With just a few more hours before the Euroleague gets fired into action, BallinEurope has just enough time to get in some quickie power rankings! Purely subjective, these rankings have been based on recent Euroleague and domestic league performance, but also on serious speculation about season-break transactions. Enjoy the games!
1. (↔) Maccabi Tel Aviv – The mathematics may not exactly add up, but going into these six games, the Israeli side looks unstoppable with no obvious weaknesses.
2. (↑) Olympiacos – By topping rivals PAO as the visiting side, Olympiacos established itself as one of the powerhouses of Europe. Thanks to the recent loss of Mirza Begic and the standard coach-swapping craziness, the Reds should cruise and become the first team the punch a Final 8 ticket.
3. (↑) FC Barcelona – Seven wins in a row will be put to the test when hosting Maccabi tomorrow night, but Barça is again rounding into (scary) shape.
4. (↑) Real Madrid – BiE loves how Real has played in the ACB this season, admires the stability and relative freedom from injury as compared to 2009-10, digs the way Ettore Messina has things clicking right now, and really is just gushy about their shoring up of an already-decent power game with Begic. This is looking like a Group G winner.
5. (↓) Panathinaikos – Blessed with a seemingly not-too-tough group, PAO will presumably erase memories of the Olympiacos loss and get their 2010-11 EL campaign up and running again by picking apart Lietuvos Rytas tonight.
6. (↓) Montepaschi Siena – Why so low? No Bo! Regardless of the seriousness of McCalebb’s injury, this loss is a torpedo to the quick-moving, always surprising Montepaschi offense. MPS may be able to lose the first two matches in the Top 16 round and still advance, but it’ll be much trickier when facing the sudden mismatches presented by the backcourt of groupmates Efes Pilsen and even Partizan.
7. (↓) Union Olimpija – Is BiE guilty again of underrating Olimpija? Probably, but who else has this side sneaking into the EL’s next round ahead of Maccabi and Barcelona? And is there solace in being the best Top 16 team not to advance?
8. (↓) Fenerbahçe Ülker – Not only did Sarunas Jasikevicius perform the valuable service of saving Lietuvos Rytas’ Euroleague bacon with a well-timed temporary assignment, now he’ll surely be instrumental in removing (the head coach revolving door) Zalgiris Kaunas from EL competition. Saras for L. Rytas MVP!
9. (↑) Caja Laboral Baskonia – After a brutal five-game stretch, Baskonia pulled out of its tailspin to take its final three EL games. Marcelinho Huertas has this offense running better than ever – to the tune of a league-leading 80.5 in the group play stage. The defense is suspect, but running and gunning could get this Spanish side into the elite eight.
10. (↓) Efes Pilsen Istanbul
11. (↓) Partizan Belgrade – And these two might even be ranked higher … if either could win on the road.
12. (↑) Power Electronics Valencia – Last year’s Eurocup champs closed out Euroleague pool play on a 4-1 run to keep the Cinderella story alive. But BiE has to wonder if above-average defense, good depth and okay speed is enough to overcome more talented sides in Fenerbahçe or Žalgiris.
13. (↑) Lottomatica Roma – Roma rises based mostly on others’ falls, but against Group F, does the ranking really matter here at all?
14. (↓) Žalgiris Kaunas – Sheesh, when BiE heard the line about how any coach is given four losses in the Romanov Era, it was taken as a joke. Okay, a half-joke. So now the Greens only get ranked this high because BiE reckons Marcus Brown should be good to coach ‘em to a couple wins in those last two Euroleague appearances…
15. (↓) Unicaja Malaga – Here’s the official Euroleague press briefing: “Shortly before the start of the Top 16, Unicaja has made a shakeup at the top by firing head coach Aito Garcia Reneses and assistant coach Joaquin Costa effective immediately. A press conference has been called for Tuesday afternoon in which a replacement is expected to be named. Coach Garcia Reneses, widely known as Aito, had led Unicaja for the last three seasons. Unicaja was Aito’s fourth team in a 35-year coaching career in Spain.” Here’s the official BallinEurope commentary: “Hey, way to downshift from fourth to second on the highway while using no clutch.”
16. (↔) Lietuvos Rytas – Thank you, Saras. Now say goodnight, Lithuanian Morning…