Joe Arlauckas
The Battle for the Playoffs  

This is exactly what everyone in the Euroleague offices wanted when they decided to change the format to a round robin and having every team play each other twice a season. This league is as tight as it can be considering we did not see any team classify for a playoff spot until the end of the 24th week of competition. Real Madrid, CSKA Moscow and Olympiakos are the first three teams to enter into the playoffs but niether of these teams is guaranteed the home court advantage yet.

The first eight teams enter into the 5 game playoff that will commence on April 17th and go until May 2nd, if any of the series reaches it’s fifth game which I can almost assure you that at least one them will. Right now the fight is for those final spots and it looks as though Fenerbahce will kind of limp into the playoffs with 16 victories but the real fight is between the fifth and tenth place teams. See graph at the bottom.

Scheduling is so important now also although there are few easy games in this league. Let’s look at the remaining teams schedules that are fighting to reach the playoffs.

-- 5th Place Baskonia had a huge road win in Fenerbahce last week and receive CSKA at home this Friday but after that they look ok with four games against teams with a combined record of 42-58

--Panathinaikos has a bit more complicated future with Real Madrid at home, Baskonia on the road and CSKA at home in three of their final five games.

--Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) Schedule is not so difficult but have three road games where they do not play their best especially after the 30 point loss in Madrid last week. The good news is the most difficult game they will play is against Olympiakos but that will be played in Belgrade.

--Anadolu blew a chance to solidify things last week with an awful home loss to Brose Basket to push them down to eigth position. It’s not hard to see the magnitude of that loss since they finish the last three weeks at home against Fenebahce, Olympiakos and end the season in Real Madrid. Tough road for a team clinging on to that final playoff spot.

--Darussafaka has been fighting and hanging around that 8th-10th position for some time now but not realy able to sneak into those top eight spots. They are a team to keep an eye on because 3 of their last 5 games are at home. The most difficult matchup is at CSKA in round 27, let us not forget that it was the Turks who handed CSKA their first loss of the season in week 7 so they should be looking for revenge.

--Zalgiris at 11 wins is the most desperate of the teams and played that way last week to make an amazing comeback and beat Panathinaikos at home to keep them alive. They start at Unics this week then have another huge home game with Anadolu which makes these next two games imperative to the Lithuanian club. It’s too early for Zalgiris to look ahead since they need to win at least 4 of 5 and look for help from other teams along the way.

Enjoy these final five rounds of the best basketball that Europe has to offer. Every week should be a new scenario for all these teams fighting for those final spots. Look back soon for some money winning tips also.

5. Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz  14-11      
6. Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens  14-11
7. Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade  14-11
8. Anadolu Efes Istanbul  13-12
9. Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul  12-13
10. Zalgiris Kaunas  11-14