CSKA Moscow 2019 EuroLeague champions
Photo: EuroLeague Basketball

Another EuroLeague season starts on Thursday (03/10), with 18 teams ready to fight for a place in the postseason.

With that in mind, who has the upper hand in the battle of qualification and who are the underdogs?

The favourites

Barcelona: The Catalans were very active during the offseason, signing top class players and aiming for the title.

Cory Higgins, Brandon Davies, Malcolm Delaney, Nikola Mirotic and Alex Abrines joined the team, creating an impressive and deep roster, as the “Blaugrana” kept their core from last season.

Real Madrid: The “Whites” saw Gustavo Ayon leave the squad, however the addition of guard Nicolas Laprovittola and big man Jordan Mickey has bolstered its roster. Both the “Whites” and Barcelona start from the pole position for the top spot in the standings.

Real Madrid Supercopa
Photo: Real Madrid

Fenerbahce: Nicolo Melli and Marko Guduric moved to the NBA, however the Turks reacted and signed 2019 EuroLeague champion Nando De Colo and Derrick Williams.

The team, though, is dealing with injuries to key players (Luigi Datome, Jan Vesely, Joffrey Lauvergne) and they will need an adjustment period to reach their full potential.

CSKA Moscow: The 2019 EuroLeague champions made many changes to their roster, especially in their backcourt line. With De Colo, Sergio Rodriguez and Higgins parting ways with the club, Mike James, Ron Baker, Darrun Hilliard and Janis Strelnieks came in.

At the same time, Johannes Voigtmann and Kostas Koufos arrived in Moscow to strengthen the frontline, after the departure of Othello Hunter.

Anadolu Efes: The runners up of last year’s competition re-signed all their key players (Shane Larkin, Vasilije Micic, Bryant Dunston, among others) as well as head coach Ergin Ataman, while Chris Singleton can be a game changer for the Turks.

The aforementioned five teams are expected to fight for the first five places and it will be a big upset if they finish lower than that.

Bryant Dunston Anadolu Efes
Photo: Anadolu Efes

At the same time, Maccabi Tel-Aviv and Armani Milano were the pleasant surprises of the offseason and are also the favourites to qualify for the playoffs.

The Israelis saw Quincy Acy, Nate Wolters, Omri Casspi, Othello Hunter and Tyler Dorsey join the squad, while Scottie Wilbekin and Tarik Black remained with the team, creating a strong roster.

Despite their bad start (the loss of the Israeli Winner Cup), they have the depth and talent to reach the playoffs, yet they have to be consistent to achieve this.

For their part, the Italians made a lot of changes during the offseason. Ettore Messina became the head coach and president of basketball operations and Rodriguez arrived in Milano to become the leader of the team.

At the same time, Shelvin Mack, Aaron White, Michael Roll and the legendary Luis Scola signed with the club, while Vladimir Micov, Arturas Gudaitis and Kaleb Tarczewski will have a key role in Messina’s tactics.

Sergio Rodriguez Armani Milano
Photo: Armani Milano

The underdogs

Actually, all the others. 11 teams have, more or less, an identical chance to make it to the postseason.

From Valencia (which has a roster of very high quality), Zalgiris Kaunas (head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius guarantees the squad’s competitiveness) and Bayern Munich (former NBAer Greg Monroe is set to make the difference) to Khimki (Jonas Jerebko, Stefan Jovic, Devin Booker and Dairis Bertans will play alongside Alexey Shved), Baskonia (still has a talented roster, despite the injuries of Jayson Granger and Nik Stauskas) and the Greek giants (Olympiacos and Panathinaikos), all teams will fight for the eighth and final place in the playoffs.

Olympiacos will have a unique experience this season, as they will play only in the EuroLeague and not in the domestic competitions.

This means the players will have more days to rest, however it is unsure how long it will take them to reach their full potential, given that the roster does not consist top class players.

For their part, Panathinaikos added Tyrese Rice (2019 Basketball Champions League MVP), Jimmer Fredette and Wesley Johnson to the roster, however their frontline seems to be their weak link.

Jimmer Fredette Panathinaikos Fenerbahce
Photo: Sport24.gr

Meanwhile, the latest betting odds have already been released, with most betting and casino websites, like Betway, considering Real Madrid and Barcelona as the favourites for a top two finish and offering basketball fans plenty of options to bet on their favourite team and win.

Concurrently, the team will most likely be very productive offensively, yet it is defense that will determine whether the squad will fight until the end for the playoffs.

Collectively, the most competitive edition of the EuroLeague is set to start, with 18 teams fighting tooth and nail for a place in the postseason.

Will CSKA Moscow successfully defend its title or one of the other contenders will dethrone the “Bear”?