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Latvijas Basketbola līga Odds

Who wins the Latvijas Basketbola līga 2017/2018?

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Latvian basketball league 2017/18

As all of the former Soviet republics, Latvian basketball league started on 1991/92 season. After 26 seasons, what could be drawn as conclusion from the league’s history is that periods of dominance of certain clubs have almost completely marked the league.

First eight seasons of the league were completely in the colors of BK Brocēni, who won eight consecutive titles in first eight seasons of the league, from 1991/92 to 1998/99 season. The club was shut down in 2001, as new team begun its reign.

Immediately after the end of Brocēni’s eight year run, BK Ventspils took over the throne. This team followed the footsteps of previous champions, as they won seven consecutive league titles, from 1999/00 to 2005/06 season. However, Ventspils didn’t disappear from the basketball map as their ancestors, as the won the league on two more occasions (2009 and 2014), and played the finals six more times (2007, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017), which makes them the most successful basketball team in the league’s history.

All of the six finals that Ventspils lost, the opponent was a team from the capital of Latvia. In 2007 finals it was ASK Riga, and later it was VEF Riga. This team played in the playoff finals every time in the last eight seasons, and they finished as champions on five of those occasions, including the last season triumph against Ventspils.

Propositions

Last season, there were 10 teams in the league. Every team plays two home and two away games. The exceptions are VEF Riga and Valga. VEF Riga plays regional VTB League parallel with national championship, so they play only one home and away game in the regular season. Valga is a team, unique in Europe, which plays in two different national championships, Latvian and Estonian. So these two teams have 18 fixtures in regular season, and eight others play 32 games.

First two teams, with best winning percentage, qualify directly for the playoff semifinals, while teams placed from third to sixth spot play quarterfinal games in best-of-five series. Semifinals are played in best-of-five also, while finals are over when one team gets four wins.

Last season

2016/17 in Latvian basketball brought back the main rivalry over the past decade – Ventspils and VEF Riga were dominant in the regular season and in playoff semifinals. Ventspils finished regular season with best overall record (27-5), and went strong and merciless in playoff semifinals against Barons, as they won all three games with average difference of 32 points. VEF Riga also had an easy job in playoff semis against defending champions Valmiera, with comfortable 3-0 victory in the series.

The finals were rematch of finals that occurred six times in the last seven seasons. But this year it seemed like VEF had the easiest job out of all those occasions, as they swiped Ventspils in the finals 4-0, which is the first swipe in Latvian playoff finals in the last 11 years. Interestingly, it was Ventspils that made the last sweep in the finals in 2005/06 season, and that was their third in a row at the time. This year however, Ventspils were not match for VEF, and team from Riga celebrated their fith championship.

The champion for next season will be…

1. VEF Riga

This team played in every playoff finals in the last eight seasons and they are defending champions. The experience this team gets from playing Europe giants like CSKA, Khimki and Lokomitiv Kuban every year in VTB League is from huge importance to the team, as they continue to improve constantly. Last season VEF finished seventh in the VTB league and entered the playoffs for the second time, first appearance since 2012/13 season.

VEF has enough quality in roster and enough financial power to keep strong squad every season, so there are no concerns about being competitive year in and out. Recently finished season was the most dominant for the team in the playoffs, as VEF won all seven games and reclaimed the title they lost last year against Valmiera.

With Latvian star players like Martins Meiers and Mareks Mejeris, and proven Latvian veteran Janis Blums as their sixth man, VEF has a strong core of domestic players who, with the help of foreign additions like Kris Richard, are more than capable of dominating the league next season. It will be very difficult for other teams to be competitive against this squad.

2. Ventspils

Ventspils is the most decorated club from Latvia. Thay played in playoff finals 17 times in 26 league seasons, and they won the league on nine occasions. The peak of their dominance was at the beginning of the 21st century, but since 2007 they won the title only one time, and lost the finals six times, five of those against VEF.

Ventspils was the only Latvian team that was competing in Europe competitions last season, as they participated in newly formed FIBA Champions League, with overall record 7-7. They lost tiebreaker against PAOK and didn’t advanced to elimination rounds, but the team could be satisfied with the performances last season.

The team is on uphill from year before, and it is expected to be the main competitor to VEF in fight for league title. However, it is unlikely that Ventspils can overthrow champions from the throne.

3. Valmiera

This team dominated the league in 2015/16 season in regular season, where they had the best overall record (30-6). They managed to win the title, defeating VEF in the finals with 4-3 victory in the series, and brought refreshment in the league after VEF-Ventspils dominance.

Last season, however, the team took the turn back. They were third overall in the regular season (21-11), and were swept by VEF in playoff semifinals in three games. With no access to Euro competitions, the team will be unlikely to improve the squad drastically, and unfortunately it will be a real miracle if they could be true competitors to VEF or Ventspils next season.