Two French clubs in the second best championship in the world after the NBA? It hadn’t happened for six years. Limoges and Strasbourg, eliminated from the group stage, did not leave an unforgettable memory.
But the presence of the “Roca Team”, titled last season in the Eurocup (C2), and that of Asvel, double French champion in title, two very active formations on the transfer market, provide reasons for hope. . So much so that the qualification of one of the two for the quarter-finals does not seem unthinkable. Even if no French team has succeeded in C1 since … Asvel in 2001.
Monaco, which will make its baptism in the competition Thursday (7 p.m.) by hosting the Panathinaikos, wants to settle there permanently. The Principality’s club has given itself the means with a doubled budget (14 million euros), a careful recruitment of twelve players, including the former NBA playmaker Mike James, top scorer in the Euroleague 2019, as well as an expressly renovated and enlarged hall (5,000 seats).
A better C1 scorer
The Monegasque team is used to going fast since it was taken over by the Ukrainian businessman Sergey Dyadechko in 2013. So in NM1 (3rd division), it climbed the ranks with great strides to s’ invite into the French elite two years later.
If it has not yet got its hands on the title of champion of France, after two failures in the final in 2018 and 2019, the “Roca Team” offered themselves the Eurocup, “little sister” of the Euroleague, at the end of April, a first for a French club since 1988.
Nevertheless, “in Euroleague, it’s always complicated. Even when you are considered a big team, teams surprise you and hang on until the play-offs. I hope we will be that team, ”explained Mike James.
For its part, Asvel, recovered by Tony Parker, is anchored in C1. She returned to semi-closed competition two years ago, then obtained permanent member status in June. Fifteen in the standings in 2019-2020, at the time of the interruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Rhone team set off with a sound last season. Still far from places for the play-offs.
“Tours” in the snowshoe
But the reinforcements of the offseason make it look even more attractive. With the Franco-Senegalese Youssoupha Fall (2.21 m) and the nugget Victor Wembanyama (2.19 m), announced as a potential N.1 of the NBA Draft in 2023, Asvel has two “turns” in the racket.
And the recent arrival of the American interior James Gist, 34 years old and 269 Euroleague matches, adds a dose of experience to him before challenging Zalgiris Kaunas on Friday (8 p.m.) at the Astroballe.
In the camp of the Lithuanian monument is the French globetrotter Joffrey Lauvergne, who has sailed in Europe (Partizan, Valence, Moscow, Fenerbahçe) and in the NBA (Denver, Oklahoma City, Chicago, San Antonio).
In total, twenty-six French will be on the starting grid Thursday and Friday, including a small colony at Real Madrid (Causeur, Heurtel, Yabusele and Poirier), one of the big cars.
Nando de Colo, after winning the Olympic silver medal with the Blues in Tokyo, is once again aiming for the European Grail with Fenerbahçe, who has already won it twice but with another cador, CSKA Moscow (2016, 2019).
Rodrigue Beaubois and Adrien Moerman are preparing Efes Istanbul, crowned for the first time last season at the expense of FC Barcelona in the final, to try to keep his title.
Not a club has achieved such a feat since Olympiakos in 2013. Quite a challenge!
What there is to know
Alba Berlin (GER), Efes Istanbul (TUR), Olimpia Milan (ITA), Red Star Belgrade (SRB), CSKA Moscow (RUS), FC Barcelona (ESP), Bayern Munich (GER), Fenerbahçe (TUR), Vitoria ( ESP), Villeurbanne (FRA), Maccabi Tel Aviv (ISR), Olympiacos (GRE), Panathinaikos (GRE), Real Madrid (ESP), Monaco (FRA), Kazan (RUS), Kaunas (LTU), Saint Petersburg ( RUS)
The 18 teams each face each other in home and away matches, a total of 34 days.
The first eight qualify for the play-offs, which compete for the best of five games. The four winners of the play-offs in the Final Four.
Group stage: September 30, 2021 to April 8, 2022
Dams: before May 5
Final Four: May 27-29, 2022 in Cologne, Germany