By: Slam / @Euro_Adventures
Since the Top 16 teams from the regular season get to advance to the next round, why can’t the Bottom 8 get their own tournament. ELA will have to step in and create our own “Bottom 8” Bracket for all teams that didn’t advance to the Top 16. The better team in each group will receive home court, Group A will play B and Group C will play D in a one game series for each round.
BC Khimki (4-6) vs. Asseco Prokom (2-8)
BC Khimki very well may be the best team that didn’t make the Top 16. Keith Langford will finish with the Regular Season scoring title and take home his Alphonso Ford Trophy in May (correctly predicted by Slam). Khimki didn’t win a single road game in their Euroleague campaign this year but they didn’t also lose any game by more than 8 points. Khimki led the Euroleague in 3’s made (Thanks Monya, Lopez, and Fridzon) but at times they relied too heavily on outside shooting and Keith Langford to score 20 every time out. But in order to make a championship run in the Bottom 8, Langford might have to be Tourney MVP
Asseco was one of the most impressive offensive teams last year, faltered badly this year. Qyntal Woods was an All-Euroleague type forward and David Logan scored at will from the guard spot last season. Their replacements JR Giddens and Bobby Brown didn’t have the same chemistry or results. Giddens best game of the season was a double-double in the season opener that ended up being more of a one hit wonder than a recurring theme, while Brown’s 10 points a game were cut from the team after Week 6. By the end of the regular season Asseco finished 21 out of 24 teams in scoring and that’s only because tough nosed big man Ratko Vardo was finishing at will in the paint. If Asseco can find out where Qyntel is playing and fly him back for the game, they might have a chance.
Asseco hasn’t shown they can play together all season and they always fold late in games
Winner: BC Khimki
Brose Baskets (4-6) vs. Spirou Charleroi (3-7)
Brose had 2 separate 2 game winning streaks and a 5 game losing skid make up this record. Brose was led offensively by 2 Americans (Kyle Hines and Brian Roberts) who made up one of the best scoring duos in Europe. Offensively these 2 carried Brose on most nights, but the team as a whole was widely inconsistent. They beat group winner Olympiacos by 12 but lost to group bottom dweller Spirou by 14. They beat Unicaja on the road but couldn’t take care of business at home. If they have any hope of advancing in the next round Kyle Hines needs to regain his MVP like performances in the first few weeks of the season
Starting the season with a 4 game losing streak isn’t the best way to introduce yourself to the Euroleague. Spirou wasn’t prepared to step on the court at the beginning of the season, but they improved as play went along. They were never a real threat to contend for the Top 16 and a 67-49 victory over Spanish power Real Madrid was their high water mark of the season. Demond Mallet led the team in both scoring and assists, meaning he always had the ball in his hand and not many other people could score. The team lived and died with Mallet who scored over 20 twice, leading to 2 of their 3 wins. Demond Mallet needs to have 40 for them to win.
Spirou has only 1 less win than Brose, but they are not nearly as good or balanced.
Winner: Brose Baskets
Cholet Basket (4-6) vs. Cibona (0-10)
Cholet finished tied with Lietuvos Rytas for 4th place in the group, but with Rytas winning out in point differential when these 2 teams played, Cholet will have to watch the Top 16 from home. If it makes Cholet feel any better they will be the #1 seed in the Bottom Eight Bracket for getting the closest to the Top 16.. Half way through the regular season Cholet was 3-2 (tied with Barcelona) and looked like they would have smooth sailings to the next round. Cholet’s strength was in their rebounding (Top 3 in Euroleague) and Sammy Meija’s 15 points a game. What they lacked was outside shooting (Bottom 3 in 3 point %) and ability to put up points on the road where they averaged 66 a game. Cholet lost 3 of their last 4 (all of the road) and got blown out by 32 points at Fenerbahce Ulker in a game that would of clinched a Top 16 spot. Cholet was an absolute choke artist down the stretch and it remains to be seen who will be the team leader for this struggling squad.
