Basketball writer and TalkBasket’s Podcast presenter, John Hobbs will be blogging for us every month on Europe’s elite basketball competition, upto the Final Four in Barcelona. You can follow him on Twitter as well: johnswisshobbs.
With Week Four of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague completed, there is one team who is standing tall, as the only undefeated team left.
Even the champions of Europe, Regal FC Barcelona could not stop Fenerbahce Ulker on their way to a perfect 4-0 start. And after despatching of Montepaschi Siena last night, 81-68, behind 20 points, off the bench from Mirsad Turkcan – could this be Fenerbahce’s best shot?
“Everybody is giving their best on the court and that makes the difference for our team at the moment. We want to finish the group stage at the top of the standings and I hope we have the potential to do it.” Turkcan commented, following the win against Montepaschi Siena.
Coach, Neven Spahija has praised the team’s defense so far, and believes it is key to Fenerbahce’s success: “My teams have always relied on defense in the past. And it’s keep going on the same way at Fenerbahce Ulker. We are in a strong group and now we have the best position in the group at the moment.”
Only time will tell really, if the Turkish side’s challenge is truly genuine, as they tend to falter in the knockout stages, but with a line-up of Marko Tomas, Roko Ukic, Omer Onan and Lynn Greer to name a few, who are rich in talent and experience, Fenerbahce have as good-a-chance as any, to progress further than in recent years – and maybe – just maybe a place in Barcelona could await them.
Another team rocking the very foundation of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague (bets that I’ll stop saying ‘Turkish Airlines’ in the next few weeks) is Union Olimpija Ljubljana, a team that I have made no secret in saying they are: my Euroleague team. Certainly, I have a soft spot for the Slovenian team, entering the Euroleague as runners-up domestically, not many people gave them a prayer.
Cue, what happened next…
Olimpija, playing in their brand new arena, upset Efes Pilsen in overtime. Then, travel to Milan and beat AJ Milano. But the major scalping was not as big as their next one.
Greek giants, Panathinaikos came to Ljubljana and came away with, as the locals would say: nič, as Union recorded a famous 85-84 overtime victory, in what I can confidently say the game of the Euroleague thus far. To add, they held the Greek giants to just six points in the second quarter, but on the flip-side, were held to nine in the third.
“We have three wins which probably nobody expected from us at this point, and we are aware that we have done nothing yet. Virtus Roma also started with three wins last year and they didn’t make the Top 16. We still have a lot of work to do this was only the third game. There’s no euphoria in the locker room. This win is very big for us, no doubt. As is this wonderful crowd that deserves this win because of the they supported us.” Legendary Slovenian coach, Jure Zdovc said, after the win against Panathinaikos.
Good to see former Cheshire Jets player, Kenny Gregory doing well to boot, but that’s just the British Basketball League fan coming out of me. Unfortunately though, Union’s run came to an end in Moscow, as winless CSKA started their winning trail by beating the brave Slovenians, 65-55.
Oh, and nič is English for nothing, just to point out.
In honesty though, I am not expecting this fairytale to continue. Olimijia will be found out eventually. But, I suppose the Round-of-16 is a good bet.
The Euroleague champions, Regal FC Barcelona have won three games out of four. A 69-61 home loss to Fenerbahce Ulker being the only blip in their quest to repeat their feat in their own backyard in May 2011.
Despite their loss to the Turkish club, I will be utterly shocked if Barca are not taking to the Palau Saint-Jordi floor, a couple of miles down from their Blaugrana home-court
With practically the same line-up as the one that triumphed in Paris in the Spring, if the Regal FC Barcelona banner isn’t hanging from the Palau Saint-Jordi arena roof-top in May of next year, they have under-achieved.