With two Euroleague games in the books for each team and something of an overall picture developing, BallinEurope unleashes the November edition of its ever-“popular” power rankings for the two dozen squads. For reference, edification and jollies, the preseason edition of the ‘rankings may be seen here.
Once again, advisories in effect: These ratings are formulated from once source (namely yours truly) and are based on the way teams are trending at present, i.e. Bennet Cantu is not necessarily *better* per se than Fenerbahçe Ülker, et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum. While play in other leagues was considered, emphasis was put on performance in each team’s pair of EL games thus far, i.e. BiE knows Union Olimpija is 5-0 in the Adriatic League.
Without further ado, then, let’s get to the rankings! (Žalgiris fans, you may want to consider before clicking “Read More.”)
• Cream of the Crop
1. (↑) Panathinaikos (2-0 EL; 2-0 in domestic league EΣAKE) – In a rare reversal of opinion, the essentially obligatory no. 1 spot traditionally kept by the defending champion has been restored. Despite the bigger-named, better-hyped rosters of FC Barcelona and CSKA Moscow, newcomer Steven Smith together with the Greens’ nucleus has reminded the league who the boss is in dispatching Unicaja Malaga and KK Zagreb in Euroleague play. European basketball fans again await the first meeting between PAO and Olympiacos slated for November 17.
2. (↔) FC Barcelona (2-0 in Euroleague play; 4-1 ACB) – Biggest point differential in the Euroleague after two games? That would be the Blaugrana with a big +49 after beating up on Olimpija and Asseco Prokom. Barça’s 4-1 mark in Spain is somewhat impressive in this season of extreme parity over there, and optimism can even be found in the team’s sluggish 66-56 victory over Fuenlabrada last weekend as Juan Carlos Navarro and killer addition Marcelinho Huertas again led the way on both ends of the court.
3. (↔) CSKA Moscow (2-0; 2-0 PBL; 3-1 VTB) – Excellent coach, well-stocked roster, Andrei Kirilenko … yeah, this looks like a Final Four team. BiE finds it very difficult to place them third.
• Right Up There, Right Now
4. (↑) Real Madrid (2-0 EL; 4-1 ACB) – Well, BiE knew these guys could score but come on: They’re shooting 52.8% overall! They’ve got four guys (Rudy Fernandez, Jaycee Carroll, Felipe Reyes, Sergio Llull) averaging double figures in points through two and a fifth (Martynas Pocius) good for 9.5 in just 18 minutes per game! They’ve registered the only 100-point game in the EL thus far! Sorry for the excessive exclamation points, but this is the most exciting Real team in years!
5. (↓) Montepaschi Siena (2-0; 3-1 Serie A) – It’s business as usual with Siena. Europe’s answer to the “small-market” clubs in the ‘States has turned one of their NBA lockout casualties (David Anderson) into a viable force in EL play, and the team’s traditional reliance on speed is still working. Rebounding might become a concern further down – only four big-league teams have fewer boards through two – and it would be nice for them if Ksistof Lavrinovic could get more going down low. Can Shaun Stonerook and his EL lifetime average of 5.1 rpg really be expected to continue to put in 7.5 throughout the season?
And then there’s Bo McCalebb. Some Siena competitor’d better inform Bo that EuroBasket 2011 is over and that he can settle down a bit: The man is shooting 12-of-16 overall from the floor, going 8-of-8 from the charity stripe, kicking in 3.5 assists per game and once again orchestrating some seriously interesting ball movement. He just might will another overachiever into the top four in 2011-12…
• Should Get Better
6. (↑) Olympiacos (1-1 EL; 2-0 EΣAKE) – Common wisdom believed the Reds’ 2011-12 performance would be hampered by front-office shakeups. O, don’t Žalgiris Kaunas fans wish they’d experience something similar right about now … again, November 17. Mark those calendars.
7. (↑) Emporio Armani Milano (1-1 EL; 3-1 Serie A)
8. (↓) Maccabi Tel Aviv (1-1 EL; 3-0 Ligat Ha’al; 5-0 Adriatic) – BiE went back and forth in ranking these two for a while … Though Milano is coming off a loss to Real Madrid, BiE gives them the nod here over the thus-far underwhelming (at least in Euroleague play) Maccabi Tel Aviv due to the Italian side’s 89-82 week one victory. And it seems Milano’s signing of Danilo Gallinari for what we’ll call the lockout portion of the EL season was among the best in Europe
On the plus side for Maccabi is the team’s decent run in the Adriatic League; David Blatt’s guys are topping the league at 5-0, including a nice 97-point show against Cibona Zagreb and a second victory over Partizan Belgrade. But expectations are high for this club in 2011-12 and its two Euroleague performances haven’t yet wowed anyone; consider these guys the sleeping giants at present.
9. Caja Laboral Baskonia (2-0; 3-2 ACB) – The workmanlike opening-week win at Fenerbahçe Ülker got Baskonia’s EL season off to a flying start and the ACB club chased this in defending home court against Bennet Cantu. You particularly have to love this ball-minded defense averaging 10 steals per game, and BiE will conveniently ignore losses to Zaragoza and Valencia.
