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7 Maria Vadeeva (Dynamo Kursk) (photo: Timur Tsnobiladze)
28/03/2017
Paul Nilsen's Women's Basketball Worldwide
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Magical match-ups await at EuroLeague Women Final Four (Part 2)

NEWCASTLE (Paul Nilsen’s Women’s Basketball Worldwide) – Having already looked at the brilliant backcourt and wing match-ups in last weeks column, it’s time to break down what could unfold in the frontcourt at EuroLeague Women Final Four.

The opening Semi-Final will see ZVVZ USK Prague turn to the in-form Candice Dupree in the power forward position – someone who has been hot of late and given the Czech giants a nice athletic and added scoring edge. She was fundamental to their safe passage to the last phase of the competition after bringing it against Nadezhda in the Quarter-Finals.

Dupree will lock horns with a familiar foe in Dynamo Kursk forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike, an outstanding talent who surely must rank in the top five most consistent and productive EuroLeague Women players of recent seasons.

She is so often the big performer for her club and it will be a huge duel and one played out many times in the WNBA of course. Dupree didn’t play in the first game against Kursk in the Regular Season, with both players shooting well enough in the second contest – even if Ogwumike didn’t post a customary big score.

The center spots will see a combination of Kursk duo Maria Vadeeva and Helena Ciak take on primarily Kia Vaughn, memorably the MVP at Final Four two years ago.

It’s true that Vaughn has been off color in terms of her offense in recent weeks, but defensively I feel she is priceless.

Ciak offers a more traditional challenge in terms of her size and physicality, while Vadeeva is a phenomenal evolution in progress and her nice footwork and eye for efficiency makes it a great battle.

I do wonder whether Prague can sustain an effort down the tournament stretch if Vaughn is still not in top gear offensively and now would be a good time for her to re-discover her shooting touch.

When it comes to UMMC against Fenerbahce, a fellow women’s basketball observer hit the nail on the head when he spoke about these match-ups being “like a game of chess”.

It really is about as fascinating as it gets at the top level, because there six top-drawer players just waiting to be given the thumbs-up by their respective coaches.

UMMC have the irrepressible size, power and poise of Brittney Griner who continues to be dominant in so many games, while Belgian ace Emma Meesseman is always liable to torch you as well because of her shooting range and mobility. The reigning champions can also throw minutes to the veteran Sancho Lyttle as well, whose defensive play is still up there with the very best.

George Dikeoulakos has his WNBA-champion duo Jantel Lavender and Sandrine Gruda who he can play together and they are efficiency personified, able to drop shots and score at the hoop like stone-cold killers in any game.

There is also the beautifully mechanic and effective play of Belarusian star Anastasiya Verameyenka too. Throw in the fact that if Candace Parker is not fulfilling duties on the wing as part of a bigger Fenerbahce line-up, she can always drop back into a more familiar four spot and at that juncture, this delicious plot thickens even more.

I can barely remember such a moving feast within one game and seeing the contributions and even just the minutes of those six players will be so interesting.

As for the benches in these games, let’s not be fooled that all these teams go double-digits deep in terms of their roster and so you just can’t rule out somebody I have not mentioned in a headline match-up, registering a game-winning effort and becoming a hero.

Whether it is the likes of Alena Hanusova or Anete Steinberga of Prague, Elena Kirillova or Tatiana Vidmer of Kursk, Deanna Nolan or Natalia Vieru of UMMC, or Ayse Cora or Pelin Bilgic of Fenerbahce.

This year has absolutely everything when it comes to match-ups ad they have never been more important! I can’t wait to see what happens in Ekaterinburg!

PAUL NILSEN

FIBA

FIBA's columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA.

FIBA takes no responsibility and gives no guarantees, warranties or representations, implied or otherwise, for the content or accuracy of the content and opinion expressed in the above article.

Paul Nilsen

Paul Nilsen

As a women's basketball specialist for FIBA and FIBA Europe, Paul Nilsen eats, sleeps and breathes women’s hoops and is incredibly passionate about promoting the women’s game - especially at youth level. In Women’s Basketball Worldwide, Paul scours the globe for the very latest from his beloved women’s basketball family.