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Euroleague Quarterfinals Preview

The top-8 teams from Spain, Greece, Israel, Italy and Russia are ready to begin the last stage to reach the 2012 Euroleague Final Four. In the best-of-five series, only four clubs will earn tickets to Istanbul where the new Euroleague champion will be crowned on May 13th.

CSKA vs. Bizkaia Bilbao Basket

Bizkaia Bilbao Basket has been a true Cinderella team in Euroleague this season. In its debut year, the Spanish club managed to make it to the Top 16 and shake things up even there. Beating Real, Montepaschi and Unicaja in last three Top 16 games would be impossible for most of the teams, but not Bizkaia Bilbao Basket.

After making the impossible possible, Bilbao, which is one of just three Euroleague newcomers in eight seasons to reach the playoffs, faced the biggest challenge in team’s history - to beat the best team in the Euroleague, CSKA Moscow.

The end may finally be here for Bilbao.

CSKA is the best offensive team in the league, leading in scoring (86.2 PPG), three-point shooting (41.1%) and two-point shooting (57.8%). CSKA’s players also dish out almost 20 assists per game (best result in the league) and obviously have no problems with sharing the ball. Moreover, having the main MVP candidate Andrei Kirilenko and second best big man in the league, Nenad Krstic, on your squad definitely helps and makes them a true favourite to win the series.

RealGM prediction: CSKA wins 3-0

Montepaschi vs. Olympiacos

After last season’s fiasco, Olympiacos got a chance for a sweet revenge. For those who don’t remember, Olympiacos, which had a homecourt advantage, humiliated Montepaschi by a final score of 89-41 in the first playoffs match. They later collapsed and lost three games in a row and finished its Euroleague season at the Top-8 stage.

However, it is more than obvious that Olympiacos’ currently situation is not that good as it was in previous seasons. Lower budget, no homecourt advantage and being in a rebuilding year puts Olympiacos in an underdog position, but it doesn’t nessecerally mean the winner is already known.

The key elements of this series should be the two best Euroleague scorers, Bo McCalebb of Montepaschi and Vasilis Spanoulis of Olympiacos. McCalebb has scored in double figures in 14 straight Euroleague games and was the Top 16 leader in scoring (16.8 PPG).

Spanoulis leads the league in scoring among the players still active in the competition with 18.1 points per game.

Nevertheless, the deeper bench should lead Montepaschi to a fifth Final Four appearance in 10 years and gives the Italian champions another shot to win the title.

RealGM prediction: Montepaschi wins 3-1

Barcelona Regal vs. Unics

Huge investments paid off this season for another Euroleague debutant in Unics Kazan. Evgeny Pashutin’s system fit perfectly for the Russians, who managed to win against Euroleague's greatest by slowing the pace of the game down and play solid defense.

However, Barcelona Regal, which has the best defence in the Euroleague this season and is on pace to set a record by allowing only 61.4 points per game, already demonstrated twice how to handle a team like Unics.

Unics has been struggling on offense as they are ranked only 19th in terms of scoring (70.9 PPG), but it is worth to notice that Kazan was held to a season-low 50 points in its regular season visit to Barcelona. And this is the same place where they are playing on March 20th and 22nd. During the regular season match against Barcelona Regal at home, Unics scored only 65 points and allowed its opponents to score 93.

Unics has everything it takes to be a legend killer, but it seems Barcelona Regal learned its lesson from the last season when they didn’t reach the Final Four that was hosted in their hometown, and are simply too strong for the Russians.

RealGM prediction: Barcelona Regal wins 3-1

Panathinaikos vs. Maccabi

Panathinaikos Athens and Maccabi Tel Aviv, two teams that reached the 2011 Final Four, can't both make it this season. 

The most successful European basketball club of the past decade, defending champion Panathinaikos, has won three Euroleague titles over the five years, while Maccabi advanced to the Euroleague final seven times in 12 years. Moreover, the fact that these teams have been crowned European champion in eight of the last 12 seasons speaks for itself and also illustrates how big this series are.

