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Austrian Basketball League (ABL) Odds

Who wins the Austrian Basketball League (ABL) 2017/2018?

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Austrian Basketball League 2017/18

Basketball in Austria is not among most popular sports. Surrounded by mountains, this country has most inclinations towards winter sports, and football is number one team sport. However, although it doesn’t draw as much attention, basketball teams in Austria have small, but faithful group of fans, and the goal for the federation and the leagues is to grow out from there.

Sport venues for basketball teams in Austria are small in capacity (the biggest venue has 2,500 seats), but they are usually filled with crowd, as fans are very attached and supportive with their clubs.

The first season of professional club basketball in Austria started was 1946/47 season. Since then, the league changed its format and structure on a regular basis. The playoffs were introduced in 1986/87 season, at the period of domination of BK Klosterneuburg, who won eight consecutive titles from 1983 to 1990. This team is still competing in Admiral Basketball Bundesliga, which is an official name for the league since 2008/09 season. Prior to that, from 2004/05 season the league was named Österreichische Basketball Bundesliga (Austrian basketball league), and before that A-Liga.

BK Klosterneuburg isn’t the only former champion that competes in the league today. In fact, out of the nine teams that participate in the competition, seven of them were the league’s champions at some point. In the last 20 seasons, 10 different teams were national champions, so the league doesn’t have a tendency to nurture dominance of one team over the years, but rather is very competitive.

Propositions of the league allow teams to have four foreign players in their rosters, and since most of them are USA players who usually lead the teams, domestic players are in the second plan. So since 2003/04 season, the league introduced Austrian Player MVP Award, for the best domestic player in the season, hoping that it will be a motivation for young Austrian players. Regular MVP award has been handing out since 2002/03 season, and in the last 10 seasons only once it was handed to Austrian player, which is why domestic award is important for development of the game.

Propositions

The league changed its structure and format throughout the years. 2016/17 featured nine teams, as UBC Güssing Knights, previous two time consecutive champions in 2014 and 2015, due to financial problems, were disqualified from the league on April 2016.

Nine teams play regular season, with each team playing two home and away games against every opponent. That makes total of 32 fixtures over the regular season. First two teams qualify directly for playoff semifinals, and teams placed from 3-6 play quarterfinal games in best-of-three series to fill the rest two places. Semifinals are played in best-of-five series, and finals are played in best-of-seven.

Last season

Regular part of 2016/17 indicated that this season would be no different than the year before. Redwell Gunners were dominant throughout 32 fixtures, as defending champs won 27 games, leaving Swans on second place with 5 more wins. But contrary to last season, when they started playoff quarterfinals with tight 3-2 victory over Swans, then 3-1 against Vienna in semifinals, and finishing dominant 3-0 in finals against WBC Wels, this season went in opposite direction. Defending champs first won 3-2 against Wels in semifinals, and after winning first game of the finals against Kapfenberg Bulls, the Gunners lost next four games and gave away the title.

The Bulls won their fifth title overall, first after 13 years, and also won the first “double crown” in club history, after winning the national cup title also. The finals series were extremely exciting, as games 3 three and four finished with only one point difference, which is the first time in league’s history that final games are that close. Defenses were very strong and at the end the Bulls deservedly won the title.

Next season the campions will be…

Last season finals were the most exciting series in the history of the league, despite what might seem like a comfortable 4-1 victory of the Bulls. Only in one of those games one team won in double digits, and games three and four were both close to the last second. It looked like defending champs Gunners were a little out of gas, and the pressure of defending the title is always way more bigger that winning one.

With all that said, it is perhaps more likely that the Gunners could be favorites for next season, rather than expecting the Bulls to repeat success. However, some things could complicate thing a bit more. First of all, for 2017/18 season, only the Bulls and Swans will be able to register five foreign players in the roster. The Gunners will be able to register only four, and while it might seem like it’s not that big a deal, foreign players are the ones that make the difference in the league, as both the Bulls and the Gunners have at least three of them in starting lineups, and more often than not there are even more. The Gunners started several games in the final series with lineup made exclusively of American players, and not having five for the next season could be the problem.

Despite that, the Gunners have young roster capable of improving and if both teams keep their core as expected, the race for the title next season will be perhaps at least as interesting as the last one, and maybe we will see all seven games in the finals, if both teams reach there.

As for other teams, Swans made a big leap from the season before, as they went from 13-19 in 2015/16 season and elimination in the first round of playoffs, to 22-10 the last season, where they finished in semifinals, losing against future champions. Their improvement is expected in future, so they could be the team that could present a danger for Bulls and Gunners.