Olimpia Milan will host Valencia today at the Mediolanum Forum in a game that counts for Round 7 of the current EuroLeague season.
If someone familiar with European basketball but missed the first month of action saw the record of the two teams after six rounds, almost certainly the first reaction would be that the numbers are wrong and should be the other way around.
Just like in the past couple of years, Milan entered the season with huge expectations. The Italian champions have a big budget and an experienced coach in Ettore Messina who also has the ‘’luxury’’ of creating the roster himself as he is the team’s President of Basketball Operations. Despite having a good roster last season, the team struggled in the EuroLeague and finished the regular season in 12th place with a disappointing 15-19 record, failing to reach the playoffs. To strengthen the squad in the summer, the team from Lombardy signed superstar Nikola Mirotic in maybe the biggest transfer of the EuroLeague offseason and they also brought in players like Maodo Lo (who just won the World Cup with Germany), Alex Poythress or Ismael Kamagate.
Despite all these additions, Milan started the season very poorly, losing 5 of their first 6 games (they also lost in the Italian Supercup and had two defeats in the domestic league). Fans fear they might miss the EuroLeague playoffs again. The team is 17th in points scored with an average of 76 per game (only Bayern is worse so far) and the defense is not better either with an average of 80 points received per game. Rumours say that Milan is on the market again as they are trying to find a new point guard possibly to replace Kevin Pangos.
Even with this very balanced and strong EuroLeague, where maybe 16 teams out of the 18 have set their goals to reach the playoffs, it would be a huge underachievement for Milan to miss the postseason again as on paper they should be fighting at least for a Final Four spot.