Tonight FC Barcelona looks to build on its red-hot run in 2009/10 by closing out a perfect 10-0 run through the Euroleague regular season. Assuming Barca does shut down Montepaschi Siena yet again, what can recent history tell us about an undefeated team’s chances the rest of the way?
Since the 2009/10 represented a switch to just ten regular-season games, a winning Barcelona would make that team literally the first Euroleague squad of the post-2001 merger era to finish the regular season 10-0. Also of note is that Barcelona is currently riding a Euroleague regular-season winning streak of 16 consecutive games, last having lost in November 2008 in week three against who else but Montepaschi?
The last squad to pull off 10 consecutive wins in a Euroleague regular season came in 2006/07, when a pair of Euroleague powers went for double-digit winning streaks in the 14-game regular season: Panathinaikos went 11-0 to start group play; CSKA Moscow won its final 11 in the first phase, added six consecutive victories in the Top 16 stage and tacked on one more in the quarterfinal round against decade-long Red Army foes Maccabi Tel Aviv. This 18-game run set the post-merger Euroleague record for consecutive wins.
The CSKA squad, seemingly red hot (so to speak) going into the finals, was favored over a Panathinaikos which overcame a few missteps in the middle rounds of play. Unfortunately for them, Moscow met with the reality that has felled many a team with a record-setting win streak: The Army may have peaked just a tad too soon and the title went to the adapted-to-adversity Greens.
A similar fate awaited the CSKA team of 2004/05: Moscow that year appeared utterly unstoppable at 14-0 in Euroleague pool play and a crazy 43-game winning streak overall. Indeed, a team featuring the likes of Theo Papaloukas, J.R. Holden, Marcus Brown, Alexey Savrasenko, and David Andersen, would take the Russian league title and its first Russia Cup while crushing the country’s competition all season long.
(Incidentally, wouldn’t CSKA 2004/05 make for an awesome computer simulation matchup with Barcelona 2009/10 of Juan Carlos Navarro, Pete Mickeal, Terence Morris, Erazem Lorbek, Jaka Lakovic, Ricky Rubio, Fran Vazquez et al?)
The Euroleague’s only undefeated regular-season squad ever was once again shocked when Final Four action began, losing both games to finish fourth and become all but a footnote in the big league’s history. Maccabi Tel Aviv, meanwhile, once again turning on the juice late in the season, took its second title.
In addition to seeking its place in Euroleague regular-season history, FC Barcelona is putting together a season for the ages back home in the ACB as well. Sunday’s 114-72 blowout over Meridiano Alicante gave the team its 14th Spanish League consecutive win, just one short of tying the ACB record of 15. (Interestingly enough, Real Madrid was thought to be threatening this mark in late 2009, as they started the season 11-0.) And since the two-point October loss to Gran Canaria 2014, Barca is 25-0 overall.
Nice the numbers may be and fantastic the roster may look in January for FC Barcelona; the Spanish side is perhaps already one of the decade’s finest teams on paper. As they say, however, the games aren’t played on paper and the indications of history are cruel. Pray your guys don’t peak too early, Barca fans…