As is usual for European powerhouses, all Panathinaikos-Maccabi games are hardly predictable. They met 25 times in over last 20 years and the Greens won 14 games, while the Yellows have won 11.

As it is incredibly hard to take a favorite in this series, Panathinaikos will have a small advantage as their defense is stronger (i.e., Panathinaikos leads the Euroleague in steals with 8.4 PG), their players are more experienced and Maccabi’s troubles with shooting from three-point line could be the Greens’ key to success.

RealGM prediction: Panathinaikos wins 3-2

Euroleague MVP Race

We are in the middle of the Top-16 phase of the 2011-12 Euroleague competition, which makes it an opportune time to check in on the favorites to win MVP.

- All records and stats through Game 4 of Top-16

1. Andrei Kirilenko - CSKA (13-1 season, 3-1 in Top 16)

12.7 points (44% 3FG), 7.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.6 blocks in 29 minutes

There isn't a single thing that Andrei Kirilenko couldn't do in Euroleague this season and there's a feeling we haven't seen the best yet. It is more than clear that Kirilenko, who turned 31 on Saturday, is head and shoulders above the other MVP candidates.

2. Bo McCalebb - Montepaschi (12-2, 4-0)

18.1 points (72% 2FG, 60% 3FG), 2.5 rebounds, 3 assists in 27 minutes

The domination of American-born Macedonian Bo McCalebb continues. The 6-foot guard is living a dream since the last EuroBasket and just when you think he can't play any better, he proves you wrong. McCaleebb is absolutely the best offensive player in Europe and facts speak for themselves. The Montepaschi's leader, who ranks third in scoring and second in 2FG percentage, scored no less than 13 points in all Euroleague games this season.

3. Erazem Lorbek - FC Barcelona Regal (13-1, 4-0)

15.2 points (46% 3FG), 4.9 rebounds in 26 minutes

Yes, FC Barcelona Regal is still Navarro's team, but Erazem Lorbek's consistency has been the main weapon for the Spanish club this season. The Slovene collected 15 or more performance index rating (PIR) points in all four Top 16 games.

4. Henry Domercant - Unics (10-4, 3-1)

16.4 points (52% 3FG), 4.2 rebounds in 31 minutes

The 31-year-old veteran Henry Domercant, Euroleague MVP of January, is the engine of Unics offense and the key of their success. Domercant, who ranks fourth in scoring, has made at least one 3-pointer in all 14 Euroleague games this season. It seems that the guard feels more comfortable shooting from beyond the arc as Domercant already made 38 3-pointers compared to 28 shots from short-range.

5. Nenad Krstic - CSKA (13-1, 3-1)

15.4 points, 6.6 rebounds in 24 minutes

Before coming back to Europe, Nenad Krstic revealed the NBA season sometimes missed pressure and that was one of the reasons why he turned his career into Eurolegue, where every game matters. So far, Krstic is perfectly dealing with the pressure well, as he is the leading scorer of undoubtedly the best team in the league.

6. Dimitris Diamantidis - Panathinaikos (10-4, 3-1)

10.1 points (48% 3FG), 3.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists in 29 minutes

Definitely, Dimitris Diamantidis' teammates took some of the load from his shoulders compared to last season, but still, Diamantidis is probably the player in the Euroleague you would want to have on your team in clutch situations. 

7. Vassilis Spanoulis - Olympiacos (8-6, 2-2)

18.4 points (41% 3FG), 4.2. assists, 3.9 turnovers in 31 minutes

Before the start of the season, it seemed that Olympiacos would remain a shadow of its past but thanks to Vassilis Spanoulis, Piraeus team remains competitive. Same as last season, Spanoulis is one the best players in the Euroleague in terms of scoring, but at the same time, he leads the league in turnovers for the second season in row.

8. Marko Banic - Bilbao Basket (7-7, 2-2)

14.3 points, 3.9 rebounds in 26 minutes

Marko Banic, who has been playing for Bilbao since 2005, is having a Euroleague debut of dreams. Banic, the main reason of the team's success, is playing like a real MVP, while his team grabs stunning wins against teams like Real Madrid.

