Eurobasket ’13 Group B Preview

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EuroBasket_2013_logoGroup B

Likely to advance

Flag_of_Lithuania.svg1. Lithuania

One of the most fully loaded squads in his year’s Eurobasket, the Lithuanian squad is poised to be one of the juggernauts of this year’s competition. Veteran point guard Sarunas Jasikevicus will be sitting this one out, but the Grateful Dead’s favorite European basketball team will be a force to be reckoned with.

Starting with Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas, the Lithuanians will be loaded with horses in the paint. Valanciunas had a solid rookie season, but seems poised to use this summer as the springboard to becoming one of the NBA’s most dominant big men. Playing alongside experienced big men like Robertas Javtokas and the Lavrinovic brothers, Darjus  and Kristof, this will be a team that owns the middle of the floor. Add in Rockets forward Donatas Montiejunas, a young big who has made big strides in the past two years, and it seems obvious that this team will have a stacked front line.220px-Jonas_Valanciunas_by_Augustas_Didzgalvis

That is without mentioning forward Linas Kleiza, the vanilla guerilla, whose high energy style of play and competitive nature would put any team in the mix to advance. Toss in former Dukie Martynas Pocius, and European stars, Renaldas Seibutis and Mantas Kalnietis, and you have a squad that is a legit contender to take home the gold.

It will be very tough for Lithuania to knock off Spain, Greece and France, but this is a rugged team with a mix of experienced stars and up-and-coming big guys that can take a big step. The Lithuanians have a ton of passion for basketball, and it should be a surprise to no one if they fly home from Slovenia with a medal.

Macedonia flag2. FYR Macedonia

The darlings of the 2011 Eurobasket, Macedonia returns the core that came out of nowhere to compete two seasons ago. Led by American Bo McCalebb, who is arguably the best American playing in Europe right now, Macedonia can compete with anybody.200px-Bo_McCalebb_Eurobasket

Capable of taking over a game by himself down the stretch, McCalebb will be aided by new Hawks signee, Pero Antic. A superb rebounder and defender with a dependable outside shot, Antic plays with the type of spirit that allows him to make a huge impact on a team. Guard Vlado Ilievski, brings a lot of high level experience, and his production will likely be the deciding factor of whether Macedonia makes noise again this summer, or fades back into the shadows.

However, with Bo McCalebb running the show, the Macedonians will surely be a tough out, and are almost a lock to advance to the next round.

Flag_of_Montenegro.svg3. Montenegro

Coming into the tournament without Nikola Pekovic, who just recently signed a new contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves, would have been a major blow if not for the development of Magic center Nikola Vucevic. After a proving himself to be one of the NBA’s top rebounders this past season, the fate of the Montenegrin squad rests on his massive shoulders.

Joining Vucevic will be former Boston College and current Maccabi Tel-Aviv point guard Tyrese Rice. Rice has made big strides over the past two seasons, rising to the ranks of the Euroleague elite, and can be the piece that propels this squad to advance  this summer, and possible push  this team to be a monster in the World Cup next summer if Pekovic rejoins  the squad next  year.Nikola Vucevic

A big question mark for this team will be  the production of Bucks second round pick Bojan Dublijevic. A super talented young center, Dublijevic will need to produce to bring the type of depth that is usually required to succeed in these types of competitions.

While it is certainly far from a lock for Montenegro to advance, the combo of Vucevic and Rice makes them strong at basketballs two most important positions, and will ensure they are a tough matchup every night in Slovenia.

Headin’ home early

Flag_of_Serbia.svg4. Serbia

Thought to be a possible contender in this tournament, the Serbs were crushed when they found out former Euroleague MVP Milos Teodosic will be missing this summer’s games with an injury. Teodosic is the straw that stirs this drink, and without him it will be very hard for Serbia to succeed in this tournament.

While Dusan Ivkovic, one of Europe’s top coaches, will be manning the sideline, and Nenad Krstic will still be bringing his awesome low post moves, it will be tough for Serbia to compete with many of its top veterans sitting out this summer. Fenerbahce forward and 2012 second round pick Nemanja Bjelica will provide a lot of versatility to this squad, and should have plenty of opportunity to show he has taken his game up to the next level as he enters the prime of his career.Krstic-Serbia

For Serbia to advance, Golden State Warriors first round draft pick Nemandja Nedovic will need to have a breakout summer. He is a super talent, but right now he is inexperienced at this level, and will need to step up and be a leader at the tender age of 22, for this squad to make it to the next round.

