Even though the official website proclaims the Euroleague season tipoff to start in 16 days, 8 hours, 53 minutes and some seconds, Ball in Europe considers the real beginning to 2009-10 Euroleague action to be going tonight with the four qualifying round games going on.
The slate of games and team rosters are as follows.
• Aris BSA 2003 vs. Maroussi BC. The best for first, eh? This 6pm matchup begins the Euroleague season right with what should be a real dogfight for the rights to become this year’s third Greek entry in the top league. It’s also the proverbial clash in styles featuring Aris’ big men, well supplemented in the offseason with the addition of Michalis Kakiouzis and Demos Dikoudis, versus Jamon Lucas and the boys in Maroussi’s backcourt. Does Euroleague experience triumph over hunger? The sportsbookies think so, with Aris given a minus-nine handicap and 1/7 odds to win tonight.
Maroussi roster: Stephen Arigbabu, Marios Batis, Pat Calathes, Georgios Diamantopoulos, Jared Homan, Kostas Kaimakoglou, Levon Kendall, Billy Keys, Fanis Koumpuras, Jamon Lucas, Diitrios Mavroeidis, Epameinondas Papantoniou, Michalis Pelekanos.
Aris roster: Nikos Argyropoulos, Nikos Barlos, Corey Belser, Andy Betts, Keydren Clark, Linos Chrsysikopoulos, Quinton Day, Demos Dikoudis, Nikos Hatzivrettas, Michalis Kakiouzis, Spyros Mourtos, Jeremy Richardson, Gaios Skordilis.
• BK Ventspils vs. Benetton Basket Treviso. Benetton attempts to return to the top after two seasons away from Euroleague, with the first obstacle the youthful Latvian champions. (How youthful? Ventspils boasts one player – Aaron Pettway – over 25 years old. That’s young.) On paper, Treviso wins this one going away, as Ventspils would appear to have no answer for the likes of Davor Kus and Donatas Motiejunas; only age and tonight’s homecourt advantage work in the underdog’s favor. Of course, the games aren’t played on paper…
BK Ventspils roster: Karlis Apsitis, Martins Berkis, Dairis Bertrans, Arturs Berzins, Lauris Blaus, Davis Coders, Mareks Jurevicus, Kristaps Kanbergs, Davis Lejasmeiers, Martins Meiers, Aaron Pettway, Mikus Sokolovs, Janis Strelnieks, Ronalds Zakis.
Benetton Basket Treviso roster: Andrea De Nicolao, Alessandro Gentile, Daniel Hackett, Jasmin Hukic, Davor Kus, Cartier Martin, Donatas Motiejunas, Gary Neal, Sandro Nicevic, Andrea Renzi, Andrea Saccaggi, Daniele Sandri, C.J. Wallace.
• Spirou Basket vs. Entente Orleanaise Loiret. Orleans’ rapid rise through the international basketball ranks seeks to continue in 2009-10 after a heckuva offseason which saw the team re-sign most of their key would-be free agents, adding strength underneath in Justin Doellman and Ludovic Vaty plus Austin Nichols, only the top scorer in Pro A last season. Though Charleroi’s team has consistently dominated Belgium’s first division, Spirou hasn’t played Euroleague ball since 2001-02; pundits see this matchup as a close one, but figure Charleroi is going to wait another year.
Spirou Basket active roster: Dwayne Broyles, Beye Tabu Eboma, Justin Hamilton, Chris Hill, Nicholas Jacobson, Jerry Johnson, Jure Lalic, Gerrit Major, Sacha Massot, Leonard Matela, Andre Riddick, Wesley Wilkinson.
Entente Orleans roster: Cedrick Banks, Frenc Jowe Casseus, Ryvon Covile, Aldo Curti, Anthony Dobbins, Justin Doellman, William Herve, Mael LeBrun, Adrien Moerman, Austin Nichols, Elio Sadiku, Laurent Sciarra, Ludovic Vaty.
• Le Mans vs. ALBA Berlin. Perhaps the marquee game for that bit of Europe outside of Greece, the Le Mans-Berlin game features two teams from Euroleague 2009-10 competition. Le Mans brings back a solid core which includes Antoine Diot to go with key free-agent signings like Marc Salyers. Alba Berlin, meanwhile, merely managed to return 11 of 12 players from last season’s success story. Prevailing wisdom says these games will be all about the pace: An open floor favors Le Mans, while ball control will be vital to the Alba game.
Alba Berlin active roster: Kenan Bajramovic, Adam Chubb, Oliver Clay, Dragan Dojcin, Oskar Fassler, Steffen Hamann, Julius Jenkins, Immanuel McElroy, Andreas Seiferth, Blagota Sekulic, Rashad Wright, Philip Zwiener.
Le Mans roster: Joao Paulo Batista, Antoine Diot, Pierre Etienne Drouault, Henri Kandolo, Charles Lombahe, Maleye N’Doye, Babacar Niang, Geoffrey Renon, Thierry Rupert, Marc Salyers, Negueba Samake, Dewarick Spencer, Zack Wright, Guillaume Yango.