The Beko BBL has reached the All-Star break of its season and while ratiopharm ulm is clearly the biggest surprise of the first half, the two-time defending champions Brose Baskets Bamberg remain the class of the German league – with quite some distance.

Bamberg sit atop the standings after 18 game days with a 16-2 record and a nine-game winning streak. The only losses Chris Fleming’s men suffered game in back-to-back road games in late November when they were fighting for their lives in the Euroleague.

Bamberg have dominated teams at home, where they haven’t lost in the BBL since January 2010. Their last non-Euroleague defeat at home came in Game One of the 2010 Playoff Finals against Frankfurt.

The team from Franconia has been bounced from the Euroleague for about a month now and can solely concentrate on the BBL, which does not bode well for the other contenders trying to dethrone Bamberg.

Ulm are second in the league just a game behind at 15-3 and undoubtedly the biggest surprise of the first half. The combination of John Bryant, Isaiah Swann, Tommy Mason-Griffen and Per Günther has been superb but the fast start was not expected, especially since ulm played most of their early games on the road as their new ratiopharm arena was still being finished.

Torsten Leibenath’s team played seven of their first nine games on the road but opened the season at 7-2. They head into the much-needed break on a five-game winning streak and can use the time to rest their tired players.

But do not expect ulm to go away. With 10 of their last 16 games at home, Leibenath’s group has a strong chance of securing a top four spot and a first round playoff series at home.

Third place are the Artland Dragons, which have probably one of the most exciting players in the league in 5-foot-7 playmaker David Holston. The Pontiac, Michigan native replaced fellow small point guard Tyrese Rice as head coach Stefan Koch’s right hand man on the court. And Holston has received plenty of help in the post by the strong combo of Nathan Peavy and Anthony King. Artland will not go down quietly in the playoffs.

The 2011 runners-up Alba Berlin are fourth at the break at 12-6 but limp into the week off after a tough 80-77 loss at BBC Bayreuth after leading 17-2 in the first quarter. Gordon Herbert’s Berlin squad is just 4-5 on the road and has lost four of its last six games. But a playoff appearance is all but a lock.

New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig are next in the standings at 11-7 as the trio of Rich Melzer, Kyle Visser and LaMarr Greer have excelled for coach Sebastian Machowski.

Things start getting very tight after that with EWE Baskets Oldenburg, s.Oliver Baskets Würzburg and Bayern Munich all deadlocked at 10-8 for places sixth to eighth respectively.

Oldenburg have talented trio in their own right with Bobby Brown, Rickey Paulding and Ronny Burrell with Adam Chubb in the blocks. But Oldenburg are not deep.

The promoted side Würzburg have dominated at home but struggled on the road with a 2-6 record. Head coach John Patrick must get his troops to learn to win on the road if Würzburg hope to hold onto a playoff spot.

The final post-season berth at the current moment would go to the other promoted side Bayern Munich. Head coach Dirk Bauermann has seen a fair share of injuries (Robin Benzing, Bastian Doreth and Je’Kel Foster), departures (Sharrod Ford, Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje and Ben Hansbrough) and newcomers (Chevon Troutman and Jared Homan) while trying to form a cohesive unit. Bayern also have had major struggles away from home with a 1-7 record but two of those losses were on last second shots against Artland Dragons and ratiopharm ulm.

Eisbären Bremerhaven (ninth) and Telekom Baskets Bonn (tenth) are both on the outside of the playoffs looking in at the moment with 9-9 records. Bremerhaven have been led by Zack Peacock and Terrell Everett while Bonn has received a great season by Chris Ensminger and Jared Jordan is doing a fine job leading the team at the point.

A game further back at 8-10 are BBC Bayreuth and Fraport Skyliners, who have been pushed forward by Osvaldo Jenty and Jamareo Davidson, respectively.

Phoenix Hagen are 7-11 including a home victory over Alba Berlin while Walter Tigers Tübingen and LTi Giessen 46ers are both 6-12 and EnBW Ludwigsburg are in the final non-relegation spot at 5-13 for 16th place.

TBB Trier are also 5-13 with the superb 21-year-old center Maik Zirbes while BG Göttingen trail by three games at 2-16 with a nightmare season, which was preceded by the departure of coach John Patrick and strongholds John Little and Jason Boone to Würzburg and then worsened with a car crash resulting in the deaths of Marco Grimaldi’s wife and sister and the injury to Kyle Bailey’s girlfriend.

The second half of the season should be a fascinating race for the last three or four playoff spots while the rest of the league hopes to figure out a way to beat Bamberg.

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