We now move to Group C in our Euroleague profiles and we begin with the reigning Euroleague champions; Olympiacos.
Introduction: After exactly one and a half decades beneath arch rivals Panathinaikos shadow, Olympiacos emerged from their hibernation last with a double (Euroleague, Greek A1) which stunned the entire continent. Although the architect of their Euroleague crown campaign Ivkovic left, Olympiacos kept almost its entire squad the same and gave the helms to a promising young coach, Yorgos Bartzokas.
One thing is for sure, unlike the past seasons, Olympiacos now begins the new Euroleague season as one of the heavy favourites and there will be pressure to perform from Game 1. Having re-signed key players such as Yorgos Printezis, Acie Law and Joey Dorsey the fans will expect them to win Group C, which is not that hard to be honest.
Every component is there for another bright Euroleague season: fans will return to SEF, the core of key players remained, new coach who knows his way around and mainly financial stability. Anything less than London Final Four qualification will be considered as a failure by the entire Olympiacos organisation.
Coach: Yorgos Bartzokas has proved many things so far during his short career, but will have to prove much more as Olympiacos is one of the powerhouses of Euroleague. He is not a newcomer to Euroleague as he had a quite successful season with Maroussi some years ago. His coaching philosophy is based around defense, quick by not hasty attacks and trusting Greek players. He has been provided all the tools he would ever need to succeed, now everything is up to him, including pressure.
Key Player: None other than last Final Four MVP, Vasilis Spanoulis. The versatile Greek international combo-guard left Panathinaikos in order to prove himself as the only leader of a major Euroleague club and he has proved it all the way. Not only will be handling the ball for the majority of 24″ when his team attacks but he will also be called to take initiatives and put the ball into the net. Another bright season awaits for him, as he has added more weapons to his arsenal, like the Bodirogesque dribble he debuted in the friendly game against Bamberg.
Breakout Player: It won’t exactly be a breakout, as he has already proven to be a Euroleague quality player long ago, but this year Papanikolaou will have an even bigger role in the team. The true MVP of the Euroleague final against CSKA Moscow must transition from his prospect status to what he is now: a star. Combining his athleticism with his passion, this season will set the path for him to become the future leader of both Olympiacos and Greece NT, eventhough NBA is already calling him.
Biggest Euroleague Moment: Although the 2012 title was their second Euroleague title, it is way more monumental than the first one. Back in 1997 Olympiacos was a dominant force in Euroleague and had a great squad which started their campaign as favourites. Unlike 2012 which saw the dismemberment of the previous mega-millions squad and a rebuilding process which was based on the leadership of Spanoulis and young, cheap and enthusiastic young local players. No one expected that team to be ready right away or even long-term but they played a great second half of the season and concluded a great campaign by a shocking 19 point comeback against non-other than the star and quality-packed CSKA Moscow.