As the mid-season of the Euroleague is fast approaching, the editorial board Basketball Europe compiles a preliminary assessment of the beginning of the season for teams. Second part: teams from 1st to 8th place, from the sensational Basconia to the confirmed Monaco.
First part to be read again: the results of the teams from 9th to 18th place
The (crazy) race for the Euroleague playoffs is heating up. Who will be the last eight contenders for the 2022-23 European champion title? As the 17th and final day of the first leg approached, some teams took a step forward, but the league proved tighter than ever at the top of the table. After three months of competition, three teams are tied on the podium, and ten teams have won 50-70%. There is no doubt that many clubs will be fighting to secure the rankings until April 14, the last day of the regular season. AS Monaco, well placed on the podium, made the entry they wanted by winning 68.8% of the wins. But Team Roca knows this, there is still a long way to go to reach the goal: to be in Kaunas for the Final Four from May 19 to 21.
1st – Cazoo Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz: a surprise at the top of the championship! (11v-5d)
Can the surprising Basque team maintain their level of play in the second half of the season? One thing is certain, the great surprise of this beginning of the year is the Spanish language. This sharpshooting team (most 3-point attempts: 28.8 per game) quickly made their mark and drew in all directions. With All-American Pierria Henry (10 points, 6.2 assists, 14.1 rating) back in the lineup after four days, Joan Penarroya’s workforce has been cut over time and is running on a full diet.
Summer recruits (Marcus Howard, Darius Thompson, Mike Kotsar, Daulton Hommes, etc.) have each started well with a well-targeted role. Recently promoted to the top of the Euroleague, the Basques are shining with six consecutive wins this December! Last against Real Madrid with 21 from captain Rokas Giedraitis and 28 from Marcus Howard. The crazy shooter – only 1.78 m – is the best shooter in the league with 3.3 3-pointers made per game.
The start in Liga Endesa is equally good for Vitoria-Gasteiz (4th place, 10v-3d, one win behind the leader). Focused on attack, the team with a huge team put on a show. Evidenced by the fact that seven players (Henry, Thompson, Kotsar, Costello, Sedekerskis, Howard, Giedraitis) have an average rating above 10, while thirteen players are regulars! Plus, getting the most playing time is Darius Thompson (34th in league total, 25 minutes), who tops out with 5.7 assists per game.
With full confidence, shots rain down from all sides. At least seven players are shooting over 38% from long range, including Marcus Howard (league-leading 3-pointers: 52/112), Vanja Marinkovic, Daniel Diez (the only Spaniard on the team, etc.). ) and Matt Costello, over 40%. With the last game of the first leg in Berlin (18th), the attack of the 2nd Euroleague (86 points) has a golden opportunity to overtake their opponents and will surely end the league’s best record at home in the middle of the season. With eight home wins (six in a row, including the current streak) and one defeat (Olympiakos, 92-97 against J4), the magnificent Fernando Buesa Arena looks like a fortress.
next game (Round 17, end of first leg): January 5, 19:00 @ ALBA Berlin
2nd – FC Barcelona: Mirotic back, Barça very well positioned (11v-5d)
What if Barça won the first European trophy since the championship in Paris in 2010? Although there was a slight delay in catching fire in the Euroleague (3v-2d in October), the Catalan team seems to have found color. Despite two-point defeats against Villeurbanne (74-75, J12) and Valents (84-83, J15) in December, Sarunas Jasikevicius’ men are starting to win. The team in the top three (68.8% win) performs better. And one man is clearly no stranger to it: Nikola Mirotic. In six games, the 2021-22 regular season MVP…
Photo: Elie Okobo (Euroleague)