9. Nikola Mirotic - Real Madrid (10-4, 2-2)

12 points (45% 3FG), 4.2 rebounds in 23 minutes

While Jonas Valanciunas steals all the spotlight as the best young player in Europe, Chicago Bulls draftee Nikola Mirotic became a starting center and a game-changer for Real Madrid this season. A few amazing performances, for example, against Maccabi or Partizan, made Mirotic an MVP candidate. Bulls fans should be thrilled to see their future player successfully competing in Euroleague and Spanish league (Liga Endesa), the two best competitions in Europe.

10. Sonny Weems - Zalgiris (4-10, 0-4)

16 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3 turnovers in 30 minutes

There's no doubt that Sonny Weems has been one of the best signings of last summer among all Euroleague teams. Weems has everything it takes to be a team leader, but that still was not enough for Zalgiris, who's been struggling all season long.

Honorable Mentions: Jaycee Carroll, Real; Joel Freeland, Unicaja; Viktor Khryapa, CSKA; Terrell Lyday, Unics; Juan Carlos Navarro, FC Barcelona Regal; Demond Mallet, Maccabi; Vladimir Micov, Bennet.

European Domestic League Power Rankings For February

We are past the halfway point in all of the European National Domestic Leagues and with January fully in the books, it is an opportune time to check in on our Floor Impact Counter rankings. The FIC is an objective statistical measure that accounts for all of the elements of a box score.

Spanish ACB Power Rankings

As expected, Real Madrid and Barcelona are atop the standings of the world’s second best domestic league. Each team is perfect at home and winning by a margin of 11+ points per game. Madrid beat Barcelona on January 4th by a 78-74 final on their home floor. The two teams will meet again on May 2nd.

Lucentum Alicante is tied for fifth place with a 12-6 record, but are ranked eighth here and have a negative point differential.

Andy Panko, James Augustin and Javi Rodriguez are the leaders in points, rebounds and assists per game, while Paul Davis has the highest PER and Augustine leads in season FIC.

1. Real Madrid: 24.17  
2. FC Barcelona Regal: 19.04  
3. Unicaja Malaga: 9.12  
4. Caja Laboral: 7.86  
5. Bilbao Basket: 2.74  
6. Cajasol Banca Civica: 2.60  
7. Lagun Aro GBC: -0.20  
8. Lucentum Alicante: -0.27  
9. Basket Zaragoza 2002: -0.44  
10. Valencia Basket: -0.56  
11. Assignia Manresa: -0.97  
12. Baloncesto Fuenlabrada: -4.22  
13. FIATC Mutua Joventut: -6.43  
14. CB Gran Canaria: -7.26  
15. Obradoiro CAB: -7.68  
16. UCAM Murcia: -10.67  
17. Blancos de Rueda Valladolid: -11.33  
18. Asefa Estudiantes: -14.27

Italian Lega A Power Rankings

Siena is currently in first place with a 13-5 record in the domestic league with the most parity. Though Milan leads these rankings, they are tied for third with an 11-7 record. Twelve of the 17 teams have a 44% of better winning percentage.

Andre Smith is the scoring leader, while Viktor Sanikidze and Marques Green lead in rebounds and assists respectively. Oliver Stevic and Giorgi Shermadini lead in PER, while Sanikidze leads in season FIC. Green also leads in Hands on Buckets, accounting for 41.8% of the field goals scored by Air Avellino.

1. Armani Milano: 10.15  
2. Montepaschi Siena: 9.80  
3. Canadian Solar Bologna: 8.59  
4. Bennet Cantu: 8.14  
5. Scavolini Siviglia Pesaro: 4.15  
6. Fabi Shoes Montegranaro: 0.60  
7. Air Avellino: 0.57  
8. Pepsi Caserta: 0.43  
9. Umana Venezia: -1.46  
10. Cimberio Varese: -2.46  
11. Angelico Biella: -3.40  
12. Dinamo Basket Sassari: -3.82  
13. Benetton Treviso: -4.84  
14. Virtus Roma: -5.42  
15. Banca Tercas Teramo: -5.44  
16. Novipiu Casale Monferrato: -5.45  
17. Vanoli-Braga Cremona: -10.19

Greek Basket League Power Rankings    

Even more so than Spain, there's Panathinaikos, Olympiacos and everybody else. They each have one loss, with the latter losing to the former and the former losing to Kavala.

