja Laboral and Valencia back in Spain.
While new BiE fave Ante Tomic was awesome enough last week so that Barcelona need not fear Partizan without suiting up Erazem Lorbek, but representing their single biggest challenge of this season thus far in on the slate for the final week of the EL regular season in…
2. CSKA Moscow (7-1 EL; 6-1 VTB United League; 5-0 PBL). Said CSKA coach Ettore Messina on the most recent “Taking the Charge” podcast: “I think we are getting closer to what we should be in terms of sharing the ball offensively and moving fast and finding roles. I think we can improve defensively once we get a better understanding of one another. But I see the team also coming together in terms of chemistry – not only on the court but off the court.”
Considering that CSKA’s thus far tops in defensive rebounding, second in points allowed and third in overall shooting in the Euroleague while playing .900 ball for the 2012-13 season, this statement may best be translated as: “Look out, the Red Army is looking like a triple-crown threat again!”
3. Real Madrid (6-2 EL; Liga Endesa 10-0). Los Blancos shrugged off the hard-fought loss at Panathinaikos in week six, getting the offensive machine right back up to full power to blow out a hapless BC Khimki the following in one of the big league’s grandest offensive explosion this season. And in the subsequent match against Fenerbahçe Ülker, Real was forced to ugly things up a bit as Madridistas were cheered by Nikola Mirotic, Marcus Slaughter and Felipe Reyes throwing some weight around in the paint – these guys can fly *or* slow the game down? Nice.
4. Olympiacos (6-2 EL; 8-0 Greek League). Addition by subtraction: A couple of bad games culminating in a 79-61 loss to Žalgiris in which the Reds were essentially non-existent in the second half had Joey Dorsey sounding off about the team’s direction. Dorsey was history soon thereafter, the Reds haven’t lost a game anywhere since and the team’s incredible run going back to 2010-11 (when undefeated in the Greek League until the championship series) looks fit to continue.
5. Panathinaikos (5-3 EL; 6-2 Greek League). Forget the record. Since the regrettable loss versus BC Khimki in week 5 – for which they’ll get a chance to redeem themselves next week – the Greens have gone 7-0 overall. Forget the two-point wins over Cantù; in November, new-look Panathinaikos has found the chemistry and has learned how to close out games. And Dimitris Diamantidis is in career shape again with three consecutive seven- or eight-assist games in the ‘League.
6. Montepaschi Siena (5-3 EL; 8-2 Serie A). These guys were supposed to be showing weakness this year, dammit! How is David Moss shooting 56%? Where and when did Bobby Brown learn to pass – not to mention drive an offense – like this? Who would’ve thought this low-budget might go into 2013 on a seven-Euroleague game winning streak? This is why we watch the games, BiE supposes…
7. Žalgiris Kaunas (6-2 EL; 5-1 VTB). That lack of noise coming from Kaunas is the sound of hundreds of thousands of Žalgiris fans holding their breath after the Greens’ worst game of the season came within five points of costing them the EL Group A lead. Luckily for Joan Plaza, Vladimir Romanov is likely too distracted by the historically-critical financial woes of his Heart of Midlothian to fire his team’s coach kneejerkedly. Plenty of time for that later.
8. BC Khimki Moscow region (5-3 EL; 6-1 VTB; 3-0 PBL). The only team that’s been able to stop Khimki lately is Real Madrid. Incidentally, is it too soon to start up the “Zoran Planinic (13.1 ppg, 5.6 apg, 3.9 rbg, 0.8 spg and 17.9 average performance index rating) for All-Euroleague Team” campaign?
9. Unicaja Malaga (6-2 EL; 5-4 Liga Endesa). The Euroleague’s biggest surprise will likely enter the Top 16 round as the Cinderella story of 2012-13. Last week’s loss to Siena could represent a reality check after an 8-0 run in the EL, but this side has consistently shown itself to be greater than the sum of parts this year. A nice veteran workman-like core of Earl Calloway, James Gist, Luka Zoric, Marcus Williams and Krunoslav Simon has proven wonderfully consistent enought to make Kosta Perovic’s disappointing season hardly noticeable. Plus, the team can still boast the exciting 21-year-old Augusto Cesar Lima off the bench.
10. Maccabi Tel Aviv (6-2 EL; 7-1 Ligat Ha’Al). The slow seesawing of Maccabi’s 2012-13 campaign appeared to be on the upswing again after consecutive two-point losses with an albeit labored win over Elan Chalon last week. However, the indefinite suspension of Guy Pnini – not to mention a critical mass of bad karma – cannot be a positive harbinger of things to come.
11 (tie). Anadolu Efes Pilsen (5-3 EL; 7-1 TBL)
11 (tie). Fenerbahçe Ülker (4-4 EL; 7-1 TBL)
11 (tie). Beşiktaş (4-4 EL; 4-4 TBL). Though all three Turkish teams will likely make the playoffs – Efes and Beşiktaş are in; Fenerbahçe needs one win or one Cantù loss to advance – none have done so in impressive fashion due to injury (Fenerbahçe), roster imbalance (Fenerbahçe and Efes) or straight-up rotation instability (Beşiktaş). A poor year in Euroleague for Turkey thus far, particularly given that two of these were among the top five favorites to take the championship.
14 (tie). Brose Baskets Bamberg (4-4 EL; 9-1 BBL)
14 (tie). Partizan Belgrade (4-4 EL; 8-3 Adriatic League). Assuming that Bamberg takes out Lietuvos Rytas tomorrow night – and BiE believes they will, the week 10 matchup between these two teams would determine the no. 4 seed in Group D and thus the last team to advance to the Top 16 round, regardless of the Partizan-Barcelona outcome tonight. Either way, an exciting and youthful side advances while Euroleague fans get a sweet win-or-go-home game.
17. Armani Milano (3-5 EL; 5-5 Serie A). Let’s see, two of Milano’s three Euroleague wins have come against Cedevita Zagreb … they’re 1-5 in the last six … losses in the last two games would give Sergio Scariolo his worst-ever single-season EL mark … a .500 standing in Italy would represent his worst regular-season record since 1991-92 … looking for the positive spin here…ah, here it is! Milano could still back into the Top 16 round at 3-7 (!) if Zagreb and Baskonia both lose this week, and Zagreb wins in week 10. In this eventuality, should the Armanis be proud?
18. Cedevita Zagreb (2-6 EL; 7-4 ABA)
19. Caja Laboral Baskonia (2-6 EL; 7-3 Liga Endesa)
20. Cantù (2-6 EL; 6-4 Serie A)
21. Lietuvos Rytas (1-7 EL, 3-4 VTB). Call this group the mathematical survivors. The advancement possibilities for each, as far as BiE can make out break down as follows: Cedevita Zagreb must win both games while Milano loses at least one; Baskonia moves on with one win and at least one Milano loss; Cantù must win both remaining games and Fenerbahçe must lose both; finally, L. Rytas must win both of its games while Partizan loses this week and wins against Alba Berlin in week 10.
22. Union Olimpia (2-6 EL; 5-6 ABA). Ultimately, Union Olimpija probably doesn’t deserve this standing. On the other hand, when your sixth man’s Sasu Salin…
23. Like Olimpija and its two victories over Cantù, Elan Chalon (2-6 EL; 7-2 LNB) proved one thing about Euroleague ball in 2012-13: You have to do more to advance than top a lower-rung team twice.
24. Right, Asseco Prokom (1-7 EL, 6-3 PSK)?