FC BARCELONA REGAL
FC Barcelona Regal pieced together a memorable and record-setting campaign last season. The Spanish champs recorded the best defensive season in Euroleague history and marched to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four in Istanbul. Despite losing to eventual champ Olympiacos in the semifinals, Barcelona’s 19-2 record was the best in the league. Head coach Xavi Pascual is back to build on that success with the bulk of last season’s roster still with him. Naturally, that combination makes Barcelona one of the pre-season favorites to roll again all the way to the 2013 Final Four in London.
Ettore Messina is back and that means CSKA Moscow will be playing for titles again. The coaching legend returns to the Moscow sidelines after three years away knowing that there will be great expectations. Last season the team went 19-3 and seemed on pace for the Turkish Airlines Euroleague crown before suffering a painful last-second loss to Olympiacos. CSKA has already made several important roster moves this summer by locking up key parts and adding Aaron Jackson, Zoran Erceg and Vladimir Micov to the mix. There is hard work to be put in, but the consensus is that CSKA enters the 2012-13 season as a favorite to play for the title in London.
PARTIZAN mt:s BELGRADE
Partizan mt:s will turn back the clock this season as it looks to recapture the glory of just a few years ago. The Serbian champs welcome Dusko Vujosevic back to the sidelines and as always, will build around young, promising talents eager to win for the passionate fans backing them. The first of the players fitting that bill is new signing Leo Westermann. A powerful Partizan squad dropped three in a row at the end of the regular season last year to miss the playoffs. This season Partizan makes a fresh start and when everything comes together, expect to see Partizan looking Europe’s greatest powers square in the eyes and fighting for glory.
LIETUVOS RYTAS VILNIUS
Lietuvos Rytas returns to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague ready to make legions of fans in basketball-crazy Lithuania proud of their team. Rytas is back in the Euroleague for the fifth time in eight years after reaching the Eurocup Finals last year. Ronnie Seibutis emerged as a team leader last season and was selected to the All-Eurocup first team. Newcomers Leon Radosevic at center and promising guard Nemanja Nedovic will try to blend in seamlessly to help the team from the Lithuanian capital battle for another Top 16 berth. With the home-court advantage the fans at Siemens Arena provide, an exciting season could be on tap in Vilnius.
BROSE BASKETS BAMBERG
Brose Baskets Bamberg is back for a third consecutive Turkish Airlines Euroleague season. Such a feat is unprecedented for the club and shows just how competitive it has become over the years. Despite some impressive results and tremendous fan support, Brose narrowly missed the Top 16. However Brose rebounded to win the German League and Cup double. This summer is sure to feature hard work by the team’s brass as it looks to rebuild, but with captain Casey Jacobsen back and promising center Maik Zirbes signed, some of the foundation is already laid for another Bamberg run.
BESIKTAS JK ISTANBUL
Coming off its best season ever, Besiktas JK Istanbul storms into the Turkish Airlines Euroleague ready to keep its great momentum going. It was a dream season for the club as it claimed the Turkish Cup, lifted the EuroChallenge trophy and won its first Turkish League championship since 1975. Looking to reload for a season with the Euroleague’s best, Besiktas hired Erman Kunter as head coach and appears to be negotiating with a long list of stars to make an instant impact in the Euroleague. Expect large crowds and a great basketball atmosphere at Besiktas's home games, as Euroleague Devotion reaches a new hot spot in 2012-13.
FC Barcelona Regal Sports Director, Joan Creus
"To begin with, it is clear that CSKA Moscow is a tough opponent, a great team that has the initial goal of winning the title. They tried hard last season and were one second away from winning the title. Initially, it is impressive to see Barcelona and CSKA in the same group. As for the rest of the teams, even if all the rosters are not completed and things may change in the coming days, all of them are traditional basketball teams which will be competitive at the start of the season. All the road trips will be long, which means a lot of flying time. The extended Top 16 give fans eight extra top-level games right in the middle of the season, when the cup titles are decided. All of them will be decisive."
CSKA Moscow President and CEO, Andrei Vatutin
"It is a very good group for us. It will be an interesting season. we will play in a new arena with 10,000 people. We have two goals this season. Our sports target is to make it to the Final Four and then, we want to bring more people to this new arena. It is a very serious project for CSKA. I am happy to play Barcelona in Moscow after several years. It is a good brand for us, to advertise the arena. I expect a new, interesting season, especially because of the new Top 16."
CSKA Moscow head coach, Ettore Messina
"It is an interesting group though it is too early to make any estimates as the teams don’t have full rosters yet. Still I can say that we will meet teams with tradition and ones that know how to use their home court, they use their loud arenas to pressure the opponents. We will definitely face tough competition."
CSKA Moscow center Sasha Kaun
"The group is definitely difficult. Barcelona, Partizan, Lietuvos Rytas are the teams of the highest level, Besiktas was the Turkish champion this past season. I think it will be interesting because we will have interesting games both at home and away. Brose Baskets is also tough opponent. The fans were waiting for the games with Barcelona for a long time and they got them this year. I think it is early for the forecasts because it is the middle of the summer and many of the teams have not formed their rosters yet, so it’s difficult to say who is stronger than others. We have one of the most difficult groups, though you can’t name it a group of death as media likes to say. The most interesting game is the one against Barcelona. It will be great to meet Partizan with its excellent fans; all the opponents face serious challenges in Serbia."
Partizan mt:s Belgrade President, Mladjan Silobad
"It is a very interesting group for us. I think CSKA and Barcelona are the favorites to make it to the Top 16, but all the others four teams need to fight for the other two spots. Our main strength this season is Dusko Vujosevic, who is back home. He will make the most of our young talents to do even better. I am hoping for a great season for us. Of course, all our home games in Belgrade will be a celebration, as always."
Lietuvos Rytas General Manager, Martynas Purlys
"First of all, we are all very happy to play in the Euroleague after a one-year break. Being in the same group as two Final Four teams like CSKA Moscow and FC Barcelona is not very easy, but we are ready to fight to make it to the Top 16. Of course, having CSKA and Barcelona playing in Vilnius will make our fans happy. Not only them, Besiktas, Partizan and Brose Baskets are also great teams. We are all expecting to have a very good season."
Brose Baskets Marketing Director, Bjoern Albrecht
"From our point of view, we are very lucky to make it to the Euroleague for the third consecutive season. We managed to win the German League and the German Cup in the last three years. We are very happy to play again in the Euroleague. After the last two years, we hope to have a chance to make it to the Top 16, especially with more games to play next season. This group is very difficult, with CSKA and Barcelona on top of. We have to look for our chances to go to the Top 16. It will be difficult for all teams to play in Bamberg. We have an advantage at home against our opponents, but our situation on the road is the opposite."
Besiktas JK Istanbul General Manager, Can Koken
"This is the top level of basketball in Europe, so we are very happy to be in the Euroleague. We will try to do our best, as we did last season, and try to be successful. As I told you before, we will try to give our best even if our opponents are really difficult, especially CSKA Moscow and Barcelona. We will try to survive the regular season, get to the Top 16 and if we make it that far, take it from there."