As is tradition on this site, we’re taking the playoffs in reverse order. Emmet Ryan is going to take on each series over the next four days to give his take on who makes it to Istanbul. Last but not least it’s the clash of CSKA Moscow and Baskonia
It’s a battle of two Final Four teams from a year ago and only one of them is making it to Istanbul. CSKA finally buried their demons in Berlin while Baskonia were left wondering what might have been.
With CSKA we know the story well by now. They have oodles of back-court talent, when Aaron Jackson is your third best guard you are doing well. When he’s the third best guard behind two MVP candidates, you’re kind of good at this whole back court business. The rest of the side looks strong with the only obvious weakness being in the middle. Kyle Hines is great but the switch away from him not so much and that has left CSKA looking like a side that could be exploited by the right side but not many have proven they can. In Moscow they went 14-1 during the regular season and there’s little reason to question their ability to control matters on their home court in this series.
Baskonia have been a strange side to watch. At their best they certainly looked Final Four quality. At their worst they looked rudderless. Tornike Shengelia is really good at basketball but I doubt even he realised how fundamental he was to absolutely everything Baskonia do. The double acquisition from the Brooklyn Nets went both ways. Shane Larkin looks great and primed for big time games. Andrea Bargnani has been a husk of a basketball player and not a man you want to see getting real minutes. As ever, Baskonia have shown some savvy and Johannes Voigtmann looks everything the club thought he could be and more. It’s trusting them to keep it together consistently that’s the issue here.
That consistency is going to hurt Baskonia in the playoffs and mostly because of match-ups. Against anyone else with home court in this competition, I definitely give them a shot. Even against Real Madrid, they could live with the match-ups to some degree. Against Olympiacos or Panathinaikos, they would definitely be in with a big shot. Those games without Toko just plain cost them. Baskonia went 15-6 with Shengelia and just 2-7 without him. A few more games with him and maybe they get the 6, 5, or even 4 seed.
Instead they are lumped into an utterly awful match-up. There are lots of guys who can do jobs for Baskonia, it’s a team built on guys who can do jobs and look for their guys with the extra gear to own their match-ups. There’s nowhere here, even in the middle, where you can see that kind of dominance happening. If CSKA come out of Moscow with both wins, which I expect, then I don’t see this series lasting long. It wouldn’t be the first time this season I’ve been wrong about Baskonia but get your brooms ready.
Fearless prediction: CSKA Moscow in a 3-0 sweep
And with that we have the BallinEurope bracket complete. Our predictions for the Final Four match-ups are:
Real Madrid vs Fenerbahce
CSKA Moscow vs Olympiacos