The Euroleague 2022-23, the highest European basketball club competition, begins this Thursday in an edition in which 17 teams will try to snatch the continental throne from its current dominator, the Turkish Anadolu Efes, and with, again, four Spanish representatives , Real Madrid, Barca, Cazoo Baskonia and Valencia Basket, who face it with different dreams and goals.
The European Cup will start with 18 teams aspiring to reach the ‘Final Four’ next May. It will be the first time that there are no Russian teams, after their exclusion last season due to the invasion of Ukraine. In this way, the eight-time champion, CSKA, will be missing, an absence that increases the fight in a very renewed competition and in which the big teams have shaken up the market to strengthen their squads and squeeze everything a little more.
And among them Real Madrid, Barca, Baskonia and the ‘guest’ Valencia Basket want to shine, with the first two aiming to sneak into the top four, and the other two with the mission of getting into the knockout rounds and starting hence dream.
Real Madrid, who fell just one point away from being champions for the eleventh time after losing to Efes 58-57, faces their first Euroleague without Pablo Laso, the coach who led them to a total of seven ‘Final Fours’ and two titles.
Under the command of Chus Mateo, the Madrid team is once again in the front line of candidates since, in theory, they will have a broader squad than in recent seasons and with good reinforcements such as Dzanan Musa, Mario Hezonja or the ‘Chacho’ Rodriguez, and who still hasn’t given up on bringing Facundo Campazzo back.
His main rival at the start of the competition will be casualties and having to put the pieces together quickly so that the team can once again aspire to everything in a Euroleague where anything other than being in the ‘playoffs’ would be a serious blow.
For his part, after two years being champion of the Regular Phase and falling in the ‘Final Four’, the third year of Sarunas Jasikevicius’s project is key for Barca, one of the candidates who has renewed himself a lot since he has opted for change the companions of its star, Nikola Mirotic.
Thus, level players such as point guard Nick Calathes or center Brandon Davies have left and more than proven players such as Tomas Satoransky or Jan Vesely have arrived to improve some of the lines where the project could perhaps weaken more, especially in the inside game. .
The azulgranas, with some doubts after falling against Real Madrid in the last titles (Endesa League and Euroleague 21-22 and Super Cup 22-23), will have to start the competition without the Hispanic-Montenegrin, but with the ambition that it finally work his new and determined bet that he will try to make good the saying that the third time is the charm and he can lift the trophy for the third time.
The Spanish participation will also be made up of Baskonia and Valencia Basket. The Baskonia team is one of the ‘classics’ of the competition and they hope to play the ‘playoffs’ again, something they haven’t done since the 2018-2019 campaign, with a young team with little experience, but without fear of anyone, while that the ‘taronja’, graced with one of the Euroleague’s ‘wild cards’, hopes to be that uncomfortable rival again and be in the fight for some qualifiers that touched on his last participation, in 2020-2021.
The great rival to beat has a name and surname, Anadolu Efes. The Turkish team won the Euroleague against Barca in 2021 and against Real Madrid in 2022 and will now try to score an unprecedented treble in the history of the competition.
No one with this current name has won three titles in a row and you have to go back to the late 1980s and early 1990s to see the last one that did so in the old European Cup, the Jugoplastika. To do this, he has managed to avoid the drain of talent and keep his two stars, Shane Larkin or Vasilije Micic, whom he has surrounded with greater potential with Will Clyburn, Achille Polonara or Ante Zizic.
In the list of contenders for the title, there will be other regulars such as Ettore Messina’s Armani Exchange Milan, Maccabi Tel Aviv, the new destination of the Spanish nationalized guard Lorenzo Brown, but without Scottie Wilbekin or Ante Zizic, and, above all, the Turkish Fenerbahce .
The 2017 champion has missed the last two ‘F4’s, even missing the ‘playoffs’ last season, but has made a strong commitment with a new project that will be directed by Dimitris Itoudis, without Vesely and Nando de Colo, but with a total of eight new signings, including Wilbekin, Calathes, Jonathan Motley and a Nemanja Bjelica who returns to Europe
Who returns in this edition of the Euroleague is Sergio Scariolo, who was proclaimed champion of the Eurocup with the Virtus de Bologna and will now lead a historic team, the first champion of this competition and that allows the return of great classics such as Milos Teodosic, Daniel Hackett, Tornike Shengelia or Marco Belinelli.
Greek basketball will try to be the protagonist with the main asset of Olympiacos, always competitive and making the most of what they have, while Panathinaikos has opted to almost completely renew its squad to regain lost prominence.
In addition, the German Bayern will seek to continue rubbing shoulders with the best after doing so in the last two seasons in which they even touched the ‘F4’ and Monaco will try to confirm their great debut when they reached the ‘playoffs’ led by Mike James. Zalgiris Kaunas, Asvel Villeurbane, Nando de Colo’s new destination, Red Star, Partizan and Alba Berlin complete the list of participants in a Euroleague where all the teams have more than enough arguments to be competitive.
The competition starts this Thursday and Friday with its Regular Phase that will conclude on April 13 and 14 to give way to the ‘playoffs’ among the best eight. The four that qualify will play the ‘Final Four’ in mid-May at a venue to be determined.
Source: Europa Press