There is no doubt that the 2020-21 season has been the most challenging ever for athletes and teams alike in terms of distractions from their normal rituals of preparation and travel, which is to say nothing of playing without the energy boost given to them by fans, especially Turkish Airlines EuroLeague fans.
Nonetheless, EuroLeague players and teams are achieving levels of performance and parity not seen since the competition adopted a round-robin format for the 2016-17 season, if ever.
With 211 games played so far, the numbers are clear. Compared to the last four seasons after 24 rounds, this one is offering more balance between home and away victories, better shooting accuracy across the board, closer games, more overtimes, and a tighter race for the playoffs in the standings.
So despite the limitations, EuroLeague players and teams are rising to the challenge and giving fans ever-higher levels of competitiveness on the court.
RISING ROAD WINS
A lack of fans in most games due to the global COVID-19 pandemic has boosted what was already a trend: more road wins. Since the 2016-17 format change, visiting teams had been incrementally more successful. Through 24 rounds, they won fractionally more games with each new season, with a 2.04% increase in the last one solidifying the trend. This season, however, that number has jumped to 9.24% more away wins than last season, putting visiting teams at 45.91% total as compared to a 54.09% success rate for home teams.
Remarkably, in a season full of distractions, EuroLeague shooters are sharper than ever. Their free-throw and three-point accuracy rates through 24 games are the best yet seen under the current round-robin format and their two-point accuracy rate it the second-best. But that's not all, if they are able to hold their current percentages until season's end, the EuroLeague's free-throw and three-point shooters would set season records as the most accurate of their specialties ever in the competition.
TIGHTER PLAYOFFS RACE
Winrate refers to how many more victories the first-place team in the standings has, percentage-wise, as compared to each of the teams below it. Current leader FC Barcelona, with a 17-7 record, has 14.31% more victories than the ninth-ranked team, which would be the first one to miss the playoffs. When compared to previous seasons – when the differences were 42%, 38%, 33% and 25%, respectively – it shows how competitive the current season is.
A similar dynamic applies between Barcelona and teams further down the standings. Nine teams now have less than 15% fewer victories than Barcelona. The average over the last four seasons was 2.5 teams within 15% of the leader's victory total after 24 rounds. Each leader in those previous seasons had 40% more victories than at least five other teams. Barcelona can say that about just two teams. No previous regular-season leader had lost as many as 7 games through 24 rounds, and in fact, the only first-place team to finish with 7 defeats was Real Madrid in 2016-17, after 30 games.
The current season is not only bringing tighter standings but also closer games than before, with 22.7% of all games decided by a single basket (3 points or less), 33.6% by 5 points or less, and 61.1% by 10 points or less. Never before under the new format have there been more games decided by 3 points or less.
More evidence of this season's impressive competitiveness is the number of games that have reached overtime. Both in real numbers and as a percentage rate, fans have been able to enjoy the highest number of games reaching extra time since the current format was established: 7.1% of all games. What's more, two double-overtime games already this season are as many as fans have seen in an EuroLeague season this century.