Basketball is extremely popular in northern Europe and the VTB United League is the pinnacle of professional basketball that aims to unite the top clubs from Estonia, Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania and Latvia in one competition and which was first contested in the 2009-10 season. Now with 10 teams from Russia and one each from Belarus, Czech Republic, Finland, Latvia and Kazakhstan, the VTB United League has been dominated by CSKA Moscow who have won five of the six championships, including the last four. So can any side hope to challenge the Muscovites’ place at the top of the tree? We fear not.
Having said that, CSKA are not completely infallible, as they showed when losing 86-82 to Nizhny Novgorod in October. The bookies certainly think the title is all but in the bag already, pricing CSKA at betting odds of just 2/9 (Bet365) to retain their crown. We have a sneaking suspicion, however, that opposing the champions might just pay dividends this year, so read on as we give our predictions and betting tips for the current VTB United League season, along with the best live odds comparison to ensure you get the top value prices from some of the biggest and most trustworthy bookmakers on the planet.
Last season’s final saw CSKA whitewash BC Khimki 3-0 with scores of 89-62, 94-81 and 99-69. But Khimki (a city situated just north-west of Moscow) put in a very good season last term, finishing second in the table after the regular season with a 25-5 record, just one win behind CSKA’s 26-4 effort. They are priced at best odds of 5/1 in the outright betting with Bet365.
With a roster packed full of dynamic and robust players such as Marko Todorovic, Sergey Monia and James Augustine, Khimki have the ability to wear teams down and pick out their weaknesses in the latter stages of games. They will have learned from their final defeat last season and we feel they will come back this time smarter and stronger.
Having said that, CSKA’s roster has its own share of top class talent, with Milos Teodosic and Demetris Nichols in particular proving their worth in the second half of last season. But at odds as short as just 2/9 we just can’t bring ourselves to back the favourites, and Khimki offer the most realistic alternative, partly because they are the only other side to have won the VTB United League since its inception.
For another outside option at decent betting odds, you might consider taking a punt on Zenit St Petersburg at odds of 11/1 with Bet365. They have the advantage over the two sides above them in the betting in that they do not have Euroleague matches to contend with so they can concentrate wholly on their domestic ambitions. Zenit made a solid start to the 2014-15 campaign, winning their first four matches, and though it will be difficult for them to maintain that standard throughout the regular season, we think they will certainly do enough to make it to the playoffs, and they might just have what it takes to spring a surprise if things go their way.
Of the other sides, most can be discounted out of hand at the outset, with the likes of Minsk, Kalev and Riga priced at odds of between 200/1 and 300/1 in the outright winner market. Kuban Krasnodar – available to back at best betting odds of 15/1 with Ladbrokes – might just tempt one or two, but we would advise saving your money and instead place your wagers on either Zenit or Khimki.Google+