It’s sad to look at the Serbian squad, knowing that if you combined all the former Yugoslavian nations into one team, they would undoubtedly be a contender for a medal in every international tournament. While basketball is rightfully far from concern when issues like state independence, civil war and other political decisions are made, one can only wonder what could have been from a basketball standpoint had Yugoslavia remained one united basketball federation.

Flag_of_Bosnia_and_Herzegovina.svg5. Bosnia & Herzegovina

Spending the majority of the 2012-2013 seasons riding the bench for the Brooklyn Nets, Mirza Teletovic will get an opportunity to remind Europe just how dominant of a scorer he can be as a featured player. While there are rumors that Fenerbahce is trying to woo Teletovic out of his contract with the Nets, those are absolutely baseless since Teletovic has a strong desire to show he can hang in the NBA, and the Nets have very little to gain from giving up on him without getting back something valuable via trade.Teletovic-Bosnia

His Bosnian squad however, was stuck in a difficult group, and should have a lot of trouble advancing. Teletovic may be a great scorer, but it remains to be seen if a supporting cast of Zack Wright, Nihad Djedovic and Edin Bavcic will be enough to keep this team playing longer than one week. Either way, this should be an entertaining team to watch, if only to see if Teletovic can bring something to a Nets team that is likely to contend this season.

Flag_of_Latvia.svg6. Latvia

With Andris Biedrins sitting out of the tournament for personal reasons (busy spending his money?), and Davis Bertans shelved due to injury, it will be tough for Latvia to compete, let alone win a game, in this caliber of competition. Davis brother Dairis Bertans will need to play a big role along with sharp shooter Janis Blum for Latvia to look respectable in this year’s competition.

GROUP A PREVIEW  |  GROUP C PREVIEW  |  GROUP D PREVIEW

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Euroleague Update: Messina and Moscow Fall; Bo or Die In Istanbul

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The man only had one lockout-shortened season on the Lakers bench and we’re merely five games into 2012-13, so why is everyone freaking out?

Not only did he install a new offense during camp; he had to do it with an offseason’s worth of fresh bodies.  So after a loss in their fifth game, a single question divided most of the Basketball God Fearing world: should CSKA Moscow fire Ettore Messina?

Not the former Laker coach you were expecting?  I’m sure this site’s got you covered somewhere.

After spending last year in Mike Brown’s ear as an assistant with the Lakers—Brown called him “one of the great basketball minds in the history of the sport”—the Italian coaching legend returned to CSKA Moscow, the club with whom he had won Euroleague titles in 2006 and 2008.

Messina also won with Kinder Bologna in 1998 and then again in 2001, thanks to 27 points from a 23-year-old Argentine guard named Manu Ginobili in game three of those finals.

If Messina could add a fifth trophy this season, he would become only the second coach in European basketball history to win five continental championships.  Only Bozidar Maljkovic and Aleksandir Gomelskiy—for whom the Euroleague’s Coach of the Year trophy is named—have as many.  Only Zeljko Obradovic has more, with eight.

But Messina’s fifth trophy felt more than just a few months away Thursday against Barcelona.

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Mitnick: Top 50 American Players in Euroleague

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The Euroleague is unquestionably the highest level of basketball outside the NBA.

While NBA teams are always looking for the next European draft steal, there are many top-level Americans playing overseas who could potentially make an impact in the NBA in the near future — while there are others who have come to realize that their best chance for playing time, and their best option for making big money, will only come overseas.

Whether it’s from the vastly different style of play, or the exposure to a new culture, American players can grow to understand the game at a very high level with European experience.

Some players who can make the NBA can’t cut it at the highest levels of Europe, and some players who are excellent in the Euroleague, and who are more valuable than some NBA players to a European club, have no chance to make the NBA.

It is an odd dynamic, but that is the basketball world we live in.

Below is our list of the top 50 American players currently playing in Euroleague competition. (We will update it constantly throughout the next several months).

Bo McCalebb

1.     Bo McCalebb, 6’0″, PG, 1985, Fenerbahce Ulker (Turkey) College: University of New Orleans. McCalebb is an amazing scorer who has repeatedly shown the ability to put a team on his back down the stretch of big games. He may not have ideal size for the NBA, but he could thrive in a role as a momentum changing scorer off the bench. Here is his background story, including the part about his Macedonian passport.

2.    Sonny Weems, 6’6”, SF, 1986, Team: CSKA (Russia), College: Arkansas

Weems has stepped up to fill the void left by Andrei Kirilenko as an all-around contributor. An outstanding athlete, Weems has vastly improved his understanding of the game during his time in the Euroleague.

