With less than 10 games left in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season, it is safe to say that the fight to reach the playoffs is going to be harder, more intense and more interesting than ever. Real Madrid, which ranks fifth, is 15-10, and Zalgiris Kaunas is ninth and just out of the playoff zone at 14-11. Anything can happen from now on. Round 25, indeed, had some interesting results. Only two teams won on the road. TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz used a solid team effort to defeat Khimki Moscow Region. Zenit St Petersburg had to battle until the very end to top Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade in the Serbian capital. The other six home teams registered respective victories. Anadolu Efes Istanbul and Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul confirmed their outstanding form and are set to face each other in Round 26 in what promises to an outstanding basketball game. Valencia Basket defeated Real Madrid, which is 0-5 against Spanish teams this season. FC Barcelona, LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne and AX Armani Exchange Milan also won at home. Barcelona and ASVEL will also face off this week at Palau Blaugrana.
My Gancedato team did not do as well as in Round 24, when I ranked 110th overall, but had a solid performance in the EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge, beating most managers out there. I scored 177.1 points, mainly because my choice of team captain, Nando De Colo of Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul, was the second-best player in this round, and I also had the best, Shane Larkin of Anadolu Efes Istanbul. Some players underperformed and I am surprised that Vasilije Micic of Efes scored negative. I guess anyone can have a bad night, even the best players in the competition. I ranked 4,603rd overall and am now 2,164th in the overall standings.
Three trades are allowed before each round until the end of the regular season. I am selling Micic because I don't like his matchup against Lorenzo Brown in the Turkish derby. These kinds of games are always physical and you never know what to expect; having three players in that game was just too much. I am also selling Jalen Reynolds of FC Bayern Munich just because Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv has a very strong frontcourt. Reynolds plays against his former team and that is always a plus, but I have better options in the market. Last but not least, I am selling Joffrey Lauvergne of Zalgiris Kaunas because he was occupying the power forward slot, which usually belongs to...
...of course, Nikola Mirotic of Barcelona. His team lost against ASVEL in France and Barcelona is set to look for revenge at Palau Blaugrana. Mirotic is well-rested; Barcelona had the weekend off - and I am sure he will have a really good game against ASVEL. I am signing Vladimir Lucic of FC Bayern Munich. I had a little bit of bad luck with Lucic this season, but he played really well in Round 25 and should do even better from now on. The small forward spot is usually difficult in the EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge, but I have it pretty much covered now. Finally, I am bringing back Mike James of CSKA Moscow because he is one of my pillars. I expect him to play well against Olympiacos Piraeus and signing Iffe Lundberg only makes CSKA more unpredictable on offense which, of course, is a great thing for the Russian powerhouse.
Gancedato looks pretty good before Round 26, I tell you that. Here is my lineup:
Shane Larkin, Anadolu Efes Istanbul (PG) - He has been completely on fire lately and I guess he will keep that level until the end of the season. New team captain.
Nando De Colo, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul (SG) - With De Colo and Larkin on fire, I expect a legendary Turkish derby. De Colo has been passing the ball better than ever, too.
Vladimir Lucic, FC Bayern Munich (SF) - Back in my lineup to make the difference at small forward. Lucic helps on the boards and is an excellent shooter, even from downtown.
Nikola Mirotic, FC Barcelona (PF) - Every EuroLeague game will be more important than the previous one and Mirotic is fully aware of it. Expect him at his very best level.
Jan Vesely, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul (C) - One of the main reasons why Fenerbahce has been unstoppable is that Vesely is playing great, hitting shots and of course, dunking.
Mike James, CSKA Moscow (G) - It doesn't matter when you read this, Mike James is a must-have player in the EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge unless you want to take some risks.
Cory Higgins, FC Barcelona (F) - Higgins has been rock-solid in the last two months, playing a silent leader role in Barcelona due to his talent, experience and all-around skills.
Will Thomas, Zenit St Petersburg (U) - He plays against Valencia, his former team. This is the main reason why I decided to keep him in my lineup. Will should play well.
That's all I have for you, EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge managers. As always, enjoy the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague games and keep competing against your friends and thousands of other managers all around the world. This is the closest playoff race in EuroLeague history and every game matters, so don't miss a bit of the action! Stay safe!