Will Fenerbahce Win EuroLeague?

by Taylor Smith
on February 22, 2019
6

Minute Read

The second half of the 2018-19 NBA season is underway. While most of the basketball-viewing public will spend their time watching the NBA or the NCAA tournament over the next few weeks, we shouldn’t forget about Europe’s most prestigious basketball competition. EuroLeague, the 16-team competition between the top clubs from all over Europe, is also rolling right along.

As of this writing, each of the 16 teams in the competition has played at least 22 games. To this point, the best team in the league has been Fenerbahce, the massive club out of Turkey. Fenerbahce have gone 19-3 through 22 games, while CSKA Moscow (out of Russia, obviously) are sitting in second place at 18-5. Real Madrid (17-5), Anadolu Efes Istanbul (14-8) and FC Barcelona (13-9) round out the top-5.

Will Fenerbahce go on to win EuroLeague for the second time? Will Real Madrid claim their second consecutive title? Or will a new champion emerge?

Betting Odds and Final Four

Obviously, nowadays you can bet on just about anything. EuroLeague is no exception. Betfair has fresh odds posted regarding which team will win the league this season. The updated odds are as follows:

  • Fenerbahce +230
  • CSKA Moscow +250
  • Real Madrid +350
  • Efes Istanbul +1200
  • FC Barcelona +1400
  • Olympiakos +2000
  • Saski Baskonia +2500
  • Armani Milano +3000
  • FC Bayern Munich +3300
  • Maccabi Tel Aviv +4000
  • Panathinaikos +5000
  • Khimki +6600
  • Zalgiris Kaunas +10000
  • Gran Canaria +12000
  • Buducnost +15000
  • Darussafaka N/A

Unlike European soccer, which usually crowns the team atop the standings at the end of the season as champions, EuroLeague follows a more traditional playoff format, like we see with our pro sports in the United States. At the end of the season, the 8 best records advance to the playoff rounds.

The first round of the playoff features a best-of-5 format, meaning whichever team gets to 3 wins first in their head-to-head series will advance to the next round. Last year, all 4 playoff series lasted just 4 games.

Following the first round, the last 4 teams will play in the Final Four, which is hosted in one city, just like we see in America with the college basketball Final Four.

Last year’s Final Four, which took place in Belgrade, featured Real Madrid, Fenerbahce, Zalgiris and CSKA Moscow. Real got past CSKA Moscow in the first semifinal, whileh Fenerbahce picked up a 76-67 win at the expense of Zalgiris in the other semi. Zalgiris got the better of the Russian side in the third-place game before Real Madrid picked up a 5-point victory over Fenerbahce in the final.

If the season were to end today, the 2019 EuroLeague postseason would feature 3 of last year’s Final Four participants with Zalgiris being the only team on the outside looking in. The other 5 playoff teams would be Efes Istanbul, FC Barcelona, Olympiakos, Baskonia and Armani Milano.

Teams on the Fringe

Based on the standings, Armani Milano look like they will wind up being the first team out of the playoffs. Milan has gone 11-11 through 22 games, which is the same record as eighth-place Bayern Munich. However, the German side currently own the tiebreaker over their Italian counterparts.

Time is running out for those near the bottom of the table. The regular season lasts just 30 games, so one of the teams have already been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. That would be Darussafaka Tekfen, who have gone just 3-19 through 22 matches. The clock is also ticking on Gran Canaria (6-16) and Buducnost (6-16). Both of those clubs will have to stage dramatic surges just to sneak into the bottom half of the playoff table. At this point, I think we can safely write each of them off, as well.

Zalgiris are slightly better at 8-14, but the disappointing campaign continues for one of last year’s Final Four participants. At this point, it’s looking like last year’s performance was an anomaly more than anything else. The Lithuanian side went 22-14 overall last season, but that performance followed a 14-16 record the year before and a 7-17 mark 2 seasons prior.

If any team near the bottom of the table is capable of making a push in the season’s latter stages it’s Zalgiris, but at this point they may have dug themselves into too deep a hole. I’d pass easily on Zalgiris winning the league this season at +10000.