3.    Jordan Farmar, 6’2”, PG, 1986, Team: Anadolu Efes (Turkey), College: UCLA

The two-time NBA champion, a former Laker, has fit in quite well in Europe with his consistent effort at both ends of the floor. His ability to get into the paint, combined with his activeness defensively, have allowed him to be one of the most effective players thus far in the Euroleague, averaging 19 pts (76.9% 3PT), 6.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists.

4.       Jaycee Carroll, 6’2, SG, 1983, Team: Real Madrid (Spain), College: Utah State

Carroll’s lack of strength probably prohibits him from being an NBA player, but his shooting makes him a deadly weapon in Euroleague competition. Carroll is constantly in motion offensively, and his ability to shoot off screens has caused many headaches for opposing coaching staffs throughout Europe.

Keith Langford

5.       Keith Langford, 6’4”, SG, 1983, Team: Armani Jeans Milano (Italy), College: Kansas

If Langford were two inches taller, his knack for getting buckets would make it hard for NBA teams to keep him on the bench. While Langford could be an effective bench scorer on a handful of NBA teams, every team in Europe has a player with his talents very high up on its wish list.

6.       Kyle Hines, 6’6”, PF/C, 1986, Team: Olympiacos (Greece), College: NC-Greensboro

Hines has worked his way through the ranks of Europe to become the best defender in the Euroleague. While he may be undersized as a PF/C, his non-stop motor, understanding of angles and active hands make him an important contributor on any team. Hines could be very effective in a 20-25 minute role for an NBA contender if given the opportunity.

7.       Shelden Williams, 6’9”, PF/C, 1983, Team: Chalon (France), College: Duke

After struggling initially to find his spots in his first season of European competition, Williams has proven to be a very efficient player who can be a big time producer, averaging 15.5 points and 9.8 rebounds. He may never live down being selected over Rudy Gay, but his basketball IQ on both ends of the floor make him a very effective player.

8.       Mike Batiste, 6’8”, PF, 1977, Team: Fenerbahce Ulker (Turkey), College: Arizona State

After spending the better part of the last decade with Dimitris Diamantitis in Panathinaikos, Batiste has become the best pick-and-roll big man in Europe. His numbers may not jump out on the stat sheet, but his contributions always seem to find a way into the win column.

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Euroleague Power Rankings – Week 2

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Two weeks deep, the Euroleague is sliced into thirds: there are the eight teams that haven’t lost a game, the eight teams that haven’t won a game, and the eight teams that have split the pair.

The two teams atop last week’s heap—Real Madrid and Olympiacos—couldn’t handle the pressure that came with the ranking and stumbled on the road.

Next in line at No. 3 was Fenerbahce Ulker, who gracefully eluded the Sheridan Hoops curse and beat Union Olimpija on the road.

But the curse still claimed two victims, however, as Fenerbahce had one starter sent to prison, and another hobble off the court with an ankle injury.

We’ll see if the Turks can hold the top spot for more than a week, but it won’t be easy: they’ve got a date with last week’s No.2, Real Madrid, this Thursday.

On to the rankings…

RANK TEAM THE RUNDOWN LAST
1

Fenerbahçe Ülker
(2-0)

LAST WEEK: Won 81-75 at Union Olimpija
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Real Madrid

Union Olimpija’s guards weren’t as successful keeping Bo McCalebb out of the lane as Slovenian border control was at keeping Romain Sato out of the country.  And while Romain Sato’s passport issues will be worth monitoring, the bigger question will be whether Fenerbahace will get McCalebb back for their game against Real Madrid, after the guard from New Orleans left in the second half with an ankle injury.
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CSKA Moscow(2-0)

LAST WEEK: Won 76-71 at Partizan in OT
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Bamberg

Ettore Messina is 2-0 after leaving the Lakers’ bench to return to Euroleague sidelines, but his wins have come narrowly against two of the EL’s youngest teams, Lietuvos Rytas and now Partizan—whom CSKA needed extra time to beat. Week Two MVP Sonny Weems had 30 points largely on isolation plays, but the Russians will be at their best when they start figuring out how to play off one another. Just nine assists in week two and the lowest assist-to-TO rate in the league (.59) means they’re not there yet.
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3 Regal Barcelona(2-0) LAST WEEK: Won 67-49 vs. Lietuvos Rytas
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Besiktas

Barcelona has silenced any theories about a diminished defensive presence this season after letting go of Fran Vazquez, Boni N’Dong, Kosta Perovic and Chuck Eidson: no team has allowed fewer threes (4.0), free throws made and allowed (5.5 and 9.0, respectively) or points per game (54.5; Zalgiris is a distant second at 66.5). CSKA Moscow is the only team in Group D that can put 70 on them.
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4 Real Madrid (1-1) LAST WEEK: Lost 86-85 at Khimki
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Fenerbahce Ulker

