Basketball / Euroleague / Maccabi Tel Aviv scores easy draw
Despite a summer of discontent, Maccabi shouldn't find it too hard to negotiate Group B.
Maccabi Tel Aviv was handed a relatively easy task in the Euroleague 24-team group stage draw on Friday.
Despite a summer of discontent, Maccabi shouldn't find it too hard to negotiate Group B, a group that features Italy's Montepaschi Siena - a top team, but one that has had to half its budget this season and traditionally implodes when facing Maccabi; Germany's Alba Berlin, which had a horrendous season in the Bundesliga but somehow received a free ticket to the Euroleague; Spain's Unicaja Malaga, which also had a season to forget but has a contract with the Euroleague; Poland's Asseco Prokom, which has only three victories to its name in its past 20 Euroleague games; and France's Elan Chalon, which rightfully won a place in the league but has no experience whatsoever in the top-tier European tournament.
The change in the Euroleague's Top-16 stage this season means that even though Maccabi are firm favorites to top their group, it isn't really necessary any more - now that the second stage comprises two eight-team groups.
If Maccabi does indeed top Group B, in the Top-16 stage it will play against the winner of Group D, probably CSKA or Barcelona, both tough opponents. However, the new structure grants home advantage in the "last eight" playoffs to the team finishing second in the Top-16 group.
The runner-up of Group C is expected to be a strong team, but not stronger than Maccabi or the runner-up in Group A. The two other teams - Besiktas JK if it finishes third in Group D, and the fourth placed team in Group A - could also cause problems.
As in any season, the team that finds its form at the right time could win the tournament. Olympiacos had only a success rate of 56% in the group stage and Top-16 last season, but went on to win the title.
Maccabi can be pleased with the draw, since it will allow the team to prepare for the final stages without fearing the group stage. "Last season we built the team to survive October and November. Although we mustn't be overconfident, this year we can build the team to reach its peak in the latter stages," said coach David Blatt, after studying the draw.
From Malaga to Berlin
Maccabi begin their season away against Unicaja Malaga on October 11, before hosting Montepaschi Siena a week later. On Oct. 25th, Elan Chalon will take on the Israeli champions.
Maccabi will then take on Asseco Prokom on Nov. 1st, and fly to Berlin to play Alba on November 8th.