Is it going to be a Spanish duel to the end?
When one of the best strikers that ever existed and happens to be UEFA's vice president, makes an official declaration that says that the Russians have no place in football (Zbigniew Boniek), it's a rather serious development. Judging by the decisions taken by almost every sporting federation, it appears that Russia has no place in any sport altogether. Euroleague basket has followed suit and suspended CSKa Moscow, Zenit St. Petersburg, and Unix Kazan. Consequently, the chances of the remaining participants for a shot at the title have changed and so have the odds offered by the best online bookmakers.
At a first glance at the standings, it doesn't look like the suspensions had any significant effect. The first 4 teams are still in the same positions, while the removal of CSKa Moscow solidified the top 5. Another 5 teams will fight it out for the remaining 3 positions of the top 8 that will advance to the next stage. Let's break it down into numbers.
The fight is for 6, 7 and 8
The stats say:
Barcelona 20 - 5
Real Madrid 18 - 7
Olympiacos 17 - 9
AX Armani Milan 16 - 8
Since there is a gap of two victories from the next group, it is rather fair that assume that these four will have the home-court advantage for the next stage playoffs. The question is whether the 2 Spanish teams will fight it out between themselves all the way to the end. The answer is given by a statistic that is not immediately visible. Third Olympiacos have defeated Real already, while their defeat at Barcelona was by just 1 point. So it's also fair to say that they stand a 50 - 50 chance of disrupting the leading duo.
Anadolu Efes stands at 14 - 10 and a lonely fifth place. And then the real fight begins. FC Bayern and Maccabi Tel Aviv stand at 12 - 11, AS Monaco is at 12 - 13, Crvena Zvesda at 11 - 13 and Basconia at 11 - 15. There are still 3 rounds left, so the remaining three positions are still out for grabs. Nonetheless, whoever gets the tickets will be at a home-court disadvantage.
Are they unpleasant surprises?
The remaining five teams have 9 or fewer victories to show for the season. Even if they manage to win all three of the remaining rounds, it will be just a matter of pride and not of the essence. While it could be argued that Alba Berlin and Villeurbanne were not expected to do better right from the start, the same cannot be said for Fenerbahce Istanbul, the six-time European champions Panathinaikos and the ever fighters of Zalgiris Kaunas. Each one for different reasons have a failed season to account for. What they need to do is correct the issues that led to that downfall.
One way or another, the season will end and there will be a champion. Perhaps, it is more important to consider what will happen next. Will the Russian teams be allowed to return as if nothing happened? Will there be other teams to take their places? The latter definitely presents a challenge for the future and a completely unknown path!
In fact, for the punters, it would be preferable to see new sides of the equation because it will force new considerations and new odds and prices. Means that those who decide to register for an original betting account will have plenty to look for in the future.