After a three-week break, Euroleague teams are finally back on track as the Top 16 (the competition's second round) is about to start. With 16 teams left, RealGM presents the Top Five storylines to keep an eye on.
• The Euroleague Top 16 curse of Zalgiris
It seems that Zalgiris Kaunas has finally got back on winning track as they grabbed its eighth win in a row on Sunday by beating Astana in a VTB League game. The Lithuanians finished the Euroleague regular season with two wins and they also got their confidence back. There is no doubt that Zalgiris' roster is strong enough to compete with Bennet Cantu or even with Maccabi Tel Aviv, but as past shows, no matter how good Kaunas team looks, they usually collapse completely in Top 16 stage.
In last eight years, Zalgiris won only three and shockingly lost 26 games in the Top 16. Now Sonny Weems and his teammates has a chance to break Zalgiris' curse of Top 16.
• CSKA make a run for the Euroleague title
The only undefeated and undoubtedly the best European team at the moment, CSKA had a brilliant first half of the season. A 10-0 record in Euroleague, 7-1 in Russian championship and 8-1 in VTB league. 25 wins and only two losses in the first four months would be a result of dreams for any team. However, the main fights are still ahead, but as Andrei Kirilenko, the leading Euroleague MVP candidate, declared he is staying in Moscow for the whole season, CSKA is not afraid of anything.
Despite upcoming long flights to Turkey and Greece, it is more than difficult to expect teams like Olympiacos, Anadolu Efes or Galatasaray to stop mighty CSKA.
• Mallet replacing Farmar
With signing Jordan Farmar and making him Maccabi's leader, the Israeli club took a big risk. Farmar, who after returning to the NBA, most of the time sits on Nets' bench, became a European star, and Maccabi was where it used to be - among elite. However, those days are over and now Maccabi has to get use to playing with its new point guard.
Demond Mallet, the newest acquisition of Maccabi, was simply dominant on a losing team in Spirou, and now have to prove what he is capable of with Tel Aviv. Mallet, who will turn 34 next month, has been averaging 18.9 points per game with Spirou, but joining Maccabi and replacing Farmar will be a whole new story.
• Panathinaikos chances of repeating as champions
Same as last season, this year's Panathinaikos looks a bit sleepy -- it is still one of title contenders, but not the top team in the league full of superstars. Writing off Panathinaikos would be a huge mistake -- especially as Zeljko Obradovic is still in Athens, same as Dimitris Diamantidis and Sarunas "golden boy" Jasikevicius. Repeating as Euroleague champions has never been easy, but being underrated and under-appreciated could make this task a bit easier.
• The post-lockout stage of Euroleague
Yes, the NBA lockout ended more than a month ago, but we still didn't have a real chance to see how the Euroleague teams will look like in the post-lockout era. The regular season results were based on this period when NBA players were still here -- they appeared in eight out of ten games -- and in Top 16 stage we will finally see who is who without temporary help from overseas.