The right side of my brain saw Khimki’s bigs—Paul Davis, James Augustine and Kresimir Loncar—go 14-of-18 for 41 points and 16 boards as the Russians entered the fourth quarter up 14; the left side, however, remembers the creativity and vigor with which Jaycee Carroll and Rudy Fernandez helped the Spaniards briefly tie things up during a 30-point fourth quarter. Both sides remember that Sergio Llull was out.
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5 Olympiacos (1-1) LAST WEEK: Lost 98-72 at Anadolu Efes
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Zalgiris
Olympiacos hadn’t lost a game since March 23, and decided to blow that streak in style last week in Istanbul with a 26-point road failure. Olympaicos has given up a league worst 89.5 ppg in their first two and they almost let Jordan Farmar record the third EL triple double this millennium with 25 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists. (Nikola Vujcic, who played for the Reds between 2008-10, has the other two. If you don’t know Nikola, dig through YouTube. Sabonis Lite.)
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6 Maccabi Tel Aviv (2-0) LAST WEEK: Won 70-68 vs. Montepaschi Siena
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Elan Chalon
Ricky Hickman is getting into the paint, getting to the line and getting into his opponent’s shirt on D. Though slightly slighter in build, he’s been everything to David Blatt that Jeremy Pargo was in 2011 on a Maccabi team that made it to the Euroleague Final Four in Barcelona.
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7 Khimki Moscow (1-1) LAST WEEK: Won 86-85 vs. Real Madrid
THIS WEEK: Friday at Cantu

Much like Real Madrid’s loss, Khimki’s win this week poses a similar, albeit opposite, dilemma: how does one weigh three outstanding quarters and across-the-board contributions against one defensively inept period that nearly saw Khimki cough up an incredibly valuable victory? In the end, Zoran Planinic’s declaration that he’s a top Euroleague point guard and his potency when paired with a healthy Paul Davis has saved grace for that other Moscow team.
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8 Panathinaikos(1-1) LAST WEEK: Won 78-76 vs. Cantu
THIS WEEK: Friday at Union Olimpija

Sofoklis Schortsanitis’ 23-point Panathinaikos debut raised plenty of eyebrows. While some were raised in pure awe, a majority of those brows were soaked with skepticism: “Well, just don’t get used to that every week.” Big Sofo had something for the skeptics in week two: 19 points in just 18 minutes with more rebounds and fewer turnovers. And what’s more, the career 58.7 percent free throw chucker made 9-of-11 from the stripe.
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9 Zalgiris (2-0) LAST WEEK: Won 77-71 at Caja Laboral
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Olympiacos
I’ve called them old, slow and injury prone. Through two weeks, they’ve looked experienced, calculated and have achieved durability through depth. Defensively, only Barcelona has allowed fewer points (66.5 ppg); offensively, Zalgiris is in the top five for both field goal and free throw percentage and have seven players averaging between 8.5 and 13.5 points per game. (Paulius Jankunas has the slight edge over Marko Popovic’s 13.0 for the Zalgiris lead.) Now they’ll travel to Greece to face the recently defeated champs, Olympiacos. A win there would eliminate any doubt that Zalgiris should be taken seriously.
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10 Armani Milano (2-0) LAST WEEK: Won 83-71 at Cedevita Zagreb
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Caja Laboral
The apathetic slop we saw out of Milano last year seems to be a thing of the past, and a roster that seemed stale and disparate now looks more like a team that’s spent two offseasons learning one another’s tendencies. Seeing how Milano react to a hungry 0-2 Caja Laboral side at home will give us a better idea of how far Scariolo’s bunch has come since last season. We’ve known they can score, but can they scrap?
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11 Anadolu Efes (1-1) LAST WEEK: Won 98-72 vs. Olympiacos
THIS WEEK: Friday vs. Cedevita
In every level of basketball, having an elite point guard means having a chance to win each time out. So even if you’re playing the defending champs who haven’t lost in seven months, a 25-point, 8-rebound, 9-assist explosion out of Jordan Farmar is enough to get it done. Make 9-of-14 threes as a team and get to the line 32 times (making 21 of those) and the rout, apparently, is on. Now after toppling No. 1, they get to feast on No. 23.
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12 Besiktas (2-0) LAST WEEK: Won 86-71 at Bamberg
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Barcelona
On his third Euroleague team in as many years, ex-Baylor guard Curtis Jerrells is off to easily his best start with outbursts of 15 then 27 points for a Besiktas team that lost a majority of its scoring punch from last season when David Hawkins, Pops Mensah-Bonsu and Marcelus Kemp left. The issues in the past have come in the consistency department for Curtis, and he’s just days away from going against the Euroleague’s stingiest defense in Barcelona.
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13 Alba Berlin (2-0) LAST WEEK: Won 74-71 vs. Elan Chalon
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Asseco Prokom

