Where Does The VTB United League Rank In Europe?

The VTB United League's place in European basketball has been discussed ad nauseam to little effect, most often by people who want attention. Their tactics have much in common with Russian revolutions, appearing both incoherent and merciless. But that is not to say that there is no value in debating where each league ranks.

In fact, thanks to the final score, sports are extremely objective. Even the biggest blowhards can't deny it. By analyzing the results in each competition, we can even design a formula-based ranking. At the same time, it's essential that we do it well and not repeat the mistakes of European football.

I never could understand how the formula used by UEFA to distribute Champions League and Europa League berths to national leagues was ever approved, let alone allowed to function for decades. Under the formula, a team that wins each game in its group, but loses in the first knockout round can potentially earn more points than a club that advances to the semifinals. How is that possible?! Are you playing for championships or for points?

Anyone who understands sports even a little recognizes that the final result is the only way to judge a team or an athlete. In the end, the journey is secondary, especially when we are attempting to aggregate several results. Of course, there's an element of luck involved in each competition and each club's results, but the more data that is included, the smaller the margin of error. There's one other important thing to note: prioritizing a team's final result makes it possible to simplify the formula and avoid headache-inducing calculations down to the hundredths and thousandths of a point.

I've known this for a long time. I even published my own basketball league rankings about 20 years ago for a very popular publication, but I let it go and eventually forgot about it...I really have no excuse.

But it's never too late to admit your mistakes...isn't that right? Why not now? Especially since the timing is perfect for reviving the rankings: the first group stages in each European cup competition have just finished.

Let's start ranking. Each team earns 2 points for competing in the 1st group stage of the Euroleague and 5 points for advancing to the Top 16. Teams in the Eurocup earn 1 and 2 points, respectively (teams eliminated from the Euroleague during the 1st group stage are dropped into the Eurocup, where they also receive 2 points). FIBA Europe Cup teams receive 0 and 1 point. I should note that points do not accumulate: teams earn 2 points for making the Euroleague and 5 points for reaching the Top 16, but never 2+5.

That's all there is to it. The table ranks Europe's top 10 leagues following the conclusion of the 1st group stages of the 2015-16 season. I think the stats provide a very reasonable reflection of the balance of power in Europe. It's not complete, but it will do for now.

We have to wait until summer to see the final results and perhaps fine-tune the rankings. We'll also add in the results of previous seasons to improve objectivity. It should be fascinating! After all, we're undertaking a big project here.

Even now, the table provides plenty of fodder for conversation. It's clear that the Big Three (Spain, VTB League and Turkey) have separated from the rest of the field, but remain tightly bunched at the top. It will be very interesting to see how that plays out. But take a look at Germany's results! The Bundesliga is ranked 4th, not Greece with its legendary Olympiakos and Pananthinaikos. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, though. Pao and Oly will have plenty of opportunities to impact the final standings.

Where will the VTB United League finish? It's unlikely to finish lower than 2nd. I'd even say the VTB United League is the favorite right now. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. We'll return to our ranking in April, when the Euroleague Top 16 wraps up.

National leagues following the 1st group stage in the 2015-16 season

Clubs (initially)
Clubs (remaining)
 % Ranking
1. Spain 8 (4+4+0*) 8 (4+4+0) 80 57 23 71,3 28
2. VTB United League 13 (3+5+5) 10 (3+4+3) 110 66 44 60,0 27
3. Turkey 10 (4+4+2) 9 (3+4+2) 92 52 40 56,5 26
4. Germany 8 (2+5+1) 7 (1+5+1) 76 38 38 50,0 17
5. Greece 5 (2+3+0) 4 (2+2+0) 50 31 19 62,0 15
6. Adriatic 7 (2+2+3) 5 (2+1+2) 58 27 31 46,6 15
7. Italy 8 (2+4+2) 7 (0+5+2) 72 27 45 37,5 13
8. Lithuania 6 (1+2+3) 4 (1+1+2) 48 22 26 45,8 10
9. France 8 (2+3+3) 5 (0+2+3) 68 29 39 42,6 10
10. Israel 3 (1+1+1) 3 (0+2+1) 26 13 13 50,0 5

 * - number of clubs in each European competition (Euroleague, Eurocup, FIBA Europe Cup)