Dionte Christmas is the league's leading scorer, while Giorgios Apostolidis and Giorgos Printezis lead in PER.

1. Panathinaikos: 27.15  
2. Olympiacos: 26.19  
3. Panionios BC: 9.26  
4. Kolossos Rodou BC: 7.73  
5. AGOR Aegean BC: 3.06  
6. Kavala: -0.73  
7. Aris BC: -2.52  
8. Peristeri BC: -3.51  
9. KAOD BC: -8.33  
10. PAOK BC: -9.21  
11. Ilisiakos BC: -13.47  
12. Maroussi BC: -15.25  
13. Ikaros Kallitheas BC: -20.98  

Russian PBL Power Rankings

CSKA is winning by an average of 14.1 points per game and have an 8-1 record with their loss coming against Khimki BC.

Davon Jefferson leads in points per game at 22.0 and in rebounds at 8.5, while Aaron Miles leads in assists. Timofey Mozgov, who has returned to the NBA, led in PER, followed by Darius Lavrinovic of CSKA and Jefferson. Patrick Beverley leads in season FIC and is second in HOB behind Jefferson.
        
1. CSKA Moscow: 26.64  
2. Khimki BC: 18.02  
3. UNICS Kazan: 8.61  
4. Triumph Lyubertsy: 6.31  
5. Spartak Saint Petersburg: -0.44  
6. Spartak Primorye: -0.51  
7. Krasnye Krylia: -4.54  
8. Lokomotiv Kuban: -5.64   
9. Enisey Krasnoyarsk: -20.00  
10. BC Nizhny Novgorod: -23.82

French Pro A Power Rankings

BCM Gravelines has recently stumbled in Eurocup play, but they haven’t lost a domestic league game since Dec. 10th against JDA Dijon and hold a one game lead over Chalon in the standings

Gravelines has an average point differential of 14.7 points, compared to less than seven for Malcolm Delaney, Blake Schilb and Alade Aminu’s Chalon squad.

1. BCM Gravelines: 23.43  
2. Orleans Loiret Basket: 11.81  
3. Chalon-Sur-Saone: 11.12  
4. Nancy Basket: 9.73  
5. Le Mans Sarthe Basket: 8.98  
6. Cholet Basket: 8.27  
7. Paris-Levallois Basket: 4.79  
8. Strasbourg IG: 3.07  
9. ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne: 1.77  
10. JDA Dijon Basket: -2.38  
11. STB Le Havre: -6.24  
12. Chorale Roanne Basket: -6.45  
13. JSF Nanterre: -9.72  
14. Poitiers Basket 86: -13.75  
15. Pau-Orthez: -15.73  
16. Hyeres-Toulon Var Basket: -28.80 

Turkish TBL Power Rankings

Things are tight atop the standings in Turkey, with Galatasaray, Besiktas and Banvitspor within striking distance of Anadolu Efes. Dusko Savanovic’s Efes team has beaten second place Galatasaray in both domestic and Euroleague competition, though two more battles are scheduled for the next month. Their two domestic defeats came against Tofas and post-Deron Williams Besiktas.

Mire Chatman and Anthony Grundy lead in points per game, while Vladimir Stimac and Baris Ermis lead in rebounds and assists respectively. Stevan Jelovac is the current leader in PER, while Chatman is the season FIC leader by a comfortable margin and also in HOB.

