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FC Bayern Basketball Update: Staying undefeated and the stats agree

Four games have been played in the new Basketball Bundesliga season, and the reigning champs haven't been beaten yet. While not that remarkable, it's still a respectable achievement with the injury bug active.

Christof Koepsel

Following the comfortable 86-63 over MBC on opening night (by the way, MBC are 3-0 since that night), the Bayern Baskets had to face a tricky task on gameday two. The trip to Ludwigsburg brought back memories to the first round of last season's playoffs, when game four had to be replayed due to a referee's mistake and Bayern ultimately won a heated series 3-1.

Led by point guard Kerron Johnson, who scored an impressive 38 points just three days earlier, and shooting guard Coby Karl, known for his buzzer beater against Bayern in the playoffs and probably even more for his father, former NBA coach George Karl, Ludwigsburg were still the underdogs but decent enough to not consider this an easy win.

In addition to the still injured Taylor, Zipser and Gavel, Pesic also had to do without two of his big men, John Bryant and Yassin Idbihi. Nevertheless, the eight remaining Bayern players (+ Daniel Mayr who didn't play) took Ludwigsburg seriously and played a very solid game, aside from a sub-par third quarter. Earning lots of trips to the free throw line and clearly outpassing the opponent, the team bus had to carry a 15-point victory back to Munich.

MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg - FCBB
Final score 78-93 (HT 41-52)
Most points Savanovic (21), three players (14)
Most rebounds Djedovic (9), Micic (5), Jagla (4)
Most assists Micic (7), Schaffartzik (6), Djedovic (4)

Another three days later, while the rivals from Berlin got to play against (and beat) the San Antonio Spurs, Bayern had the honor of returning to the cozy Audi Dome for a game against Frankfurt that turned out to be a lot more difficult than suspected.

One of Germany's better teams only a few years ago, Frankfurt haven't made it to the playoffs since the semifinals loss in 2011, and it doesn't seem like that's gonna change this year. Still, that wasn't on anyone's mind at half time.

With John Bryant returning from a minor injury, Bayern could rely on the two-time MVP to grab tons of rebounds again. They probably relied too much at first because the first half was a pure stinker. Frankfurt entered the break with a shocking 14-point lead. I don't wanna imagine how Pesic reacted to that.

The team on the other hand reacted well, the third quarter was all FCBB (25-7) and the closing minutes were just solid enough to secure a win that wasn't pretty but still counts. Nihad Djedovic again impressed with a shot percentage of 70%.

FCBB - Fraport Skyliners
Final score 80-73 (HT 34-48)
Most points Djedovic (20), Savanovic (18), Bryant (12)
Most rebounds Bryant (10), Savanovic/Stimac (5)
Most assists Schaffartzik (10), Bryant/Savanovic (3)

On Saturday, while most of the FCB footballers were busy losing in Poland, the basketball department had a fun trip to Hagen. Well, as much fun as one can have in Hagen. Can't be that much when you're only famous for a university the students never actually visit. Why am I talking trash about Hagen again?

Bayern's incredible squad depth already pays off these days. Just as Vasilije Micic went down with the flu, another guard got healthy - Anton Gavel was finally set for his first Bayern appearance. And what an appearance that was. Gavel wasn't in the starting five but finished the game with 11 points and 7 assists, replacing Micic perfectly.

The win was never in jeopardy as it took Bayern five minutes to warm up and dominate the hosts. Talking about domination, what happened down low was simply unfair - Bayern out-rebounded Hagen 54-33. For those of you who dislike all things math, that's a +21. A huge, huge gap.

Phoenix Hagen - FCBB
Final score 74-97 (HT 34-42)
Most points Djedovic (22), Bryant (21), Gavel (11)
Most rebounds Bryant/Djedovic (10), Savanovic (8)
Most assists Gavel (7), Savanovic (5), Schaffartzik (3)

So here we are, four games into the new season, and Bayern are 4-0. Aside from the first half against Frankfurt, the performances have been solid at worst. Being undefeated at this stage is no reason to celebrate (as of now, so are Berlin and Quakenbrück), but things are looking good. The new signings are all adding a lot to the team and needed no time to get used to the environment. Let's take a look at some stats.

It's too early to compare Bayern with teams like Berlin or Bamberg, the differences in difficulty are too wild. But we can look at trends within Bayern's game and they're mainly positive.

On average, Bayern...

  • outscore the opponent by 17 points
  • grab almost 10 rebounds more than the other team
  • collect almost 7 assists more than the opponent does
  • block four times as many shots as they're blocked

These numbers will go down as they face tougher teams, especially the difference in blocks is not sustainable. Yet, these are all positive trends.

The one reason for concern is keeping the ball, Bayern give up 1.5 more possessions than they steal from the opponent. That being said, it's the only reason for concern I could find. The shooting averages are good but not out of this world, Bayern don't lead the league in any of them, so you couldn't say they benefit from shooting luck. They do have the fewest personal fouls in the league but are also sub-par at free throws, so any negative effect that more calls against them would have should be made irrelevant by better free throws (that number will rise for sure).

One thing this team might wanna work on is their focus before half time. While the better play in the second half could be explained with the superior squad depth reducing fatigue, there is no reason why they should play worse in the second quarter than they do in the first quarter. But, in the end, all of those numbers are small sample size. Don't take them too seriously yet.

Here are some other early observations:

  • John Bryant is on fire. 3 games, 3 double-doubles. He's averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds per game. See what staying in shape can do for you?
  • Nihad Djedovic is fit and putting up MVP numbers. 17 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists. Please keep it up.
  • Dusko Savanovic is a pretty good shooter. 64% is a nice number for a big man who does a lot more than only take lay-ups and tip-ins.
  • The new system is helping the point guards. Anton Gavel, Vasilije Micic and Heiko Schaffartzik are all in the league's top 10 for assists. Impressive, even if you ignore Gavel who has only played one game so far.
  • We have an official starting five. Schaffartzik, Djedovic, Benzing, Savanovic, Bryant are the guys who start whenever they can. I think this lineup is here to stay, although it's not completely impossible that Micic/Gavel or Taylor could eventually replace Schaffartzik or Benzing.

The next FCBB game is one you shouldn't miss. The Euroleague season starts next week and Bayern travel to Spain for a big one. On Friday evening, it's time for a battle of the FCB - Barcelona against Bayern. The hosts are massive favorites, a Munich win would be an extreme upset. It's one of the rare opportunities to see Bayern as a clear underdog so tune in, I'm sure there will be streams.