10. Unicaja Malaga (1-1 EL; 4-1 ACB) – BiE’s still not entirely convinced Unicaja can play with the big boys, with losses this season to Panathinaikos in a blowout and last weekend to Valencia in Spain. Things will get dicey for these guys in a couple of weeks. After games at Brose Baskets Bamberg, vs. Blancos de Rueda Valladolid and vs. KK Zagreb, they get Real Madrid at home and CSKA Moscow away on November 13th and 16th, respectively. This may be the highest Unicaja ascends in 2011-12.
11. (↓) Anadolu Efes (1-1 EL; 3-0 TBL) – BiE’s still wondering what went wrong against Spirou Charleroi…
• Overachievers or Contenders?
12. (↑) Galatasaray Medical Park (1-1 EL; 3-0 TBL) – As of this writing, Eurobasket.com has Galatasaray at no. 2 in its “Top 100 Teams in Europe” listing, actually in a mathematical tie with CSKA Moscow. BiE loves the 2011-12 edition of Galatasaray but wouldn’t put them quite that high … The loss to Unics Kazan might have been a reality check for the Red-and-Yellow, as Kazan generally uglied up the match, forcing bad turnovers and winning the battle of the boards: Achilles’ heels for Galatasaray. Next up on the Euroleague schedule: at Montepaschi Siena, at Union Olimpija, vs. FC Barcelona. Yikes.
13. (↑) SLUC Nancy (1-1; 4-0 LNB)
14. (↑) Bennet Cantu (1-1 EL; 3-1 Serie A) – Whoa, Group A is crazy … certainly one of these two teams wants the inside track for the no. 4 spot (assuming Fenerbahçe gets it together, that is), but which is it? Cantu handled Nancy in the opening week, teeing off with 21 three-pointers and making 10. However, the 6-of-21 from long range killed them against Baskonia … This team looks frighteningly like employment of the “live by the jump shot die by the jump shot” philosophy is in full effect. And BiE says those teams don’t go far.
Meanwhile, the defending French champions appear to have recovered from the Cantu defeat, taking care of business against Bizkaia Bilbao Basket in week two while going undefeated in LNB play. BiE was concerned about Nancy’s lack of depth going into the season and it’s still there: In the win over Bilbao, over six players contributed more than one bucket, four starters played more than 29 minutes, and there were three DNPs. On the other hand, a little Nicolas Batum is going a long way…
15. (↑) Brose Baskets Bamberg (1-1 EL; 5-0 BBL) – Test of adversity time: Bamberg tonight hosts Unicaja Malaga in a winnable game. How will they respond after the 20-point drubbing administered by CSKA Moscow last week?
16. (↓) Unics Kazan (1-1 EL; 1-1 PBL; 3-1 VTB) – The Euroleague’s second Russian entry needs to ride the momentum of their three-game winning streak. In addition to coming back against Galatasaray in the fourth quarter last Thursday, Kazan topped Enisey the Monday previous and VEF Riga in the VTB United League on Sunday. The weird thing is that Unics’ only real stud this season has been Henry Domercant with 23.0 points and 5.5 rebounds per EL game.
17. (↓) Bizkaia Bilbao Basket (1-1 EL; 3-2 ACB) – This talented side dug itself something of a hole in losing to SLUC Nancy and things aren’t looking brilliant back in Spain, either. Perhaps the rebounding-by-committee system isn’t working so well…?
• Should Be Better (in Euroleague)
18 (tie). (↑) Partizan Belgrade (0-2 EL; 4-1 Adriatic)
18 (tie). (↓) Union Olimpija (0-2; 5-0 Adriatic) – Both of these teams are reflective of the omnipresent “current economic situation,” bringing fewer marquee names than in recent seasons. So whose losses are worse, then? Partizan currently owns the dubious distinction of being the only non-ACB club to go 0-3 against Euroleague teams, thanks to a loss against Maccabi Tel Aviv in Adriatic League play – though the unheralded Black-and-Whites did manage to stay competitive in both EL losses.
20. (↓) Fenerbahçe Ülker (0-2 EL; 3-0 TBL) – BiE still has these guys penciled in as a Top 16 team, but the truth is they may be facing the first must-win match of the Euroleague season in hosting upstarts SLUC Nancy tomorrow night; a loss there is disastrous.
21. (↑) Spirou Charleroi (1-1 EL; 4-1 BLB) – Nice win against Anadolu Efes could be parlayed into a 2-1 win against Partizan tonight … at Pionir. Yeah, probably not.
22. (↓) Žalgiris Kaunas (0-2; 4-0 LKL; 2-2 VTB) – Žalgiris’ ranking in BallinEurope’s preseason power rankings elicited much consternation and derision, even in the Lithuanian press. “How could they be ranked lower than Brose Baskets Bamberg?” rang out the outcry. “Who writes this?” demanded the masses. “What are you smoking?” came the implications. Well, two Euroleague losses, some generally lackluster play in the VTB, and one reassumed front-and-center position of Vladamir Romanov later, here’s the Greens’ new spot. Still plenty of basketball left to play, though…
23. (↓) Asseco Prokom (0-2 EL; 2-2 VTB) – And BiE laments the conclusion of the Devin Brown Era in Poland…
24. (↓) KK Zagreb (0-2 EL; 1-4 Adriatic) – After the week one results poured in, BiE caught one tweet asking something to the effect of “Is KK Zagreb the worst team in the Euroleague?” This may have been a rhetorical question.