So far, it is only possible to sum up the results of the year in Russian basketball – in the United League, even the first round of the regular season has not been completed, and the results of the last season 2020/2021 have already been forgotten and reset to zero. Nevertheless, at the end of the calendar year and in the middle of the season, interesting trends have already emerged, which have every chance of continuing in the second half.
CSKA does not convince
If you look at the statistics of the army team in the United League, then over the past part of the season they have only two defeats. But, firstly, they turned out to be too loud, and secondly, even the victory of CSKA is sometimes tortured.
When the red and blues lost to Kalev, who were not inferior to 30 years in Tallinn, this could be attributed to an unfortunate misunderstanding, or, as head coach of the army Dimitris Itoudis preferred to call it , a “difficult period” due to another temporary loss of key players. But after the Estonians, CSKA stumbled two more times – in the Euroleague with Fenerbahce and in the United League with UNICS. And then they started talking with might and main about the crisis, but no panic talk came from the office of CSKA President Andrei Vatutin .
Itoudis remains at the helm, since, according to Vatutin, he is “a CSKA patriot, really hungry for success and a fighter.” Misfires in the United League with the team did not happen again, but each victory is a painful overcoming. If earlier it was still possible to blame the overcrowded infirmary, now Tornike Shengelia , Marius Grigonis, Nikola Milutinov have recovered from their injuries. But the breakthrough and flight in the CSKA game did not appear. The last match against Yenisei (97:88) confirmed that the team’s puzzle was not completed. At the same time, they managed to again lose one of their most important players – Daniel Hackett stretched out on the floor and sprained his ligaments.
The next match for the army team is at the very beginning of the new year – with the sensational team Avtodor. This will be intrigue.
Avtodor – surprise of the year
The Saratov top of the 90s stumbled in the United League only once – at the start of the season with Lokomotiv. But since then, even the leaders have not been able to cope with Avtodor. Both UNICS and Zenit got away from them. In a few days we’ll see what CSKA will show in Moscow against the guests from Saratov.
But this is how quietly Avtodor secured the first place in the standings and is not going to leave this throne yet. The team with the lowest budget of all Russian clubs last year is not only rushing to the playoffs (they did not get there last year), but is also seriously going to fight for medals.
Avtodor used to have a good start, but then, as the well-known basketball specialist Stanislav Eremin explained to MK-Sport , “the change of coaches and players began and gradually he sank to the middle and to the tail of the table”.
But this time everything may be different under the leadership of Macedonian Emil Raikovic, who was recognized as the best coach of the year in 2019 with Astana. To score a lot is such a clear task for the club, and Avtodor copes with it, never dropping below 80 points per game. Even CSKA can’t do that.
And other leaders
UNICS is second with two defeats, and is definitely not going to give up positions. In the Euroleague, Kazan is now quoted even higher than CSKA, although the army team has a reserve game. And on the domestic arena, you should definitely expect trouble from Velimir Perasovich’s team .
We could expect more from Zenit, but the St. Petersburg team still does not have enough experience to play on two fronts at once – in the United League and the Euroleague, and therefore sometimes stumbles. In addition, Javier Pascual was counting very much on the newcomer Shabazz Napier , but he was injured in the first official match, and will return to the floor only after the New Year. Then, we hope, Zenit will show its real strength.
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