1. Anadolu Efes: 23.80  
2. Galatasaray: 21.70  
3. Banvitspor: 15.29  
4. Besiktas Milangaz: 11.36  
5. Fenerbahce Ulker: 10.77  
6. Pinar Karsiyaka: 9.91  
7. Tofas: 9.60  
8. Erdemirspor: -0.67  
9. Aliaga Petkim: -1.24  
10. Turk Telekom: -2.62  
11. Hacettepe Universitesi: -7.47  
12. Mersin BSB: -9.66  
13. Antalya BSB: -11.43  
14. Olin Edirne: -13.74  
15. Trabzonspor: -20.83  
16. Bandirma Kirmizi: -32.02

Lithuanian LKL Power Rankings

Lietuvos Rytas, featuring Jonas Valanciunas, is winning by an average of 20.9 points per game, but have dropped two games and are a game and a half behind undefeated Zalgiris. Valanciunas is averaging 15.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game in just 25.3 minutes over his eight domestic games.

Povilas Butkevicius  leads in points per game at 17.6, with Dane Johnson and Mantas Kalnietis holding the lead in rebounds and assists respectively. Butkevicius leads in PER, while David McClure is the current leader in season FIC. Bilal Benn leads in HOB, contributing to 32.3% of Naglis’ buckets. 

1. Lietuvos Rytas: 33.17  
2. Zalgiris: 25.60  
3. Rudupis: 19.75  
4. Pieno Zvaigzdes: 2.17  
5. Siauliai: -0.81  
6. Neptunas: -1.65  
7. Baltai: -3.54  
8. Techasas: -9.38  
9. Kedainiai Triobet: -9.84  
10. Juventus: -11.43  
11. Sakalai: -16.70  
12. Naglis: -18.65  

Serbian KLS Power Rankings

KK Vojvodina has a two-game lead and winning by 10.8 points per game, more than double KK Mega Vizura and BKK Radnicki Beograd. KK Radnicki Basket has an 11-7 record, but are second in point differential at 5.0 per game.

Milos Bojovic is leading in points per game at 23.7, while Darko Balaban leads in rebounds and Marko Popovic is the leading assist man. Ivan Zigeranovic of KK Borac Cacak leads in PER just ahead of Balaban, who leads in season FIC. Branko Milisavljevic leads in HOB, scoring or assisting on 40.5% of KK Mega Vizura’s buckets.

1. KK Vojvodina: 17.62  
2. OKK Beograd: 12.54  
3. KK Radnicki Basket: 6.81  
4. KK Borac Cacak: 6.73  
5. BKK Radnicki Beograd: 6.40  
6. KK Smederevo 1953: 3.75  
7. KK Mega Vizura: 3.65  
8. KK Tamis: 0.53  
9. KK Sloga: -2.39  
10. KK Metalac Valjevo: -6.62  
11. KK Napredak Krusevac: -8.94  
12. KK Sloboda Uzice: -10.13  
13. KK Zeleznicar: -10.24  
14. Proleter Naftagas: -18.71 

Croatian A1 Liga Power Rankings

It is somewhat shocking KK Zadar has managed to lose three times considering they are winning by an average margin of 14.3 points per game. KK Jolly and KK Zabok are next in point differential at 4.5 points.

Ivan Mimica leads in points per game at 22.0, while Ive Ivanov and Josip Glavinic are kings at rebounds and assists. Ivan Grgat is tops in PER and Ronald Ross is the season FIC leader. Ivan Tomeljak has scored or assisted on 44.4% of KK Brod Svjetlost’s buckets.

1. KK Zadar: 24.29   
2. KK Split: 8.02  
3. KK Jolly Jadranska Banka: 5.15  
4. KK Vrijednosnice OS Darda: 3.93  
5. KK Zabok: 1.87  
6. KK Borik Puntamika: 0.16  
7. KK Kvarner 2010: -2.05  
8. KK Krizevci: -4.51  
9. KK Alkar: -7.95  
10. KK Brod Svjetlost: -9.70  
11. KK Dubrovnik: -20.70

Slovenian SKL Power Rankings

This is another top-heavy league, with Helios Domzale and Elektra Sostanj dominating the top of the table.