Former UNC Tar Heel Deon Thompson had EL career highs in points (24) and rebounds (8) against Chalon. It’s exactly what the doctor ordered after another doctor ordered Nathan Peavy to sit out the entire season with a ruptured ACL.
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14 Unicaja (1-1) LAST WEEK: Won 77-75 at Asseco Prokom
THIS WEEK: Friday vs. Montepaschi Siena

The new pieces aren’t clicking exceptionally well—this is still Unicaja, after all—but at least their team photo is feng shui.
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15 Caja Laboral (0-2) LAST WEEK: Lost 77-71 vs. Zalgiris
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Milano

Getting Milko Bjelica helped, but not to the degree that losing Taylor Rochestie at the point hurt. Caja Laboral has size that can score in Andres Nocioni, Fernando San Emeterio, the Bjelica Boys (Nemanja and Milko–no relation) and Maciej Lampe. Without a show starter, however, it’ll become harder and harder for Caja Laboral to score as teams learn to double down and take away one-on-one scenarios.
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16 Montepaschi Siena (0-2) LAST WEEK: Lost 70-68 at Maccabi
THIS WEEK: Friday at Unicaja

Bounced back from Berlin blasting at home with a tamer, 2-point road loss against a contender. Still not convinced Bobby Brown deserves the role he’s been handed as a go-to scorer.
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17 Partizan (0-2) LAST WEEK: Lost 76-71 vs. CSKA Moscow in OT
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Lietuvos Rytas

At age 25, Andrey Vorontsevich and Milos Teodosic were the youngest CSKA players to see the floor against Partizan. Partizan’s oldest was Marko Cakarevic, who turns 25 next May. An overtime loss is nothing to be ashamed of.
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18 Cantú (0-2) LAST WEEK: Lost 78-76 at Panathinaikos
THIS WEEK: Friday vs. Khimki

Cantu’s 2012 side—complete with Vladimir Micov, Giorgi Shermadini and Gianluca Basile—made it a habit to win close games. Those who’ve replaced them—Jeff Brooks, Alex Tyus and Pietro Aradori—have been on the wrong end of those same nail biters. I still can’t see this team in the Top 16 over Khimki or Panathinaikos.
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19 Elan Chalon (1-1) LAST WEEK: Lost 74-71 at Alba Berlin
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Maccabi

If it seems like the French team leans a little too heavily on Steed Tchicamboud, it’s because they do; the French point guard has sat only 4:04 all season long.
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20 Union Olimpija (1-1) WEEK: Lost 81-75 vs. Fenerbahce Ulker
THIS WEEK: Friday vs. Panathinaikos

The glass slipper slipped right off against Fenerbahce, but the Slovenians’ execution was en pointe. If they can hit more shots against a Panathinaikos team that’s still finding itself offensively, a 2-1 record is not out of the question.
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21 Lietuvos Rytas (0-2) LAST WEEK: Lost 84-71 vs. Union Oimpija
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Panathinaikos

Opening the season against CSKA and Barcelona usually results in an 0-2 record, but this time it came with the Lithuanian bonus: one fired head coach, Aleksandar Dzikic. Loser of this week’s game against Partizan falls to 0-3, so Renaldas Seibutis will be pushing his troops as hard as ever.
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22 Bamberg (0-2) LAST WEEK: Lost 86-71 vs. Besiktas
THIS WEEK: Thursday at CSKA Moscow

Not once did Anton Gavel shoot the ball more than 10 times last season in an EL game, but he’s put up 11 and 12 in Bamberg’s first two games, respectively. While Gavel’s an unlikely leading scorer, who else would you have create? Casey Jacobsen and Bostjan Nachbar are solid veteran assets, but outside of Gavel and maybe Teddy Gipson, nobody on this team can create his own shot.
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23 Asseco Prokom  (0-2) LAST WEEK: Lost 77-75 vs. Unicaja Malaga
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Alba Berlin

Asseco Prokom excavates themselves from the bottom spot thanks to a Euroleague high 39 assists through two games and another forceful performance up top from Lukasz Koszarek, who notched 16 points and 8 assists for the Poles against Unicaja.
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24 Cedevita Zagreb
 (0-2)
LAST WEEK: Lost 83-71 vs. Milano
THIS WEEK: Friday at Anadolu Efes

Another huge game out of Mickael Gelabale + Another slightly-less-huge game from Bracey Wright = Another huge Cedevita loss. The fact that they were down just three to Milano entering the fourth quarter makes the box score blowout hurt even worse.
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Nick Gibson, editor of EuroleagueAdventures.com, covers Euroleague and other international basketball developments for SheridanHoops.com. His Euroleague Power Rankings come out every Monday. Click here to follow him on Twitter.

