Euroleague Top 16: Who can stop Real Madrid?


As the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16 is set to get underway, there are several looming questions that remain unanswered. One of which is “Who can stop Real Madrid?” After an impressive, record-breaking regular season, the Spanish club will definitely have a target on their backs in the second stage of the competition. Their fast-paced run-and-gun style has captivated many audiences and left opponents staring blankly at a notch in their loss column. A 10-0 finish in the first stage was a spectacular feat indeed.

One of the keys to their success has been young big man Nikola Mirotic (photo above) who has been averaging 15.2 ppg so far in the competition. Not to be overlooked is their point guard, Sergio Rodriguez, who has been fantastic in quarterbacking Real Madrid’s offense and finding the open man.

On paper, CSKA Moscow and Maccabi Tel Aviv pose as legitimate threats to Real Madrid and should not be taken lightly by the Spaniards. If for some reason, Real Madrid’s shots are not falling from downtown, their opponents will get a crack at taking control of the game’s tempo from there. They have had slow starts in the past, but their system and composure have allowed them back into the game and simply find ways of getting the ball in the basket. Maccabi’s no-nonsense style of play and execution of solid fundamentals can match Real Madrid’s stride if done right. CSKA on the other hand, is loaded with talented players, but is in search of a rotation that can best maximize their assets. If they can settle on a starting lineup that works for them, teams should watch out.

Looking beyond this stage, Group E beasts Olympiacos and Fenerbahce Ulker both possess the tools to give Real Madrid headaches in the playoffs. Olympiacos, like Real, finished the regular season undefeated (10-0) and are poised to wreak havoc in their second-stage group. Vassilis Spanoulis is a three-time champion and knows how to lead his team. He will keep Sergio Rodriguez on his toes for most of their encounters. Fenerbahce Ulker’s ace up their sleeve is standing by their bench. Zeljko Obradovic, who holds a record EIGHT Euroleague titles to his name, has the experience and the basketball brilliance to possibly come up with a solution to the enigmatic Real Madrid offense. Ulker will have to pound the ball in paint and hopefully force Mirotic into early foul trouble in order to keep his team off kilter.

So, without meaning to, we’ve snuck in some early bold predictions for the second stage. Real Madrid and Maccabi Tel-Aviv should finish in the top two spots in Group F. In Group E Olympiacos and Fenerbahce Ulker, possibly FCB Regal (if they can stay healthy) should be able to come through as dangerous contenders.

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