By: Nick Gibson and Sam Meyerkopf / @euro_adventures
You know what we’ve got here? A strange day of games. That’s what. Three of Europe’s most historically dominant franchises—CSKA Moscow, Panathinaikos and Caja Laboral—and another perennial Euroleague member, Anadolu Efes, matched up with some relative newcomers. Brose Baskets is the old fogey of the lot, having participated now in two straight EL campaigns, while the other three were not with us last season. Zagreb knocked Cibona out of the Croatian champions’ slot, Spirou gained entry via the qualifying round and Cantu made it to the Italian finals, good enough for a spot with the big boys.
Will the neophytes put up a…fight? Or will their elders bend them over their collective knee and give ’em a whooping? Here’s what we’re thinking.
1. CSKA Moscow vs. Brose Baskets: While most folks can’t wait to get a second glimpse of Andrei Kirilenko in Euroleague action (and with a 37 RKG last week, rightfully so), I’ve got my eyes zeroed in on Aleksey Shved’s sensational ‘stache. His facial hair alone is skyrocketing toward cult hero status. With good reason. CSKA Moscow by 16.
2. KK Zagreb vs. Panathinaikos: Derrick Rose or no Derrick Rose, Zagreb doesn’t stand a chance. I’m feeling good about Steven Smith today. Don’t know why. Just am. Panathinaikos by 13.
3. Anadolu Efes vs. Belgacom Spirou: Andre Riddick is a beastly, bespectacled force on defense, but shutting down Stanko Barac, Esteban Batista and Dusko Savanovic simply can’t be done. Look for Tornike Shengaila to continue improving for Spirou, but for Sasha Vujacic to drop a 20 spot and get the win at home. Anadolu Efes by 11.
4. Caja Laboral vs. Bennet Cantu: Caja continues to have issues with point guard depth, but they’ve got enough firepower with their forwards to get it done against a go-to-guy-less Cantu side. Look for a marked improvement from Reggie Williams as he gradually earns Dusko Ivanovic’s trust. Caja Laboral by 14.
5. Called It: Aleks Maric shows us shades of his 2010 brilliance and leads all of the day’s players in RKG.
1. CSKA Moscow vs. Brose Baskets: Brose Baskets Bamberg is coming off an absolute lashing of KK Zagreb last week and young big Tibor Pliess is blossoming into a solid player right before our eyes. It’ll all combine for just enough to lose to CSKA Moscow by only 5; CSKA is too good right now. CSKA Moscow by 5.
2. KK Zagreb vs. Panathinaikos: Zagreb lost by 31 points last week and Panathinaikos won by 22. I don’t think the margin of victory will be 53, but this Panathinaikos team has some offensive talent that can score with Europe’s best. Panathinaikos by 17.
3. Anadolu Efes vs. Belgacom Spirou: This is a big comeback game for the interior combo of Esteban Batista and Stanko Barac, who will finally look settled in their new home. Demond Mallet will have to get close to 40 for Spirou to take this one. Anadolu Efes by 8.
4. Caja Laboral vs. Bennet Cantu: Caja has been un-Caja-tastic so far, but with Mirza Teletovic finally showing his potential as not only a shooter but a dynamic post threat, I can’t pick against him. Caja Laboral by 3.
5. Called It: To continue off of my last prediction, Teletovic gets 30 plus points tonight. It’s a Good Mirza outing.