Like so many other sporting disciplines, Basketball has fallen foul of the coronavirus pandemic and with the Turkish SuperLig having to call time on the 2019/20 season before completion, there is increased focus on the campaign which is set to follow.
With the last slam dunk taking place in May, there has been an eerie silence in courts up and down the country and although closing the league was certainly a difficult decision by the Turkish Basketball Federation, it was undoubtedly the correct one at the same time.
The biggest losers in any decision to fold a league before its completion are the fervent supporters and they more than anyone else will be anticipating September’s return to top level Turkish Basketball action.
With the decision being announced on May 11th, it was decreed that there would be no promotion or relegation from the end of the last season. However, that does not mean change has failed to take place either.
The first change to the last season’s list of 16 entrants came back in July, as Sigortam.Net ITU (who themselves were previously known as Bakirkoy Basket) were removed from the competition due to financial issues.
This temporarily meant that 15 teams would be operating within the Turkish SuperLig 2020/21 season. That was until Petkim Spor were announced as a direct replacement and a sweet sixteen was once again back in place.
Unfortunately, Sigortam.Net ITU were not the only victims of the financial strain that has currently been placed on sport within Turkey and just a month later, Teksut Bandirma announced their departure from the competition.
Again, this meant that the prospect of 15 entrants was once again on the horizon, until Merkezefendi Belediyesi Denizli Basket were chosen to fill the void and bar any other financial shortfalls, the list of competitors is now set.
A list that arguably has Anadolu Efes at the top of it and after sitting at the highest step of the table pre-cessation, they will feel that there is certainly some unfinished business as far as claiming the league crown is concerned.
With 14 Turkish Champions to their name, the Istanbul outfit according to SBR they are certainly favourites to win the league this season and captain Dogus Balbay will be charged with leading his teammates to the promised land once again.
As there was no champion crowned last year, it means that Anadolu Efes are technically still the team in possession of the trophy by virtue of their success during the 2018/19 campaign – a year when they beat Fenerbahce Beko in the last meeting of their seven game finals series.
While the Fenerbahce Beko side may feel that there is room improvement after last year, as they only found themselves lying fourth in the table, at the point when the season was halted because of the global pandemic.
As they failed to act as the closest competitors to Anadolu Efes, it could be that Pinar Karsiyaka take on the mantle once again and with them being just a point behind the 2019 champions at the enforced stoppage, there is a sense of being deprived a real shot at glory.
Which means all coach Ufuk Sarica can do is dust his players down and build them back up again, knowing that they have pushed one of the strongest teams in the land very close and this year the target is to complete the job in hand.
If that is to be the case and this rather unfancied act are to return to glory, it would mean only a third championship win would be earned and one that would emulate the previous successes in both 1986/87 and 2014/15 seasons.
Should it not be Pinar Karsiyaka who can mount the nearest challenge, there is always the might of Galatasaray Doga Sigorta and with them lying in third place at the time of the league’s early finish, they displayed a consistent set of performances throughout the season.
Whether they can be consistent enough to go all the way to the finals remains to be seen and with 16 Turkish Championships and 1 EuroCup to their name, is 2020/21 the year in which this Basketball beast is finally awoken?
If that is to be the case, it would mean a first domestic title since 2012/13 and for a club of this stature, the wait has perhaps been a little too long. Whether they can win the league remains to be seen, but it will certainly be entertaining watching them and everyone else in their attempt for gold.