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Swedish Basketball League

Who wins the Swedish Basketball League 2017/2018?

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Basketball does not have an elite status among sports in Sweden. However, the country gave a lot of hard work into popularizing the sport in general, around as half of the Swedish population (3.4 million) are in some way of the other members of a sport club. There is a strong emphasis on volunteering, as this type of work gathers around 70,000 full time jobs.

Looking at the basketball, Sweden invested in this sport quite a lot, considering its status. The vision of Swedish basketball federation is for basketball to become the fastest growing team sport in the country by the year 2020.

The most notable example of the effort in this direction was organizing and hosting 2003 EuroBasket tournament in Sweden, with five cities as hosts. Although Swedish national team didn’t register the win and finished in the group stage, tournament was a huge success. The games of Swedish national team were filled with crowd. In elimination games, the average attendance was 8,500 in quarterfinals, 11,000 in semifinals, and third-place and final game had an attendance over 13,000 people in Stockholm Globe Arena.

The Swedish basketball federation was founded in 1948 as a section of Handball Federation, and in 1952 it became separate federation. Club basketball in Sweden traces bas to 1954, when the first league started with KFUM Söder winning the finals against KFUM Göteborg. But establishment of the professional league waited until 1992/93 season, when Basketligan started with 13 teams participating.

Up until emergence of Basketligan, Alvik Basket was a dominant force in the country with 19 titles in total. Since the 1992/93 season, eight different teams have won the national championship. Frontrunners are BC Luleå with eight titles, and the runners up are Södertälje Kings with five.

The league currently gathers nine teams. Each team plays two home and two away games against every opponent, with total 32 regular season games. After that, eight best teams enter the playoffs. Quarterfinals are played in best-of-five series, while semifinals and finals are played in best-of-seven series.

Recently finished season of Basketligan or Ligan, Swedish basketball league, marked the end of four year domination of Södertälje Kings, who ruled the league from 2013. The successors on the throne are BC Luleå, who won their eighth title in club’s history and first since 2007.  

Looking forward to 2017/18 season, these two teams will probably have another battle for the title, so rematch of this season’s finals is something that would not be a surprise at all, and the winner of the duel will probably be the team who manages to bring the best foreign players, probably from the USA.

The winner will be…

1.       BC Luleå

In terms of what was mentioned before about quality foreign players, las season’s champions have an advantage comparing to their main rivals. By winning the title Luleå will participate in FIBA Champions League qualifications, and FIBA Europe cup participation is a sure thing in any case. That will be for sure more appealing for quality players so it could be expected for them to strengthen the squad and improve.

Basketligan MVP for last season Brandon Rozzell, who was also the Finals MVP, made a huge impact on the team, Rozzell was second in the league in scoring and fourth in assists, beong a true facilitator for the team, but also primary attacking option. It is not known yet if he’ll return to the club for the next season, and if he does, than Luleå has huge chances to repeat the title success.

Luleå had five players with 10+ points in average last season, and the team scored 85 points per game in average and they led the league in this category. Scoring will be important for them heading to next season, as Luleå isn’t quite a defensive force in the league.

While competition is there, if Luleå can maintain or improve roster quality for next season, considering they will be in European competitions also, it is most likely that they are number one favorites to win the title again.

2.       Södertälje Kings

Prior to losing the finals this season, Södertälje Kings were four time defending champions and the dominant force in the league. Last season they had a decline in performances, as they went 23-9 in regular season comparing to 27-3 in 2015/16.

What presents the biggest problem for the club is that Toni Bizaca, their main and the best player for several seasons, is starting to come up with age. Toni is 35 now, and the question is how long he can maintain playing at the highest level.

The second big problem that hit the team last season was the clubs inability to replace Skyler Bowlin, point guard who played huge role in team’s success in 2015/16. Thomas Massamba was brought to his place, but he wasn’t good enough to replace Bowlin, as he provides less reliable shooting and playmaking abilities.

The fact that Södertälje will not participate in Europe this season also makes things more difficult for the team to bring in the best players, so Södertälje is likely to rely on home players and invest in future talents. Overall, they didn’t fall a lot last season, but decline is an obvious trend for the team and because of that, they can’t be considered as main favorites for the title next season, although it is not completely impossible.

3.     Norrköping Dolphins

Two time league champions were for the last four seasons constantly at the third place in the league. Last season they stopped in the semifinals of playoffs, and in 2015/16 they were finalist, falling short against the Kings.

Adnan Chuk is entering his fourth season as a head coach, and the team has been stable and consistent in this period. Dolphins play great defense and they are number one defensive force in the league, limiting their opponents to only 67.9 per game, and also league best 11 assists. Hey are excellent at protecting the rim and allow only 6.7 offensive rebounds per game, also league best. What they lack is on offensive end. The Dolphins are sixth in the league in points per game (76.2).

In their championship season, they had 10 players in the roster that scored 7 or more points per game. Last season, they had only four. So it is obvious that the priority for the team is bringing more scoring potential to the squad, but considering (non)attractiveness of the league and lack of Europe game for the team, is will be hard for them to make this big step forward.