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Tip-Off Thursday: A Preview Guide To The Euroleague Season

Can Olympiakos repeat as Euroleague champs? Will CSKA Moscow comeback with a vengeance? Will the moves Real Madrid made in the offseason pay off during the season? The Turkish Airlines Euroleague officially starts on Thursday with seven games, so what better time for a full overseas rundown previewing what should be another exciting season.

Consider this your complete Turkish Airlines Euroleague preview guide.

Consider this the chance to soak in some serious hardwood knowledge straight from some of the best writers and sites (EuroStep, Eurohoops, Euroleague Adventures and of course, the fine folks at the Euroleague, just to name a few) covering the overseas game.

And what better time than now with the league getting underway on Thursday.

Last month I gladly sat through a three-day weekend mini-Euroleague four-team tournament here in Nuremberg, Germany hosted by the Beko BBL's own Brose Baskets Bamberg simply known around Deutschland as the Domreitercup 2012. Bamberg -- the three-time defending BBL champs -- welcomed Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Khimki Moscow and 2011-2012 Euroleague champion Olympiakos to town, and what a show the "Red and White" put on. While Maccabi, Khimki and Bamberg easily appeared in pre-season mode trying to figure out the chemistry side of their team personal along with the offensive sets installed, Olympiakos looked in prime mid-season form in all three games.

Vassilis Spanoulis moved the ball around the floor with ease and effectiveness; Joey Dorsey resembled a mini-Dwight Howard in the post, and Olympiakos as a whole carried themselves like a club poised to repeat.

Impressive -- even if it was to fine-tune for true Euroleague competition.

Impressive nonetheless.

Fast forward to this week and Euroleague 2012-13 gets started as Group A, Group B, Group C and Group D are all open for business with seven games slated for Thursday and five games on Friday's schedule. But before the ball is tossed in the air, lets take a closer look at the usual suspects this season and some teams and players to keep an eye on in each group.

Group A: BC Khimki Moscow Region, Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul, Mapooro Cantu, Panathinaikos Athens, Real Madrid, Union Olimpija Ljubljana

Eurohoops on Real Madrid: "The return of Rudy Fernandez to Europe made Real automatically a contender. Add Mirotic in the mix, who is maturing day by day and you have a winning combination inside the most complete roster of perimeter players in Europe. The only ingredient that seems missing is a dominating big in the paint, but if Slaughter can imitate his predecessor in Brose Baskets Bamberg, Euroleague champion with Olympiacos Kyle Hines, then the sky is the limit."

Group B: Alba Berlin, Asseco Prokom Gdynia, Elan Chalon-Sur-Saone, Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv, Montepaschi Siena, Unicaja Malaga

Euroleague Adventures on Maccabi: "B as in bad? Looks like it to us. Unicaja returns after flirting with relegation and scooping up Fran Vazquez; Montepaschi Siena lost half of their team to Fenerbahçe Ülker; Alba Berlin was giftwrapped a wild card; Asseco Prokom narrowly escaped financial collapse and extinction during the offseason; and Elan Chalon-Sur-Saone is...well...French.

Is Maccabi going to run through this group? Two of us think so, while one smells a resurgence in Malaga."

Group C: Anadolu Efes Istanbul, Caja Laboral Vitoria, Cedevita Zagreb, EA7 Emporio Armani Milano, Olympiakos Piraeus, Zalgiris Kaunas

Euroleague on Olympiakos: "Local hero Georgios Printezis and athletic forward Kostas Papanikolaou are key pieces of the Reds' front line. Both of them possess skills to hurt opponents inside as well as on the perimeter, but their ability to spread the floor was crucial to their success last season. The addition of Perperoglou gives the team more three-point shooting, size and defenseon the wings. Olympiakos has lots of toughness and hustle in the paint with Kyle Hines, Richard Dorsey and Pero Antic. The addition of Mavroeidis gives them a back-to-the basket scorer and another big body that will play physical basketball inside."

Group D:Besiktas JK Istanbul, Brose Baskets Bamberg, CSKA Moscow, FC Barcelona Regal, Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius, Partizan Belgrade

EuroStep on CSKA Moscow: "Here's a life quest: How do you bounce back from perhaps the biggest hit of faith in your life? Here is a life hack from CSKA Moscow: You try to return to the times when everything was close to perfection. And if you're CSKA you bring back one of the elite European coaches, even though some might say this is a step back for Ettore Messina."