20 September, 2018
01 May, 2019
5 Ryan Evans (BEAR)
to read

Power Rankings: Can anyone stop the Bakken Bears?

MUNICH (FIBA Europe Cup) – It is hardly a surprise to see Bakken Bears close out the year at the top of the Power Rankings after the Danish side finished the 2018 portion of the campaign without a single defeat.

The relevant question here is – which teams are hot on their heels?






Faced against the mighty Bakken Bears in Finland, Kataja Basket couldn't end the four-game rot in the FIBA Europe Cup. That is the longest active losing streak in the competition and their leaky defense is largely to blame here, allowing opponents to put up 89.0 points per game for the worst mark among all Second Round teams.


Petrolina AEK went AFK in the second half for the second game in a row and unsurprisingly fell to 0-2 in Group K. In the last two games against Pallacanestro Varese and Donar Groningen, they're a combined -11 before the intermission and a staggering -44 after the interval. The only teams averaging less than their 72.4 points per game are Steaua Bucuresti, BC Dnipro and Istanbul BBSK and they are all eliminated.


Battery low, please charge.

Putting all the eggs in one basket and playing with what is basically a six-man rotation is finally catching up with ZZ Leiden, who have now lost three on the trot in the FIBA Europe Cup. Then again, the losses came against s.Oliver Wurzburg, Bakken Bears and Avtodor Saratov — quite a tough bunch. The bench contributions are a measly 12.4 points per game for the Leiden side since the start of the Regular Season.


We brushed aside a largely irrelevant Lukoil Levski defeat to Aris at the end of the Regular Season. Their close-fought loss to Ironi Ness Ziona raised some minor concerns. But ending up on the wrong side of an 89-56 blowout against Alba Fehervar has us hammering the panic button on behalf of the Bulgarian title-holders. No diagnosis yet but the patient is falling progressively more ill.


Having split the first two games of the Second Round, Balkan Botevgrad will be quite content with the second spot in Group J, but what will give them even more joy will be the fact that they're now the top-ranked Bulgarian team in the Power Rankings after the rough recent stretch for Lukoil Levski.


Szolnoki Olaj could have easily been 2-0 in Group I, yet luck turned its back on the Hungarian champions and slapped them with a pair of heart-breaking defeats in games they will feel they should have won. With starting center Luksa Andric battling foul trouble in Prishtina, Strahinja Milosevic became the fifth person to snatch 19 rebounds in a single game in the FIBA Europe Cup.


Z Mobile Prishtina stopped teasing us with their potential and finally delivered a complete package in an 81-76 win over Szolnoki Olaj for their first ever win in the Second Round. Time to start treating the Kosovo club as serious contenders for the Play-Offs? Perhaps, but keep in mind that they are one of four teams with a negative point differential this season. (Thanks a lot, Bakken Bears.)


If you watched any of their FIBA Europe Cup games, you couldn't really imagine Alba Fehervar would be struggling so badly in the Hungarian championship. Picking up more defeats than wins on the domestic front is exactly what cost Branislav Dzunic his job. His replacement, Jesus Ramirez, began his reign with an impressive 89-56 win over Lukoil Levski.


On paper, everything is fine in Izmir. In reality, Pinar Karsiyaka hit another snag with an overtime loss to s.Oliver Wurzburg for their third defeat this season. They are leaving a league-worst 7.3 points at the stripe every game due to their sub-par 62.6% clip from the free-throw line. In games of fine margins, those misses are proving costly.


In a group featuring Pallacanestro Varese and Dinamo Sassari, games against Petrolina AEK are must-win if you want to have a shot at advancing. Despite early struggles to pull away, Donar Groningen, paced by Lance 'The General' Jeter got their campaign back on track with a convincing W in Cyprus.


Dinamo Sassari laid claim to one of the more spectacular collapses in FIBA Europe Cup history, wasting a 23-point lead in the final 15 minutes in the Italian derby against Pallacanestro Varese. If you want to take the glass-half-full approach, the first 25 minutes might have been the best basketball the Sardinian club has played this season.


Here they come, here they go! Ironi Ness Ziona established themselves at the top of Group J with a 2-0 record after taking down Balkan in spectacular fashion to set themselves apart from the pack. Nadav Zilberstein got another fantastic return from the second unit with 47 of the team's 100 points coming from the bench. That is by no means an outlier, with Ironi Ness Ziona's bench averaging a FIBA Europe Cup-best 41.6 points per game.


Throughout the season, s.Oliver Wurzburg have relied primarily on their defense to rack up wins in the FIBA Europe Cup and they are still the third-best ranked defense among all active teams, allowing opponents 75.0 points per game. However, they demonstrated they have enough firepower on the offensive end to win a high-scoring barn-burner as well, beating Pinar Karsiyaka 96-87 in overtime to move to 2-0 in Group I.


Avtodor Saratov are one of five teams to have begun the Second Round with back-to-back wins, but no one did it quite as spectacularly as the Dusan Alimpijevic-coached Russian side. Their point differential against Kataja Basket and ZZ Leiden is a dazzling 66 points in the green. That's 11 points more than the second-best team in Bakken Bears, who they will face after the break. January 9 — circle that date in your calendar.


And thus a legend of relentless warriors from Varese was born. Having erased a 23-point third-quarter deficit to turn around a seemingly unwinnable game in hostile territory against Dinamo Sassari, Attilio Caja's men took a bold step towards the Play-Offs in Group K and stayed as the main challengers to the top-seeded Bakken Bears in the Power Rankings.


That's eight in a row for Bakken Bears, who have hit the century mark in seven of their FIBA Europe Cup contests. With the Danes heading into 2019 with a 100% record, no one has been able to crack coach Steffen Wich's offensive schemes yet. Playing at an electric pace, the Aarhus club is ranked number one in points, assists and also have the best assist/turnover and steal/turnover ratios in the competition.

*The power rankings are entirely subjective and are in no way a true, accurate ranking system. All comments are purely those of the author.