With the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague introducing a new, more action-packed schedule, this season the talk among basketball fans has naturally turned to which teams could triumph. With everyone now playing everyone else at least twice throughout the season (thanks to the new 30-game regular season round-robin format), stamina and tactics will undoubtedly have a big impact on the results.
Indeed, in seasons gone by when some teams would only square-off once, it was often a case of who performed best on the day. However, with each team now having a chance to rewind time and take a second bite of the cherry, there’s a chance for the diligent to work on their shortcomings and perform better the second time around.
Of course, a second game against the same team doesn’t always mean the previous loser will rise up and win. But, it does at least give teams a chance to be more competitive which, for fans, means more drama and excitement. Naturally, in spite of the new format, some fans will experience more highs than lows this season. So, with this in mind, we’ve picked out some of the teams to look out for during the 2016/2017 EuroLeague season.
The current EuroLeague leaders and last season’s champions, CSKA are still the hottest team in the competition. With a win/loss percentage of .828 in 2015/2016, CSKA cruised through to the final four in style last time out thanks, in part, to a points per game average of 91. That impressive figure was significantly better than any other team.
In fact, with two of the final four failing to breach the 80 points per game average, and Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz only hitting 81.6, it’s hardly surprising that Moscow clinched the title with a ton plus score in the final. Although Fenerbahce put up a good fight and scored 96 points (a total they would have taken before the game), CSKA were just too strong; especially in the second and third quarter.
This season it seems as though Moscow are still scoring machines. A recent 112-84 win over Baskonia proved that the forwards are on form enough to take the team’s current points per game average to reach 93.7. With that sort of form, it’s little wonder the team travelled to Brose Baskets as the 2/7 favourites. Despite having home advantage, Baskets could only muster a 5/2 rating against this season’s in form side.
They might be joint second in the outright betting stakes with Fenerbahce, but Real Madrid are currently riding high in the EuroLeague. Although a place in the playoffs and final four doesn’t guarantee a team an outright victory, Madrid are currently looking solid.
A recent 89-75 win over Unics Kazan might not have been as impressive as Moscow’s 100+ tally, the side managed to follow this up with a 96-70 thumping of Manresa. In fact, that win has put Madrid top of the current form leaderboard. With four wins in their last five and a total points stat of 427:350, Madrid certainly look like a tough side to beat.
Much of Madrid’s recent success has come at home where they’ve won five out of the last five with 470 total points scored. If there’s one team that’s currently benefitting from the fact everyone has to visit them at home, it’s Madrid. Although this form might not be enough to stump Moscow, Madrid certainly look like they could be in the mix by the time the knockout stages roll around.
Much of Fenerbahce’s future fortunes could come down to how they perform against their closest rivals this season, Madrid. With very little to choose between them in terms of points and stats, it looks as though it could go either way when the two sides clash in the league and, potentially, in the playoffs.
However, despite their statistical similarities, Sun Bets‘ odds makers were compelled to make the Turkish team the heavy favourites ahead of their most recent showdown with Madrid. 7/10 vs. 11/10 told the tale of the pre-game betting lines, which begs the question: why such a discrepancy?
If Madrid and Fenerbahce are almost inseparable in terms of points and form, there must be something else causing a rift? For the answer to that question we only need to look back in time. The 2015/2016 EuroLeague season might have been kind to Fenerbahce, but not so much to Madrid. Despite making it to the playoffs, Madrid couldn’t progress to the final four and much of that was down to their defensive record.
Despite a points per game average of 82.9, Madrid’s points allowed per game average was 82.3. In contrast, Fenerbahce hit 79.3 for points scored and just 73.3 for points allowed. If we were to summarise these stats, we’d say on a basic level that Madrid were great at scoring but terrible at defending. Conceding as many as they scored has ultimately cost them a place in the finals and that could prove to be the same again this season.
In fact, if there’s one difference between Madrid and Fenerbahce, it’s that the latter’s overall form is more solid. Instead of playing a high risk strategy, the Turkish side often plays it safe and grinds out a result. This could prove pivotal at the business end of the season.
While it’s hard to see past CSKA Moscow again this season, Madrid and Fenerbahce could easily cause an upset. A flash of inspiration from the Spanish side or unmatched consistency from Fenerbahce could easily scupper Moscow’s push for an eighth title, but right now it’s tough to see that happening.
Daniel Smyth is a sports writer and betting expert with almost a decade’s worth of experience in the industry. Covering a broad range of sports, Daniel produces an array of match previews, team reports and odds guides for a host of top-tier websites.