Gibson’s Euroleague Power Rankings

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Last season in Europe, Besiktas was making headlines for their courtship, acquisition and eventual enshrinement of Deron Williams, Zalgiris was up to their ears in Ty Lawson complaints, Alba Berlin was kicking around Nowitzki talk and Union Olimpija was riding Danny Green to an ice cold start of a season that would finish even colder with a 1-9 record.

Subtract all the lockout hoopla, add a year and what do you have?

Four of the Euroleague’s unlikeliest group leaders.  Thanks to 1-0 records and favorable point differentials, those four teams have another 24 hours to lean over the rail and enjoy the view from the top before the perennial powers start charging.

So let’s run down the Euroleague Power Rankings after one week of play. Look for these on Monday mornings, every week, starting next week.

RANK TEAM THE RUNDOWN LAST
1

Olympiacos (1-0)

LAST WEEK: Won 85-81 at Caja Laboral
THIS WEEK: Friday at Anadolu Efes

There are 11 players on the Reds’ roster that haven’t lost a Euroleague game since March 23, so don’t look for a repeat of yesteryear’s 1-3 start.  Even under new head coach George Bartzokas, there’s not a team on this list whose players understand their responsibilities better than Olympiacos.  Having veteran leaders who double as stars, like Vassilis Spanoulis and Georgios Printezis, sure helps.
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2

Real Madrid(1-0)