The gaggle of teams battling it in the middle of the table is difficult to parse from a betting perspective. Bayern, Baskonia, Olympiakos, Armani Milano and Maccabi Tel Aviv are 5 teams that will likely be left to battle it out for 3 playoff spots.

The odds seem to favor Olympiakos, Baskonia and Armani Milano, though not by much. Bayern have been in up-and-down form of late, with a crucial setback against Baskonia in their most recent outing. The Bundesliga outfit doesn’t have a particularly decorated history when it comes to succeeding in Europe’s top competition, and they are noticeably lacking in talent compared to some of Europe’s other big sides.

I don’t feel overly bullish about Bayern’s chances of making the playoffs, let alone their odds of actually coming out of nowhere to win the title. At this point, it feels safe to write off 4 of the teams. The lone fringe playoff outfit that looks like a potential title sleeper could be Maccabi Tel Aviv.

There are a number of quality NBA-caliber players on the roster, and the Israeli side looks to be in fine form as the season enters its final stretch. Tel Aviv has won 5 of its last 6 games overall, with the lone defeat coming a couple of weeks ago at the hands of Baskonia. The upcoming schedule features some key head-to-head fixtures against fellow playoff hopefuls, but there are also some very winnable games against bad teams like Gran Canaria, Zalgiris and Darussafaka coming up.

If you want a playoff sleeper, Maccabi Tel Aviv look interesting at +4000 to win EuroLeague this season.

True Contenders

Real Madrid are the most well-known soccer team on the planet, but they are also arguably the most prolific basketball club in the world outside of the United States. Real have won EuroLeague a total of 10 times, which is more than any other side. The Spanish giants have advanced to the Final Four in 5 of the last 6 seasons, and they have won 2 of the last 4 titles, including last year’s.

While Real are currently sitting second in the table behind Fenerbahce, it’s fair to wonder whether the side will be able to make up for the loss of Luka Doncic. Doncic, last season’s EuroLeague MVP, has since moved on to the NBA. The 19-year-old was the best player in all of Europe last season, so his departure obviously leaves quite a hole in the Real Madrid lineup.

Trey Thompkins has taken over the scoring lead for Real, but it’s a largely balanced effort. The side does get a boost with Sergio Llull and Ognjen Kuzmic back after suffering injuries last season, but I’m skeptical that they are capable of winning it all again without a real Doncic replacement having been found.

CSKA Moscow have won EuroLeague 7 times in their history, so they aren’t too far behind Real Madrid as far as historical prestige goes. The Russian team has comparable point guard play to Real with veteran Sergio Rodriguez leading the charge, while former San Antonio Spur Nando de Colo continues to light the league on fire offensively.

Real Madrid and CSKA Moscow make for comparable betting options, but I prefer the Russian outfit at +250 slightly over Real at +350. The questions regarding Doncic’s replacement are too pressing for me to ignore.The favorites, as expected, are Fenerbahce. The Turkish side came 5 points short of their goal last season at the hands of Real, but they have come out this season and proven that they’re the team to beat in Europe’s top competition. The roster includes a bunch of familiar NBA names like Jan Vesely, Luigi Datome, Joffrey Lauvergne and Tyler Ennis. Vesely currently leads the team with averages of 14.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.

Of course, looking dominant during the regular season doesn’t necessarily lead to playoff success. Still, the regular season is all we have to go on at this point, so Fenerbahce looks like a pretty strong betting option here at +230 to take home their second EuroLeague crown. Neither of the past 2 EuroLeague champs had home court advantage in the playoffs, but that kind of noisy stat doesn’t sway me from believing Fenerbahce are justifiable title favorites.

My Favorite Betting Values to Win the 2019 EuroLeague Are as Follows:

  • Fenerbahce +230
  • CSKA Moscow +250
  • Real Madrid +350
  • Maccabi Tel Aviv +4000
  • FC Barcelona +1400
  • Efes Istanbul +1200
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