The 2018-19 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague is back after a one-week break, which was very successful for those teams that added new hardware to their respective rolls of honors. Some of the teams played many games in a short period of time last weekend, so instead of looking back at Round 22, it is better to look forward to Round 23 and what it can offer. CSKA Moscow and Real Madrid can formally secure playoff spots in this round, thus joining already-qualified Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul. CSKA hosts Herbalife Gran Canaria, which did not play last weekend and will be fresh and ready to snap its losing streak. Madrid hosts FC Bayern Munich; these teams have a big football rivalry and it is now starting in basketball, too. Anadolu Efes Istanbul takes on Olympiacos Piraeus in what will be a special game for Efes center Bryant Dunston and Olympiacos head coach David Blatt, going against their former teams. In an all-Istanbul showdown, already-eliminated Darussafaka Tekfen takes on Fenerbahce. AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan and Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv face each other at Mediolanum Forum, where the Israeli powerhouse won its last EuroLeague title in 2014. It is also a rematch of the 1987 and 1988 EuroLeague championship games, which Milan won. FC Barcelona Lassa takes on KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz in a pivotal game, Panathinaikos OPAP Athens welcomes Khimki Moscow Region and last but not least, Zalgiris Kaunas hosts Buducnost VOLI Podgorica. The playoff fight will be intense and great basketball is on its way.
I have some suggestions for Round 23 in the EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge. These are the players who may perform better than their average this week:
Nando De Colo, CSKA Moscow (2.12 million). He had a period where his numbers did not match his superb talent, but this is former MVP Nando De Colo we are talking about. He has been a dominant fantasy challenge force for the last four years. De Colo barely misses from the foul line, scores in many ways, shares the ball... and has averaged a PIR of 29 over the last three EuroLeague games. The time to get him is now.
Shane Larkin, Anadolu Efes Istanbul (1 million). He has been a backup player most of the way, especially because Vasilije Micic has been unstoppable. Larkin started in Round 22 against Gran Canaria and had a great game with 18 points, 6 assists and a PIR of 24. Just when you thought Efes couldn't get any better, Larkin proves you wrong.
Mindaugas Kuzminskas, AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan (1.21 million). I know. I know. Last time I recommended Kuzminskas, he had a horrible game; it was against CSKA Moscow and he had a PIR of negative-11. Things have changed a lot lately: Milan needs him closer to the basket and Kuzminskas has averaged a PIR of 18.7 in the last three games.
Tarik Black, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv (1.46 million). Without Arturas Gudaitis and Kaleb Tarczewski, Milan has been able to rebound really well at both ends and is playing with great character. It faces a tough test against Maccabi because Black can really dominate the boards. And if he does so, his PIR will skyrocket in Round 23.
Norris Cole, Buducnost VOLI Podgorica (1.48 million). Still relatively cheap, Cole comes off a great double-double (20 points, 11 assists) in Round 22 against Khimki Moscow Region. He has become his team's undeniable leader and was named MVP as Buducnost won the Montenegrin Cup over the weekend. Cole should keep showcasing his scoring and passing skills. Expect a good game for him, even at Zalgirio Arena.