Virtus Bologna has had a slow start in their first EuroLeague season after many years away from the competition. We tried analyzing some of the main issues behind this slow start and asked ourselves: is it too soon to start worrying about this team? 

Credit: ZUMA Press – Scanpix, D. Lukšta
Credit ZUMA Press – Scanpix, D. Lukšta

The long-awaited return to EuroLeague basketball has been rather hard to swallow for Virtus Bologna this early in the season.

3-pointers this season

28%
5,8
Points made: 5,8
Accuracy: 28,4%
Place in standings: 17
Record max: 7
Record min: 4
Most made 3FGs: Kyle Weems

Sergio Scariolo's team has won only one of the first four games played and is coming off a crushing defeat against Partizan Belgrade, in which the Bologna team lost by 28 points without ever giving the impression that it could stay in the game.

The loss against Partizan on the road, especially in the first season back in EuroLeague after so many years, could have been anticipated in some ways. However, the defeat against Zalgiris, in which Virtus had the chance to secure the win on different occasions, can be a warning sign.

A double-round week can always be tricky for every team and even more for those with less experience in the competition. Despite the 1-3 record, it's still way too early to make any kind of final judgment on the Italian side, but it does feel like a good time to analyze more in-depth what has been wrong for Virtus Bologna so far. 

Jammed offense 

So far, the main issue for Scariolo's team has been on the offensive end. In the first four games of the EuroLeague season, Virtus averaged only 64.8 points per game, the worst number in the entire competition.

They failed to score at least 70 points in all the first four games. So far, their highest number has been 66 points. Virtus have been struggling heavily to create an efficient offense on the perimeter.

As things currently stand, Virtus Bologna is the second-worst team in the competition in 3-pointers taken per game, with 20.3 (only ASVEL is taking fewer shots from deep per game), and the worst team of the EuroLeague in terms of 3-point percentage (28%).

The Italian side is also struggling at the free throw line, where they're converting an average of 67% of their free throws. Even in this case, we're talking about the worst number in the entire competition.

In general, Virtus are shooting only 41% from the field, tied for the worst in the competition with Crvena Zvezda. Scariolo's side has also struggled to take care of the ball.

The offense has often been sloppy, and Virtus are currently averaging 15.8 turnovers per game - the second-worst number in the competition, right behind ASVEL.

Milos Teodosic remains the main creator of the team, but with the Serbian magician forced to miss the entire pre-season with an injury, Scariolo needs to manage his minutes as much as he can while the player ramps up his conditioning.

For the moment, Teodosic is averaging 13 minutes per game, but when he's not on the court Virtus struggle mightily when they need to create offense against a set defense. Lundberg is more of a shooting guard than a point guard, and in general, he's not the type of player that can carry all the offensive responsibilities on his shoulders.

Hackett and Pajola can bring a lot of energy thanks to their defense and their ability to run the floor in transition, but they don't share the same type of Teodosic's creativity when they have the ball in their hands against a set defense.

Mannion, after an extremely difficult rookie season, mostly due to the injuries, is having a bigger role in the Italian league. However, in EuroLeague, Scariolo is not giving him many minutes, with the Italian point guard currently averaging less than 5 minutes per game. 

"I can't say when Teodosic will be at the top of his condition," Scariolo said after the loss against Partizan Belgrade. "He missed the entire pre-season. For a player like him, it's a lot. But we're not planning to use him for 30 minutes per game. We want to use his extremely high basketball IQ in the best way."

Despite his age, Teodosic is still elite at what he does best: creating for himself and his teammates. But his abilities must be balanced with the need to manage his minutes so that he would be in the best possible condition deep into the season.

But with the difficulties shown by the team when the Serbian point guard is not on the court, the main question now is: can Virtus afford this kind of strategy? 

Marco Belinelli's dilemma 

Another one of the main topics of this poor start to the EuroLeague season for Virtus Bologna has been Marco Belinelli. The marquee signing of the Zanetti's ownership (together with Teodosic) and the team's captain is averaging less than 11 minutes per game in EuroLeague and has shot only 14% from deep.

The former NBA player was supposed to have a prominent role in this season, the one that marked the return of Virtus to the elite of European basketball, but so far, he has been struggling tremendously to leave an impact.

Belinelli is a shooter, we all know that. He played that role for years in the NBA, coming off the bench to provide points and spacing for his team, running around on the perimeter, and using the screens to be in position for an open shot.

But so far, Belinelli is finding it difficult to have 'his' shots, partly because Virtus' offense hasn't been able to feed him in the right way and because the shooting guard is still not in the best condition possible.

Credit ZUMAPRESS.com-SCANPIX

At 36, Belinelli needs more time to fully enter the games and be his best version. In the last few EuroLeague games, Scariolo didn't use him that much, giving him a stint in the first half and then keeping him on the bench in the second half.

Although he's playing more in the Italian league, averaging 20 minutes per game, Belinelli, at times, has shown a level of frustration for the lack of minutes that he's receiving so far.

During a recent press conference, Scariolo made it clear that everyone has to be ready whenever they step on the court, regardless of the playing time. 

"We have many guards, so everyone needs to stay ready," Scariolo stated. "Also, because the club pays the salaries on time every month."

As of right now, Belinelli's situation is emblematic of the dilemma Virtus is experiencing from a technical standpoint.

The Italian guard and Teodosic are two very important players, but they're also hard to pair together because of their defensive shortcomings.

Having both of them on the court is hardly sustainable for a long period of time, especially when Belinelli is not productive on the offensive end. It becomes hard to justify his presence on the court.

Finding a solution to this situation would represent a huge step forward for Virtus, not only from a technical standpoint but also in terms of the locker room's chemistry.

Belinelli is the captain of the team, the club is trying to extend his contract, which will expire at the end of this season, and the player has often stated that he still wants to play and he's not thinking about retirement.

In a recent interview, Belinelli also revealed that he might rejoin the national team next summer - another sign that he still has that fire inside of him. 

Meanwhile, the return of Toko Shengelia, who is expected to be available against Real Madrid, will definitely help the team in having more solutions and will provide that bit of extra physicality that Virtus lacked in the last few games.

For the rest, they'll need to figure it out internally. There's still a lot of time available, and Sergio Scariolo is one of the best coaches around. The season just started, but there's already something to fix. 

Last season the Italian side made multiple in-season additions, mostly because of injuries but also because of the opportunity created by the suspension of the Russian teams from the EuroLeague.

Is that a trend that we're going to see again this season for Virtus? Only time will tell.

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Milos Teodosic

Milos  Teodosic
Team: Virtus Segafredo Bologna
Position: PG
Age: 35
Height: 195 cm
Weight: 87 kg
Birth place: Valjevo, Serbia