Four bold predictions ahead of the Play-Off battles
ZAGREB (Croatia) - Three Gamedays to go in the Regular Season, six places in the Round of 16 already taken, ten more up for grabs, so it should be easy to explain, right? Wrong.
I wanted to do the most helpful thing possible in the Help-Side Column and write down all the permutations ahead of the last three weeks of basketball, so you know what your club needs to finish in which position, all done in boxes and tables so it's visually easier for you to understand.
So I went and chatted with our competition manager. Well, his response about the combinations made me pull out a Kurt Cobain-like gasp. You know, the one from the very end of the Where Did You Sleep Last Night during the shooting of the MTV Unplugged.
It's because we have not one, not two, not three...but 288 combinations when it comes to Play-Off positions and making the Play-Offs at all. 288. Two hundred eighty-eight. I don't even know 288 words in English, let alone describing 288 variables of this equation.
And that's without the possible two- and three- and four-way ties. So let's skip the permutations piece this time around, okay?
I've got the next best thing, though - four bold predictions! Make that, four bold predictions. Now, keep in mind that my prediction skills are so good that I always pick Hajduk Split to win Croatian Soccer League (hasn't happened since 2005) and the Portland Trail Blazers to win the West (hasn't happened since 1992), and that I picked Dinamo Sassari to make the last four and SIG Strasbourg to win it all last season.
(Sassari did not make the last four of their own group, Strasbourg did not reach the Final Four, FYI.)
Group A: MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg will make the Play-Offs
BOOM! How bold am I, right? MHP Riesen have been playing better - way better than during that worst-since-2002 losing streak of ten games early in the season - and with their Marco Shyderrick Knight in shining armor, they are a much different team.
Their part of this is, of course, to win all three remaining games. They've got Ventspils coming to town, before making the trip to Spain to fight against Murcia - who are completely relaxed because they are an inch away from confirming first spot in the group - and Nizhny Novgorod will be their last opponent, in Germany. 3-0 is possible, that would take them to 6-8 at the end of the Regular Season.
They do depend on others. Before going to Ludwigsburg, Nizhny have to deal with Le Mans and Ventspils, and Ludwigsburg need help from either one of those two. Preferably Ventspils, because Le Mans own the tiebreaker over the Germans in case of a tie.
If Ludwigsburg do their part and go 3-0, all they need is Nizhny at 1-2, Le Mans at 1-2, and Anwil not going 3-0 against Murcia, Banvit and Le Mans. Easy as writing down 2-8-8.
Group B: Nanterre are hot, but will not make the Play-Offs
Just as Hajduk and Portland keep on losing, and I never learn, Nanterre keeps on winning and I never learn. They are among the hottest teams in all of Europe, they won their last three home games by a margin of 103 points, and I still don't feel like they are going to make the cut.
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I'm going to avoid a Gamble pun here, and focus on making my case plausible. Nanterre are at 6-5, same as PAOK, a win behind 7-4 UNET Holon. Check their remaining schedules:
- PAOK play Opava, Fribourg, Tenerife
- Holon play Tenerife, Bonn, Nanterre
- Nanterre play Fribourg, Venezia, Holon
A three-way tie at 8-6 is more than possible, in which PAOK stand at +3, Holon at +1 and Nanterre at -4, with a trip to Israel still in their itinerary. A two-way tie with PAOK is okay for them, but PAOK's schedule looks way easier, right? A two-way tie with Holon works only if they beat the LA Lakers of Israel by 13 or more points in Israel.
Ironic. Nanterre are one of my favorite teams to watch, and I'm taking a Gamble against them. Horrible pun, I know.
Group C: Bamberg drop to fourth
They had a chance to book Play-Offs this week, but their performance away at Lietkabelis is what comes up when you Google "lackluster." I still believe they'll be there in the Round of 16, but two scenarios put them as low as fourth seed.
- Antwerp go 3-0 to finish the Regular Season, including a 10+ point win over Bamberg
- Three-way tie of teams at 7-7 would send Antwerp to third, Bamberg to fourth, Lietkabelis to fifth
Antwerp travel to Germany next week. Bamberg are still somewhere in between, caught up with all the turbulence of a coaching change, while Antwerp are on a high, again.
And if Antwerp could do something like Vechta (+18) or Lietkabelis (+17) against Bamberg, then we could all be in for a treat. Bamberg finishing fourth in group would make the Round of 16 draw that much more interesting, because we all know Bamberg possess the quality of winning this whole competition, and they would have to face a Murcia or a Tenerife or a Bologna as soon as Round of 16. Oh man...
Group D: Oostende win second seed
How amazing has this run of Filou Oostende been!? They've won six games this season, and their biggest margin of victory was a massive four-point triumph against Promitheas Patras.
Dario Gjergja has been a perfect fit for @FILOU_Oostende for years now, but this 5-game winning run in the @BasketballCL is unreal:— Igor Curkovic (@IgorCurkovic) January 16, 2019
+3 at Strasbourg;
+4 at Promitheas;
+1 vs Bologna;
+2 at Neptunas;
+2 at Olimpija.
Clutch coaching by the Croat! pic.twitter.com/qTuN0B0Vsh
The Greeks remain one game ahead of them in the Standings right now, but have to deal with Strasbourg, Neptunas and Bologna. Strasbourg are also at 6-5, as are Besiktas, three-way tie that Oostende could break by just winning their remaining games - they are hosting Bayreuth and SIG, traveling to Istanbul to meet Besitkas.
It's a tough task, sounds even tougher when you write it down, but hey, 90 percent of us were ready to write Oostende off when they were a 1-5 team. They are teaching us that everything is possible in Belgium.
Heck, maybe even a five-point win! But let's not get crazy here.
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