This weekend’s four multiple-team DODDS-Europe basketball gatherings are a step in the direction of more equitable scheduling across the continent. But the appeal isn’t all political. The meets at Alconbury, AFNORTH, Aviano and Vicenza should bring a lot of high-level basketball.

Division IPatch, Naples, Vilseck at Vicenza

At last fall’s volleyball tournament, the first under DODDS-Europe’s major realignment, Italian teams more than proved themselves. Vicenza reached the Division I semifinals and Naples made it within a couple of points of a Division I title before falling to Wiesbaden. This weekend will reveal if it’s safe to look forward to a similarly competitive basketball tournaments.

On the girls side, Naples is off to a 6-0 start, but it’s come entirely against lower-division opponents. And the wins haven’t come easily – they beat Sigonella by just five points in each game and needed overtime in one of two wins over Aviano. Vicenza owns the same 6-0 record piled up against the same level of competition, though the Cougars’ margins of victory have been more substantial. While both Patch and Vilseck rank well behind reigning champion Wiesbaden on the current Division I hierarchy, wins over either or both would burnish the Italian schools’ body of work entering next month’s tournament.

Meanwhile, Patch has assembled an almost entirely new boys roster that might even be better than the Panther core that won the last two Division I European titles. Naples and Vicenza are well-established Division II powers – they played for that title last year, with Vicenza winning – haven’t yet had the opportunity to prove themselves at the Division I level. A win over Patch this weekend would immediately place Naples and/or Vicenza on the short list of legitimate title hopefuls.

Division IIAnsbach, Hohenfels, AOSR at Aviano

This weekend is all about dispelling some of the mystery that surrounds teams that rarely play each other in the regular season. That’s good, because this four-team meeting features some mysterious teams.

Both Hohenfels teams have been promising this season, but they’ve been equally inconsistent. The Tiger boys split doubleheaders with Vilseck and Black Forest Academy, while the girls recorded an encouraging sweep over Division I Vilseck in between four combined double-digit losses to Ramstein and BFA.

AOSR has been similarly hard to pin down. Both the Falcon boys and girls made quick work of very good Sigonella teams, but each was also blown out twice by Aviano.

That would seem to leave host Aviano as the most established contender on site this weekend. The Saints can confirm that status this weekend or sink back into the muddled Division II middle.

Rota, Bitburg at AFNORTH

The Rota Admirals will make their only scheduled regular-season visit outside of Spain this weekend, where they’ll help bring a confusing Division II picture into focus.

On the boys side, Bitburg is the enigma. The Barons have understandably lost to large-school powers Ramstein and Wiesbaden but split a pair with fellow Division II program Ansbach. AFNORTH is struggling, however, with four losses to Division III schools.

The AFNORTH girls might be a postseason factor, however. The Lions have swept through their small-school early-season schedule and are now looking to measure themselves against quality divisional foes.

Bitburg certainly fits that description, with an active three-game winning streak that includes a win over Division I Ramstein.

Division IIIBaumholder, Menwith Hill at Alconbury Brussels and Sigonella have been the standard-bearers of Division III hoops over the last few years, but the return of Alconbury and Baumholder might change that. Both the Dragon and Bucs boys teams will come into the weekend with winning records. Both Alconbury and Baumholder have also recorded girls sweeps of reigning champion Brussels.

Menwith Hill, a tiny school in its final season, will field only a boys team in search of its first win.

Twitter: @broomestripes

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