The 2022/23 EuroLeague basketball season tips off on Thursday evening. In Munich (7:30pm UK), a Bayern side that scraped through to last season’s playoffs host Turkish powers Fenerbahçe, who are coming off of hugely disappointing 21/22 EuroLeague campaign.
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Bayern Munich team news
After some moderate success in the 1950s, Bayern Munich basketball took a roughly six-decade hiatus from meaningful success on the hardwood, both domestically and in Europe.
To provide some context, after winning consecutive German championships in 1953/54 and 1954/55 seasons, Bayern didn’t so much as finish top-two in a domestic league play until 2013/14 when they won their third league title.
Since that 2013/14 season, Bayern have won another two (most recently in 2018/19) and finished runners-up three times. It’s a similar story with the cup, where a single win in 1968 was followed by crickets until runners-up finishes in 2016 and 2017, and wins in 2018 and 2021. As a result, Bayern have since put themselves, for the time being, alongside Alba Berlin and Brose Bamberg, in the top tier of German club basketball.
In Europe, meanwhile, Bayern have become, if not ‘a force to be dealt with in the EuroLeague’, then at least ‘a team in the EuroLeague that needs to be dealt with on occasion’. Perhaps it’s damning with faint praise, but it’s also miles ahead of where this club was even a decade ago. Prior to 2013/14, Bayern was a literal non-factor in the EuroLeague – they’ve since managed a round of 16 exit (in 2013/14) and trips to the quarterfinals each of the past two years.
That being said, the progress made seems to be real and, given the resources at the club’s disposal, could very well be sustainable.
Fenerbahçe team news
That Bayern are tipping off their 2022/23 EuroLeague campaign against a Fenerbahçe side that finished last EuroLeague regular season 12th, closer to last place than to Bayern’s closest competition for the final playoff spot, ninth-placed Saski Baskonia.
Now, it must be said that Fenerbahçe, on the heels of a 10thTurkish Super League title (nine of which have come since 2006/07) are hardly bereft of talent themselves. This group boasts a powerful and versatile frontline, featuring a Serbian duo, Marko Gudurić and 2015 EuroLeague MVP and longtime NBA veteran Nemanja Bjelica, who’s returning to Europe from the NBA champion Golden State Warriors; starting centre Devin Booker (not the Phoenix Suns star, nor any relation to him); and a former All-Big Ten while at Wisconsin (and formerly of Galatasaray and Barcelona), Nigel Hayes.
Fenerbahçe have also strengthened in the back court, through the addition of veteran European star (and ex-NBA) point guard Nick Calathes (from Barcelona), former NCAA All-American point guard, 24-year-old Carsen Edwards (from the Detroit Pistons) and former SEC Player of the Year (while at the University of Florida) and All-American Scottie Wilbekin, who was acquired from Maccabi Tel Aviv.
This group will absolutely pose problems for opposition throughout the season. However, there’s no assurance that the awful form in which this team finished last season will be completely left behind to start this one. Again, that this team will grow into a quality side (if not a power) is a reasonable expectation. However, there are simply too many new faces and too many fresh memories of frustration to assume that this group will hit the ground running.