Travis Nelson is the scoring leader at 17.4 points per game, with Esmir Rizvic and Luka Rupnik holding court in rebounds and assists respectively. Fittingly, Nelson leads in both PER and season FIC. Rupnik is responsible for 36.4% of Goplin Slovan’s buckets, which ranks him first in the league.

1. Helios Domzale: 21.07  
2. Zlatorog: 18.33  
3. Elektra Sostanj: 13.11  
4. Sentjur: 9.63  
5. Maribor Messer: 8.34  
6. Geoplin Slovan: 3.92  
7. Hopsi Polzela: -4.50  
8. Rogaska Crystal: -7.74  
9. LTHCast Mercator: -23.13  
10. Parklji: -36.09 

German BBL Power Rankings

Both Brose Baskets and Ratiopharm Ulm have just two losses, but one team is dominating in much more impressive fashion than the other. Brose is winning by a 17.9 differential, while Ratiopharm Ulm has a more human mark of +9.5.

David Holston and Bobby Brown are the league’s leaders in scoring at better than 17 per game, while John Bryant and Jared Jordan lead in rebounds and assists. Bryant also leads in PER, while Holston is the season FIC leader ahead of Tony Gaffney. Jordan has been responsible for 42.9% of TBB Trier’s field goals.   

1. Brose Baskets: 31.80  
2. Ratiopharm Ulm: 15.78  
3. Artland Dragons: 13.91  
4. ALBA Berlin: 12.69  
5. FC Bayern Munich: 7.31  
6. s.Oliver Baskets: 7.26  
7. Telekom Baskets Bonn: 4.05  
8. EWE Baskets Oldenburg: 1.84  
9. New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig: -0.93  
10. BBC Bayreuth: -3.90  
11. Eisbaren Bremerhaven: -4.88  
12. TBB Trier: -6.29  
13. Walter Tigers Tubingen: -6.31  
14. Fraport Skyliners: -6.89  
15. EnBW Ludwigsburg: -7.84  
16. LTi Giessen 46ers: -14.95  
17. Phoenix Hagen: -16.77  
18. BG Gottingen: -23.05 

Belgium BLB Power Rankings

Belgacom Spriou has a two-game lead in the loss column, though they are coming off a loss at Leuven Bears.

Chris Copeland is averaging 18.9 points per game, while Jason Love and Salah Mejri are each averaging 8.0 rebounds and Dusan Djordjevic is leading in assists. Sean Singletary is leading in PER ahead of Caleb Green and Darnell Wilson.   

1. Belgacom Spirou Basket: 17.87  
2. Generali Okapi Aalstar: 9.48  
3. Antwerp Giants: 8.93  
4. Stella Artois Leuven Bears: 7.91  
5. Telenet Oostende: 4.54  
6. Dexia Mons-Hainaut: 0.38  
7. Optima Gent: -5.92  
8. Belgacom Liege Basket: -14.45  
9. VOO Verviers-Pepinster: -27.87

Israeli Super League Power Rankings

Maccabi has a three-game lead, losing just twice in domestic play.

Sylven Landesberg is leading in points, as he is joined by Adrian Banks and Tweety Carter in the 21+ club. Bryant Dunston is leading in rebounds, while Moran Roth holds court in assists. Shawn James and Richard Hendrix, each of Maccabi, are leading in PER. Bryant Dunston has the highest season FIC total.

1. Maccabi Tel Aviv: 26.77  
2. Hapoel Holon: 8.30  
3. Maccabi Rishon Lezion: 7.07  
4. Hapoel Migdal Jerusalem: 3.50  
5. Maccabi Haifa: -1.75  
6. BC Habikaa: -1.97  
7. Gilboa Galil: -2.21  
8. Maccabi Ashdod: -3.58  
9. Ironi Ashkelon: -4.07  
10. Barak Netanya: -7.46  
11. Bnei HaSharon: -25.02

Euroleague Power Rankings For Mid-December

With its regular season winding down, we evaluated and ranked all 24 Euroleague teams' performance over their first eight games and their perspective in future battles.
 

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