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Estonian basketball league Odds

Who wins the Estonian basketball league 2017/2018?

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Basketball has a long tradition in Estonia. Back in the 1930s, prior to Soviet Union occupation, Estonian national team competed in 1936 Olympics, making it the only Soviet country to participate, finishing at 9th spot. In 1937 and 1939 European Championship, Estonian team finished fifth on both occasions. Since 1940, after the occupation of Soviet Union, the team was disbanded.

Restoration of Estonian national team appeared after Soviet Union’s fall in 1991, and Estonian team rejoined the FIBA, and competed in 1993 EuroBasket in Germany, finishing at sixth place. They participated in two more EuroBasket tournament since, 2001 in Turkey and 2015 in Latvia, Croatia, France and Germany.

Club basketball in Estonia shared the fate of a national team. The first club competition in Estonia started in 1925, and lasted until 1941, when it was integrated in Soviet Union league. The competition was restored in 1991, and since then it’s named Korvpalli Meistriliiga.

Nine teams are participators in the league, played by double home and away games, making it 32 regular season games in total for each team. After regular season, first eight teams are heading into Playoffs, with best-of-five series played in quarterfinals and semifinals, and best-of-seven series in finals.

Estonia takes a lot of pride in its basketball school. Eight out of nine teams in the league are coached by Estonian coaches, with the exception of BC Valga, which has a Latvian coach, being that the team competes in both Estonian and Latvian basketball championships. 70% of the players in the league are Estonian. However, if you look at the best teams in the league, it’s easy to conclude that good choice of foreign players makes the most difference between the teams.

2016/17 season has finished, with BC Kalev defended the last season’s title. This year’s opponent in the finals was AVIS Rapla, and it was the first time in the last seven seasons that finalists are not Kalev and Tartu. In fact, ever since the 1999/00 season, one of those two teams was a champion of the league, with Kalev winning 11 titles and Tartu winning 7. 

Looking at the 2017/18 season, not big changes are expected. Kalev and Tartu are to continue their dominance in Estonian basketball, with others roaming bellow searching for an opportunity.

And the winner will be…

1. BC Kalev

The most decorated basketball club in Estonia took over the prime position in the league since the 2000s. Kalev has a long tradition in Estonian basketball, with their first title came as early as 1927, then by name KK Kalev as its predecessor. Since then, the club has won 27 league titles, with 12 in the last 20 seasons.

Kalev is the most popular and recognizable basketball team in the country, with the arena capacity of 7,200 seats (second most in the league is Rakvere with 2,747). They represent Estonia in VTB League, where they finished 11th with 5-19 record.

However, in domestic league, Kalev was dominant once again this season. They lost only 3 games during the regular season while winning 29, and then went 10-0 in the Playoffs, sweeping every opponent on the way.  

Kalev led the Estonian League last season in points per game (86.4), assists (18.5), blocked shots (3.8), field goal (48.6%) and three point percentage (36.4%), while committing least turnovers (11.6) and personal fouls (17.3).

Team’s coach Alar Varrak enters his sixth year as the head coach, but he was part of Kalev’s staff for nine years now, serving as an assistant coach from 2008 to 2012. So Kalev has an established system and continuity, and this stability along with competitive squad will probably be too much for their opponents in the league for the foreseeable future. That’s why Kalev is expected to defend league title in 2017/18 season.

2. BC Tartu

As of the end of 2016/17 season, Tartu is no longer the most successful club in Estonia. With their 26 league titles throughout the history Tartu is one of the two giants of Estonian basketball.

Last season was a huge disappointment for Tartu fans. The team has failed to enter Playoff finals for the first time after 13 consecutive seasons in the final round and five league titles in the same period. And with the loss in Estonian Cup finals this season, this will be the first time over the last 18 years that Tartu has failed to win any trophy for two consecutive seasons.

The team have also failed to qualify for FIBA Champions League and settled with participation in FIBA Europe Cup, where they lost all four games. Head coach Gert Kullamae is entering his ninth year as the team’s head coach, and although he has won 8 trophies with the team so far, maybe this a time for a change.

Playoffs semifinal defeat against Rapla came as a big shock to the fans and the club, and some changes must occur if the team wants to be a true rival to Kalev once again. The team needs new additions and refreshment going forward and it’s hard to imagine they could jeopardize Kalev in the next season.

And others…

Rapla was a bit of a fresh air this season for Estonian basketball. They were the first team after six seasons that have reached Playoff finals, and is not named Kalev or Tartu. Last two seasons they were third in the championship, and with this year’s finals, Rapla is showing constant progress. It is, however, not probable they can all the way in the 2017/18 season, but the league will for sure benefit ifthey manage to reach finals once again.

KK Pärnu is the only team left that finished regular season with the positive record. They have a young squad, with only two foreign players, and only two players older than 30 years, so they could be interesting team to watch over the years.

For now, heading to 2017/18 season, things will be no much different than the last two decades.