LAST WEEK: Won 85-78 vs. Panathinaikos
THIS WEEK: Friday at Khimki
Bulls’ 2011 draft pick Nikola Mirotic is looking less and less like a mere Rising Star winner turned Euroleague MVP candidate; you get that once-in-a-decade feel when you watch him. Throw Mirotic on the floor with the playmaking Sergios (Rodriguez and Llull), shooters like Rudy Fernandez and Jaycee Carroll and a physical center like offseason acquisition Marcus Slaughter, and Madrid’s nearly impossible to plan for.
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3 Fenerbahçe Ülker (1-0) LAST WEEK: Won 92-80 vs. Khimki
THIS WEEK: Friday
 at Union Olimpija
So far, so good in Istanbul as Bo McCalebb, Romain Sato, Mike Batiste and David Andersen won their respective Euroleague debuts with Fenerbahce.  But the catalyst for the Turks’ crisp win over Khimki was Emir Preldzic, who had his best performance as a Euroleaguer and took home Weekly MVP honors with 4 boards, 3 assists, 2 steals and a ridiculously efficient 20 points on just six shots.
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4 CSKA Moscow (1-0) LAST WEEK: Won 75-73 vs. Lietuvos Rytas
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Partizan
Sonny Weems took a couple quarters to get his feet wet and Russiafied, but his fourth quarter offense is ultimately what put Rytas away in the end. There are only several, heavily guarded, airtight passages into Ettore Messina’s heart.  Late game reliability is a surefire way to crack one of them open.
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5 Regal Barcelona (1-0) LAST WEEK: Won 72-60 vs. Bamberg
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Lietuvos Rytas
Dumping a trio of defensive big men – Boniface N’Dong, Kosta Perovic and former Magic lottery pick Fran Vazquez – is an interesting offseason strategy after holding opponents to an all-time Euroleague low 62.1 points per game last season. In the opener against an A.J. Ogilvy-less Bamberg, Ante Tomic and Nathan Jawai gave me no reason to expect anything more than spurty offense and porous pick and roll defense out of Barcelona’s newest bigs.
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6 Maccabi Tel Aviv (1-0) LAST WEEK: Won 85-80 at Unicaja
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Montepaschi Siena
As strange as it sounds to say out loud, 27-year-old Lior Eliyahu is a veteran now. He played like it against Unicaja (15 and 5 with 3 steals), who had no answer for his length defensively. Last year, David Blatt handed the keys over to Jordan Farmar and then Yogev Ohayon; this season, he’s made copies for Ricky Hickman and David Logan. Blatt trusting his new pieces with such big roles early is a great sign for Maccabi. Those two performing well off the bat is even more heartening.
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7 Armani Milano (1-0) LAST WEEK: Won 80-75 vs. Anadolu Efes
THIS WEEK: Friday at Cedevita Zagreb
Ioannis Bourousis is good for several jaw-droppingly economical stat lines per season, and he made strides toward his quota in week one, making 6-of-8 from inside the arc, draining both of his threes and pulling down seven rebounds with a block and a steal. The most shocking (and encouraging) number from this game has to be Malik Hairston’s eight assists.  Dimes like that make those 3-of-11 nights go down more smoothly.
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8 Caja Laboral(0-1) LAST WEEK: Lost 85-81 at Olympiacos
THIS WEEK: Friday vs. Zalgiris
Contrary to the vividly disappointing memories of most Knick and Sun fans, Maciej Lampe is a very talented center, and one of Europea’s best — when he’s healthy.  He appeared to be fit in Baskonia’s opener, pouring in 18 and 3 in just 22 minutes against the defending EL champs.  This week, he’ll receive reinforcements in the form of Serbian big Milko Bjelica who’s back from a foot injury.
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9 Alba Berlin (1-0) LAST WEEK: Won 92-82 at Montepaschi Siena
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Elan Chalon
Scoring 92 points against Siena in Siena is a Hell of an accomplishment, and I don’t care who’s dressed out for the home team.  Dashaun Wood, Nihad DJedovic and Vule Avdalovic presented their case as a legitimate Euroleague backcourt, and should do so again this week against Elan Chalon. Berlin’s problems this season will start in the paint.
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10 Panathinaikos (0-1) LAST WEEK: Lost 85-78 to Real Madrid
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Cantú
Folks worried about Sofoklis Schortsanitis’ production with Panathinaikos can take a breath, at least for now. Big Sofo was perfect in his debut, going 9-of-9 with six rebounds.  The area of concern for the Greek giants will be perimeter scoring, as the combo of Roko Ukic, Derwin Kitchen and Michael Bramos isn’t the most intimidating arsenal to stash in Dimitris Diamantidis’ shadow.
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11 Unicaja (1-1) LAST WEEK: Lost 85-80 vs. Maccabi
THIS WEEK: Won 77-75 at Asseco Prokom
One week after going for 25 against Maccabi, former Indiana Hoosier Earl Calloway scored just 8 and was far too loose with the ball late, turning it over twice in the final minutes and jeopardizing what should have been an easier win.  This time around, it was Unicaja’s other point guard – NBA journeyman and UConn alum Marcus Williams – who snuck Malaga past a woefully bad Asseco Prokom side Wednesday afternoon in the week’s only early game.  But hey: a road win’s a road win.
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12 Zalgiris (1-0) LAST WEEK: Won 90-62 vs. Cedevita Zagreb
THIS WEEK: Friday at Caja Laboral
Since his playing career began in 2005, point guard Mantas Kalnietis has played for–and only for –Zalgiris Kaunas. After signing a three-year deal with Lokomotiv Kuban this offseason, he was eerily absent from Zalgiris’ opener against Cedevita Zagreb. If this team’s current roster is any indication, however, Mantas could be back to close his career in Kaunas. Darjus Lavrinovic, Ksistof Lavrinovic and Rimantas Kaukenas are all Lithuanian 30-somethings that are back with Zalgiris after spending a majority of their careers outside their native Lithuania. The old dudes played well enough to dominate in the opener.
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13 Khimki Moscow (0-1) LAST WEEK: Lost 92-80 at Fenerbahce Ulker
THIS WEEK: Friday vs. Real Madrid
