Top 3 teams title contenders in Basketball Champions League

This week we have a break in Europe in the continental and domestic basketball leagues, as the national teams play qualifications for the 2025 EuroBasket and pre-qualifications for the World Cup 2027 (for the teams that missed the chance to compete for next year’s EuroBasket). In the Basketball Champions League, the action will resume only on the 5th of March, however, this is a good chance to look a little forward and check which teams seem to be the top title contenders.

Each of the four groups in the BCL has an undefeated team at the top, so obviously these teams have to be considered seriously when talking about title contenders. As the number one contender, I would take Unicaja Malaga. Not so long ago the team from Andalusia was a regular presence in the EuroLeague and also played in the Final Four of the strongest European competition in 2007. However, because of budget limitations, they took a step back and two seasons ago they surprisingly announced that the team will compete in the BCL instead of the EuroCup. From the first day, the intention was the win the BCL, but so far they failed to do so, reaching the quarterfinals in 2022 and the 4th place in 2023 after a Final Four they organised at home in the Martin Carpena. However this season Unicaja seems to be stronger and is the main favourite for the BCL title. Ibon Navarro’s team is 2nd in the ACB League standings and in the BCL they are 3-0 in a group that also features Tofas, Cholet and Strasbourg.

The next team on the list are the defending champions, Bonn. Last season was incredible for the German team, winning the first continental title in the club’s history and playing the German league final, another result that very few people would have predicted. Last summer Bonn lost its best player T.J. Shorts who was the BCL and German League MVP and also its coach Tuomas IIsalo, both of whom left for EuroCup contender Paris Basketball. However, with Roel Moors as the new head coach, Bonn continues to be a force in the BCL this season, as they lead the group where they compete with Ludwigsburg, Dijon and Galatasaray.

The third team to be mentioned is Hapoel Jerusalem. The Israeli team cannot count on its fan support this season because of the conflict in the Middle East and they have to play their home games behind closed doors in Belgrade. They also had to make a coaching change in January, when Aleksandar Dzikic left the team and Ilias Kantzouris took over. Despite these inconveniences, Hapoel is a candidate to win the title as coach Kantzouris has a strong roster built around American players. They are 3-0 in their group and their last game where they beat Tenerife 85-61 was imposing.

Imre Halasz

Image credit: Basketball Champions League