Cibona finished with the worst possible record you could have. They averaged 66 points a game and gave up 84. The closest they came to a win was a 5 point home lose to Fenerbahce Ulker and besides that they gotten killed in every other game. The biggest bright spots on this season were that Cibona has 2 of the best young players on the continent. At 21 Bojan Bogdanovic finished 2nd in the league in scoring at 18 a game and 20 year old Leon Radosevic finished 12th in the league in ranking while putting up 13 points and 6 rebounds a game. As long as these 2 promising young stars don’t get transferred away (which they probably will) from cash strapped Cibona, the future could look a whole lot brighter than 0-10 would seem. Cibona would be a great underdog story here but Bojan put in 28 last week and they still lost by 17, they just can’t win games.
Bojan Bogdanovic can take as many shots as he wants but Cibona just doesn’t have enough parts to stay with really any team in the EL.
Winner: Cholet Basket
Armani Jeans Milano (4-6) vs. CSKA Moscow (3-7)
Going into the season finale with Panathinaikos, Milano needed a win and a little bit of help from Union Olimija to advance to the Top 16. Those hopes and dreams came crashing down when AJ went into Athens and got spanked by 31 points. Milano is the challenger to BC Khimki for “Best Team in the Bottom 8” and Oleksiy Pecherov could of challenged Keith Langford for the scoring title. After pouring in 23 points in the season opener Pecherov was injured until Week 9 and 10 where he put up performances that made him look like he was still hurting. Milano still had 3 guards (Finley, Jaaber, Hawkins) that all averaged over 10 a game and formed one of the best backcourts in the EL. These guards powered Milano so close to the Top 16 but without a healthy Pecherov and with the worst rebounding frontcourt in the EL, it was not enough to advance. This is the 2nd year in a row Milano has finished 1 game out of the Top 16 and they need to find clutch play somewhere.
CSKA was picked both Freaknick and I to make it to the Final Four and landing in the Bottom 8 didn’t seem like a possibility. CSKA had early struggles last season, but they finished so strong with the emergence of Sasha Kaun as one of the young best bigs in the game. Injuries derailed this season with Kaun, Victor Kryhapa and Ramunas Siskauskas all missing major time. They finished semi-strong by winning 2 of their last 3 games and Jamont Gordon looked like the type of guy who can be a contenders leading scorer. With a short tournament and by far the best talent in this bracket, CSKA may have one last Bottom 8 run in the.
Siskauskas, Trajan Langdon, and JR Holden have a ton of veteran experience but Moscow would have no answer for Jaaber and Finley running at them full speed all game.
Winner: Armani Jeans Milano
BC Khimki vs. Brose Baskets
Khimki doesn’t really have an option for defending Kyle Hines but Brose doesn’t have an option for defending anyone. Khimki is a much better shooting team and if Brose doesn’t play to physical then Khimki should slide by safely. Brose is a tough team on the road by Khimki has only lost 1 game(Maccabi Electra) all season on their home court.
Winner: BC Khimki
Cholet Basket vs. Armani Jeans Milano
These teams are fairly evenly matched with Milano being the more consistent of the 2. The difference is Milano has a little bit more depth in their bench and way more Euroleague experience. Sammy Meija will have to many different guards thrown at him defensively to carry Cholet any farther.
Winner: Armani Jeans Milano
BC Khimki vs. Armani Jeans Milano
These are pretty close to the 2 best teams not to make the Top 16 and if they were in other groups, maybe they would have advanced. Keith Langford is the heart and soul of Khimki but he needs to have a superb game every time out if they are to win. If Oleksiy Pechorov is back to his healthy self by game time then we have an entirely different Milano team. Their guards are spectacular but more depth is need in the paint and Pechorov can snag boards while staying at the top of the team in scoring. Milano had the least amount of turnovers of anyone in the EL, giving them the advantage when having to make plays late in the game. With some clutch play making and key decision making AJ Milano takes home the first Bottom 8 Crown.
Bottom 8 Winner: Armani Jeans Milano