The week between games three and four used to be the Top 16′s halftime. Teams would count their wins and their wounded and move on to the second legs of home-and-away round robins. You had seen everyone once, and everyone had seen what you were capable of as well.
But things are different now. Starting this season, the Top 16 is fourteen games long instead of just six.
Not only does this give us eight more Euroleague games—from a maximum of 23 to a maximum of 31; the minimum’s still 10 for those lost in the regular season—it will eventually shrink the painfully and illogically long chasm that once separated the end of the playoffs and the start of the Final Four.
For last season’s champions, Olympiacos, that void ate up the entire month of April and then took a bite out of May, too. Forty days in all between the Reds’ final playoff win over Montepaschi Siena on March 30 and their tip against CSKA Moscow in the Euroleague semifinals on May 11.
Now, the playoffs won’t even start until April 9 and could last all the way until April 25, shortening that purgatorial period to a more Super Bowl-esque two to three weeks.
Better for the Euroleague to stage a mildly excessive build-up toward their championship than to disappear from our consciousness entirely.
The extended Top 16 also means that the 0-3 teams aren’t effectively eliminated just yet, just as the 3-0 teams can’t loosen their grips. There are four of each extreme right now: CSKA Moscow, Caja Laboral, Real Madrid and Montepaschi Siena haven’t lost; Fenerbahce Ulker, Alba Berlin, Bamberg and Besiktas haven’t won.
Let’s see where they landed in this week’s rankings.