Battle for Top 8: which teams will make the cut?

2022-03-22 11:47
Credit: Imago-Scanpix, Tolga Adanali/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images, BNS
Credit Imago-Scanpix, Tolga Adanali/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images, BNS

Turkish Airlines EuroLeague playoffs will tip-off in less than a month, and with few regular-season games left, the battle for Top 8 gets more and more intense with every day.

BasketNews had a look at the current situation in the standings and observed which teams have the best chance to secure a place in the playoffs.

Current standings

5 Anadolu Efes 23 13 10 9 1 +1 + - - + + 56.5
6 Bayern Munich 22 12 10 8 5 -1 - + - + + 54.6
7 Maccabi Tel Aviv 22 11 11 8 2 -1 - + - - + 50
8 AS Monaco 24 11 13 6 5 +1 + - + - + 45.8
9 Crvena Zvezda 24 11 13 9 4 -1 - + + + + 45.8
10 ALBA Berlin 22 9 13 6 5 -1 - + + + - 40.9
11 Fenerbahce Istanbul 22 9 13 8 3 -3 - - - + + 40.9
12 Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz 25 10 15 7 5 +3 + + + - - 40

Anadolu Efes Istanbul (13-10)

Their case is not very hard to predict. They are a clear lock-in for the 5th place. Due to their favorable schedule, they won't let others to steal the 5th place.

However, they are 3 games behind against AX Armani Exchange Milan for 4th place, which is a hard gap to be closed. Efes could win 3 out of the remaining five games, including the one against Milan, but Armani Exchange also have a couple of home games and finishing their schedule against ASVEL in Lyon.

FC Bayern Munich (12-10)

The German side has been probably one of the unluckiest teams this season. Due to Covid and injuries, they were often forced to play in a state of emergency.

Despite all these issues, Bayern remained in the playoff picture, currently standing in 6th place in the table. They have one of the most efficient offenses in the EuroLeague, they take care of the ball well, and they shoot with good percentages from the 3-point zone.

Andrea Trinchieri, once again, is doing a tremendous job with this group of players, and they'd definitely deserve a spot in the playoffs. Their schedule, though, is not an easy one.

Except for the upcoming game against Panathinaikos, all the other matches from now until the end of the season are quite difficult. They'll play on the road against Fenerbahce, Efes, Armani Exchange, and Real Madrid. The only one game at home will be against Crvena Zvezda.

With this type of schedule, there'll be very limited room for mistakes, and teams behind them might recover some ground. The current Covid situation inside the team doesn't help at all.

Coach Trinchieri and his guys need to get at least a couple of wins on the road if they want to secure a spot in the playoffs. It's not going to be easy.

Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv (11-11)

The Israeli powerhouse benefited the most from the suspension of Russian clubs. They're in the playoff picture mostly because of that reason.

But their shaky performances leave some serious doubts about their ability to stay in the playoff area until the end of the season. Their defense remains one of the worst in the EuroLeague, and offensively they keep relying way too much on Scottie Wilbekin's talent and Ante Zizic's interior presence.

The decision to part ways with coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos hasn't exactly paid great dividends so far. Maccabi lost three of their last five games, and now they'll host Armani Exchange Milan in the upcoming game.

They'll also face Real Madrid at home, Barcelona away, and Fenerbahce at home. The two most winnable remaining games are the ones against ASVEL and Panathinaikos, but the rest of the schedule is tough. Of all the teams that are fighting for a playoff spot, Maccabi is the one that looks the most questionable.

AS Monaco (11-13)

Of the last three teams in the playoff picture as of right now, Monaco is probably the one with the best odds to clinch a spot in the postseason.

The principality club is in pretty good shape. Since the arrival of coach Obradovic, they have produced one of the best offenses in the competition. They have the third-best offensive rating, they shoot the ball extremely well from three, and they average more possessions than anyone else in the league.

Mike James has been absolutely fantastic recently, and the whole team looks confident in the new offensive system. They have to play fewer games (4) than Bayern and Maccabi Tel Aviv (both 6), and three of those four games will be at home against Olympiacos, Baskonia, and ALBA Berlin.

If Monaco reaches the playoffs, they'll become the first team coming from the EuroCup to reach the playoffs on the first try, something that hasn't happened yet since the change of format in EuroLeague. An additional reason to hope that Monaco will reach the playoffs.

Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade (11-13)

By far, the most hard-nosed team in the competition, Crvena Zvezda, will have to seek at least a couple of wins away from their die-hard fans.

The task is feasible on paper, as the opponents are the two German teams (ALBA, Bayern) and Zalgiris Kaunas, who dropped their last two home games. The Serbian club achieved four straight wins in Belgrade to stay alive in the playoff race, and although they were clearly beaten in Barcelona, they never gave up.

Another important factor is that some of their main rivals, like Bayern Munich, AS Monaco, or Maccabi Tel Aviv, haven't played any EuroLeague games in almost two weeks.

Crvena Zvezda may have lacked consistency, but they have proven that they can snatch important road wins this season, as they did in Tel Aviv and Piraeus. So, it wouldn't be a surprise to see them sneak into the playoffs.

ALBA Berlin (9-13)

They are a good team with the best intentions, but it is also a fact that they don't have the easiest schedule. Losing Maodo Lo just before the crucial game against Baskonia did not help, and now their case for the playoffs is weakened after the loss.

Their roster is thin when it comes to the clutch moments, and they urgently need Maodo Lo back. Can they win 4 games out of the remaining 6? Not without Maodo but according to the reports, there is a chance that we could come back.

Well, the home game against Barcelona has colossal importance to give them morale and self-belief. That can happen.

Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul (9-13)

Fenerbahce had a peculiar period with no games for a very long time in the EuroLeague because of the suspensions of CSKA, Zenit, and Bayern games. T

hat looks refreshing and helps Nando De Colo and Jan Vesely for a smooth recovery. However, such breaks take the teams out of their game rhythm and could be dangerous.

Fenerbahce should get 3 wins out of their remaining 6 games. That would give them a total of 12 wins. They were with bad luck with all those injuries and wins against the Russian teams erased, but 12 wins probably won't be enough to clinch 8th place.

Bitci Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz (10-15)

If someone were to decide whether Baskonia would advance judged only on the basis of their recent performances, they would give them a playoff pass.

Actually, if there are six or seven more games left for them on the schedule, their chances would be significantly higher. But now, their three-game winning streak will probably amount to nothing, even if it's followed up by another one.

The team coached by Neven Spahija will be facing Fenerbahce and Zalgiris Kaunas at home and Monaco on the road. Even if they win all of them, they'll still need other teams to literally quit from the competition.

The boat sailed irrevocably for Baskonia when they lost to Maccabi and Crvena Zvezda in early March. However, some things allow Spahija to smile.

Wade Baldwin has amassed 50 points over his last three games, team defense has been working, more players have been involved on offense, while the basis for a better team next season is there.

Matt Costello, Rokas Giedraitis, Simone Fontecchio are some of the players whose potential the Basques can rely on ahead of the near future.

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