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EuroCup Women hitting the business end of the season
NEWCASTLE (Paul Nilsen’s Women’s Basketball Worldwide) – The EuroCup Women Round of 16 is now in the books and as we briefly hit the pause button, a glance towards the next phase cranks up the excitement.
This feels like a line in the sand during the 2016-17 season, as we move towards the business end of the campaign. Yes, crunch time is upon us, as we head into the Round of 8.
Just four teams will advance to the Quarter-Finals, where they will be joined by four teams from EuroLeague Women – a format used last year, which witnessed Tango Bourges Basket riding their way to a historic maiden success.
I’m not a big one for predictions at club level [since so much can change because of domestic commitments], but you could potentially see Bourges parachuting into the competition again – as could ESBVA- LM, while Wisla Can-Pack and Beretta Famila Schio look like they could join too. Or at least as things currently stand.
This is hugely exciting and also because the EuroCup Women Round of 8 line-up contains some seriously big-hitters, with Galatasaray, Bellona Agu, Good Angels Kosice and Spar CityLift Girona all having played in EuroLeague Women last year.
When you throw in the fact that Yakin Dogu Universitesi are challenging for the Turkish title, surprise packages VBW CEKK Cegled have defied the doubters along every step of the way and Italian duo Reyer Venezia and Virtus Eirene Ragusa are seriously tough, it makes a delicious recipe for the Quarter-Finals.
Reflecting on EuroCup Women so far, Marina Maljkovic has done a top job with Galatasaray, whose budget is apparently down on previous years. Yet she has taken them to an unbeaten record in EuroCup Women and they are pushing bitter rivals Fenerbahce in domestic competition.
I have been really impressed with the first overseas campaign of Moriah Jefferson, who continues to shine and was one of the Top Performers last week.
Certainly both her and Isil Alben are two of the best guards in the competition. Can Galatasaray win it? Sure. Will they win it? That’s a different question and this next tie against Ragusa will be a big test, with the Italians having Olympians such as Astou Ndour and Laura Nicholls on their roster. If Galatasaray get through that one, then I might just become a true believer.
What I will say at this juncture, is that Bellona Agu and Yakin Dogu Universitesi both have a great chance of silverware too. The former has so much experience and their three 2016 WNBA champions in Chelsea Gray, Ann Wauters and Jelena Dubljevic underline this.
Meanwhile I think Yakin Dogu Universitesi could possibly have the most talented roster in the competition when it comes to talent – even if they are actually rookie entrants. Kayla McBride is back after missing the first-half of the campaign with injury and her linking up with Angelica Robinson again could be vital. Remember they both propelled Nadezhda to last year’s EuroLeague Women Final. I also think Courtney Vandersloot is playing some of the best basketball of her career right now.
The Round of 8 match-ups are very difficult to predict and that is always a good thing for the fans. I am now looking forward to seeing which players and clubs can bring it as we head down the EuroCup Women stretch
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