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Croatian A1 basketball league odds

Who wins the Croatian A1 basketball league 2017/2018?

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Although Croatian basketball league (A-1 Liga) exists only for 26 years, Croatian basketball dates way back before. As a one of the six republics that were a part of Yugoslavia, Croatian basketball had huge successes in the past, winning Olympic gold medal in 1980 and three World championship titles under Yugoslavian flag.

Basketball clubs from Croatia had made some pretty impressive successes in the past, especially throughout the 80s. During this decade, in the course of 10 seasons of Euroleague (then called FIBA Champions Cup), Croatian teams were winners of the competition on five occasions.

First KK Cibona won two consecutive titles in 1985 and 1986, and then Yugoplastika (now called KK Split) won three consecutive titles from 1989 to 1991, which is accomplishment that no other teams managed to pull in the modern history of the competition.

With breakup of Yugoslavia, basketball in the former states suffered greatly, especially at a club level. National teams of newly formed countries continued to have success on international competitions. In club basketball, only one team managed to win the European crown (Partizan from Serbia in 1992), and the same team played on Final Four on two more occasions.

Croatian clubs, due to bad economic state, gave up on their best players to stronger, financially more stable teams, and NBA teams as well. Talent base however wasn’t and still doesn’t present a problem for Croatia, but the problem for Croatian club basketball is the fact that the best players from the country are playing abroad, and it’s a trend expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

Since establishing the league and its first season in 1991/92, the league had five different champions, and only six different teams played in Playoff finals. Absolute most decorated team in the league is KK Cibona Zagreb, with 18 league titles, 10 more than all other teams combined. Cibona was particularly dominant in the 90s, as the team won 11 consecutive titles from the beginning of the league in 1991 until 2002/03 season, when their streak was ended by KK Split.

The first decade of 2000s was a battle between Cibona and Zadar, as the two teams played 7 times out of 10 seasons in Playoff finals, with Cibona winning six and Zadar one time. Second decade of the 21st century began with surprising win of KK Zagreb against Cibona in playoff finals. Next two years Cibona won the league on two more occasions in 2011/1 and 2012/13.

Format of the league has changed over the years, and the main reason for that is participation of the best Croatian clubs in ABA (Adriatic) League, that gathers the best team from former Yugoslavian republics into one league. Prior to 2016/17 season, teams from Croatia that participate in ABA league were liberated from playing regular season during their participation in ABA, but only playing SuperLeague at the season end with four best teams from Croatian championship.

Since 2016/17 season, this rule changed and now even ABA League teams play parallel in national championship. However, ABA teams found a way to release a pressure from their main players playing so many games. Due to lack of real competition, ABA teams were playing in national league with their second-tier rosters, often with players from youth teams, and first-team rosters were included only after ABA league finish.

So looking at stats of the league during regular season is misleading. For example, Cedevita finished regular season with 18-8 record and sixth place overall, but won the title at the end for the fourth consecutive time.

Currently, the league gathers 14 teams. The league is played in 26 fixtures, where each team plays one home and away game against every team. After 26 fixtures, two bottom teams are demoted to A2 league, while first eight teams enter the playoffs. Quarterfinals and semifinals are played in best-of-three series, and the finals are played in best-of-five.    

Since the 2013/14 season, a new team started its dominance in the league, and it continues to this day. KK Cedevita, also from Zagreb, is a current and four consecutive time champion of the league, beating Cibona in finals on every occasion. These two teams are a dominant force in the league in recent years, and, looking at the next season, things will not be any different.

The champion will be…

1.     KK Cedevita

Cedevita absolutely dominates Croatian club basketball in the last four years, as they won four titles in the period. They are defending champions and probably the only team from the country that could financially compete with European teams at some level.

Since Euroleague participation for clubs from ex-Yu republics is granted only by winning ABA league title, Cedevita didn’t manage to enter the competition last season and next season also, as they fell short against Crvena Zvezda at ABA finals.

However, Cedevita played in Eurocup, went 6-2 in the first stage and reached top16 phase, where they fell short to reach quarterfinals in a group with two future finalists, Unicaja and Valencia. Next season Cedevita will play Eurocup again.

In Croatian league, Cedevita played regularly with second unit during the regular season and finished sixth. But once the playoffs begun, first unit players were included and Cedevita went comfortably past Jolly and Split without losing a match, and in tough and exciting finals, they beat their biggest rivals Cibona 3-2 in a series.

In the past few seasons, Cedevita based their game around Miro Bilan, a strong and skilled center, with quality to play in any European team. Bilan usually had most help coming from skilled and good-shooting guards, mostly from USA. Last season it was Ryan Boatright and Ra’Shad James, and season before it was Jacob Pullen, now member of Khimki Moscow.

With young Croatian talents as Luka Babic, Filip Kruslin and Marko Arapovic, and proven veterans like Marko Tomas and Mirza Begic, Cedevita has a roster which quality couldn’t be matched in Croatian league.

The question for the next season that remains is will Bilan be part of the team or he will choose some financially more lucrative offer from abroad. But even if the teams lose its best player, there is enough quality and money in the club to gather strong quad again, which will be more than enough for fifth consecutive title.

2.     Cibona

For the first few months of the 2016/17 season it looked like Cibona could be serious contender in every competition they participated – FIBA Champions League, Croatian and ABA League. Team played consistently good and they were among the top teams in every competition.

However, everything changed at the end of 2016 calendar year. And the thing that was so important in complete overthrow of Cibona’s season was departure of their best player, and one of the top young prospects in European basketball – Ante Zizic.

Zizic was named ABA League top prospect for 2015/16 season, and at the start of the last season he started to prove his title, as he was leading ABA league in index rating points, and was named ABA league player of the week on three occasions. On December 27th, Zizic signed with Darussafaka, and Cibona’s results started to fade more and more.

The team didn’t manage to make up departure of their best player, as they failed to enter ABA playoffs, and fell short in Croatian league finals once again against Cedevita. It is less likely that the club will manage to repeat results from the start of next season heading into 2017/18, but due to lack of real competition, it is most likely they will play another Croatian league playoff final.


Cedevita and Cibona are the most dominant teams in the league and chances for any other team to enter the title race are almost completely impossible. KK Zadar is regularly behind the two teams in championship and ABA League, but the team lack financial infrastructure to seriously challenge them. As for the others, the disproportion in quality is so large, that even second-units of Cedevita and Cibona are competitive against them.