CSKA Moscow remain the favourites to win the Euroleague, despite losing two of their last four games to struggling opposition.
Dimitris Itoudis’ men made a blistering start to the campaign, winning eight in a row to surge to the top of the table.
But, they have since suffered shocking defeats at the hands of Buducnost and Baskonia, which has taken the shine off proceedings somewhat.
However, they did manage to beat defending champions Real Madrid 93-88 at the end of November and they have also beaten the highly-rated Olympiacos this season, so the odds makers believe they are still the team to beat.
The best sportsbooks that have gained strong reviews make CSKA Moscow the 2/1 favourites to go on and win the Euroleague this season.
They are followed by Turkey’s Fenerbache at 3/1 and the defending champions Real Madrid of Spain at 7/2.
Olympiacos are 10/1 and Barcelona are 20/1, suggesting the bookmakers see it as a three-horse race for glory. We are now approaching the halfway stage of the season and it will be fascinating to see how things pan out.
CSKA Moscow finished on top of the league standings last season, but they lost 92-83 to Real Madrid in the Final Four. However, they have been consistent over the years and they won the trophy in 2015-16, leaving them as the second most successful team in the competition’s history behind Real.
Itoudis signed Alec Peters in a high-profile deal in the summer and the former Phoenix Suns NBA star has slotted nicely into the Army Team’s setup.
However, the star man thus far has been Cory Higgins, who has 16.75 points per game, a record bettered only by two players: Alexey Shved of Khimki and Mike James of Olimpia Milan.
Higgins, a 29-year-old guard, dropped 24 points against Real Madrid and delivered the performance of the season so far, so he is putting forward a compelling MVP case. In that game, he managed 20 points in the final 15 minutes to turn the game in CSKA Moscow’s favour.
“We lost our composure in the second quarter, we were scoreless for seven minutes, but we realized how to play in the third quarter,” said Itoudis after the win. “We came out strong. And we controlled most of the second half. We hustled more.”
That was an important psychological victory over a key rival and it helped banish the memories of that semi-final defeat last season.
Itoudis has several players in solid form, as Will Clyburn is fourth in the league in rebounds, while Peters leads the league with 57.45% in three-point conversion and Nando De Colo has also been strong.
We have not seen much of new signing Joel Bolomboy, who has played for Utah Jazz and the Milwaukee Bucks, or Ivan Ukhov, but Daniel Hackett has been pretty solid when called upon.
However, Fenerbache boast the best record in the league, having yielded fewer points than any other team. Star man Jan Vesely is behind only Shved in the index rating, while Marko Guduric, Luigi Datome and Kostas Sloukas are posting some impressive numbers.
There is surely still more to come from Joffrey Lauvergne too and that makes Fenerbahce a formidable prospect. They are the second favourites for glory and they are attracting more bets than any other team.
Real Madrid will bounce back from that defeat to CSKA Moscow too, so the second half of the Euroleague season is shaping up to be an exhilarating battle.
It looks highly likely that Fenerbache, CSKA Moscow and Real Madrid will all make the semis and anything could happen at that point.