With Andrei Kirilenko freezing his already frosted tips off in Minnesota, it looks like Zoran Planinic is the Moscow Euroleaguer (Andrei played for CSKA) most likely to take aim at a triple double. A member of the Nets way back when they played in New Jersey, Zoran put up 17 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds in a tough road loss against a motivated Fenerbahce Ulker club. Getting Paul Davis back will be huge, but we don’t know when that will be.
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14 Union Olimpija (1-0) LAST WEEK: Won 84-71 at Cantu
THIS WEEK: Friday vs. Fenerbahce Ulker
With an entire team budget of around one million Euros and eight players born in the 1990s, Union Olimpija wasn’t supposed to waltz into Cantu–one of the zanier atmospheres in 2011-12–and bite off a 13-point win. But they did, and now find themselves in unfamiliar territory: atop Group A, peering down at powerhouses like Real Madrid, Panathinaikos and Fenerbahce, who all spent a dozen times more than the little guys from Slovenia.
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15 Besiktas (1-0) LAST WEEK: Won 81-65 vs. Partizan
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Bamberg
Former Cal Bear Patrick Christopher looked every bit the sharpshooter Besiktas needed him to be against Partizan, hitting 5-of-6 from distance to hold the EL’s youngest team at bay.  Despite the team win, however, Vladimir Dasic’s sloppy performance (2 points, 4 turnovers in 14 minutes) has to be among the opening week’s most disappointing. Vlad needs to get his mind right and start attacking if he wants to keep Besiktas perfect. Bamberg’s “Freak City” won’t be so welcoming.
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16 Elan Chalon (1-0) LAST WEEK: Won 81-74 vs. Asseco Prokom
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Alba Berlin
It was hard for me to put much stock into a win versus these rankings’ caboose, Asseco Prokom. But given the historically dreadful regular season performances of French teams in the Euroleague they, nor I, reserve any right to be picky. The sooner Missouri’s Marcus Denmon gets back (five weeks from now, reportedly), the sooner we’ll know what this finished product looks like.
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17 Lietuvos Rytas (0-1) LAST WEEK: Lost 75-73 at CSKA Moscow
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Barcelona
Renaldas Seibutis is as important a player to his team as you’ll find in the EL, and if he can share the perimeter with a guard who holds onto the ball and defends consistently, Lietuvos Rytas has the wherewithal to hang around with anyone, much as they did against CSKA. Can Nemanja Nedovic be that guard? What I heard in week one against Milos Teodosic and the Euroleague runners-up was a resounding ‘Yes.’
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18 Anadolu Efes (0-1) LAST WEEK: Lost 80-75 at Milano
THIS WEEK: Friday vs. Olympiacos
The front court foursome of Semih Erden, Dusko Savanovic, Kerem Gonlum and Stanko Barac was supposed to have trouble staying with more athletic big men on defense. But in week one, problems arose on offense, namely in the ball security department: those four big men combined for 12 of Efes’ 19 turnovers.
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19 Montepaschi Siena (0-1) LAST WEEK: Lost 92-82 vs. Alba Berlin
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Maccabi
The Luca Banchi Era in Siena got underway with an embarrassing home loss to a Berlin team that’s flawed on the interior. There’s no way that Viktor Sanikidze and Benjamin Eze can replace the departed offense of Olympians Ksistof Lavrinovic (Lithuania) and David Andersen (Australia), so they might as well abandon pursuit and figure out how to close off those easy lanes to the bucket on defense.
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20 Bamberg (0-1) LAST WEEK: Lost 72-60 at Barcelona 
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Besiktas
Whether it’s Kyle Hines in 2011 or Marcus Slaughter last season, Bamberg has made it a habit of storming their way through Germany’s BBL on the backs of undersized centers. Then, after coveting A.J. Ogilvy last summer, Bamberg got their hands on the 6-foot-11, 24-year-old Aussie who played at Vanderbilt until 2010. But Bamberg was back to scrapping underneath the boards as Ogilvy missed his new team’s game in Barcelona due to injury, and the hosts out rebounded the Germans 41 to 29. That needs fixin’.
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21 Cantú (0-1) LAST WEEK: Lost 84-71 vs. Union Oimpija
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Panathinaikos
Last season’s underdog gave way to a new feel good story, as Pietro Aradori’s 18 and 8 remarkably weren’t even enough to keep this deficit in the single digits against Union Olimpija’s band of misfits. We’re used to witnessing magic in the Pala Desio, but not the kind that makes the home crowd fret.
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22 Partizan (0-1) LAST WEEK: Lost 81-65 at Besiktas
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. CSKA Moscow
One of the world’s finest manipulators of undeveloped talent, Dusko Vujosevic, is back on Partizan’s bench to mold the Euroleague’s youngest roster into a contender. The largest chasm on the week one scoresheet belonged to Spurs 2011 draft pick Davis Bertans, who registered a steal, missed a shot and committed three fouls in nearly 10 minutes on the court. Partizan could seriously use his shooting. Or, you know, anything.
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23 Cedevita Zagreb (0-1) LAST WEEK: Lost 90-62 at Zalgiris
THIS WEEK: Friday vs. Milano
Cedevita lost by 28 points to a team that I don’t think will advance. They will clearly need more than just a chunk of points a piece from Bracey Wright and Mickael Gelabale if they want to rescue themselves from the cellar.
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24 Asseco Prokom (0-2) LAST WEEK: Lost 81-74 at Elan Chalon
THIS WEEK: Lost 77-75 vs. Unicaja
Asseco Prokom is worth watching for Mateusz Ponitka, the 19-year-old shooting guard who impressed important eyes at the 2011 Nike Hoop Summit. Ponitka has averaged 11 points in around 20 minutes per game, and a glance up and down Prokom’s roster gives reason to believe that Mateusz’s role will expand rather than wither.
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