26 September, 2017
22 April, 2018
Sopron Basket | Photo: Ahmet Tokyay
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What are the true Final Four prospects of hosts and so-called underdogs Sopron Basket?

SOPRON (EuroLeague Women) – As Sopron Basket seek to extend their amazing season, we put women's specialist Paul Nilsen on the spot by asking him about the true prospects of the EuroLeague Women Final Four hosts.

[PN] When you have been punching way above your weight for many months and realize you have a shot at glory, it can go one of two ways. To use a boxing analogy - can Sopron go two more rounds in the ring, or are they all punched out?

There is no doubt that once you enter ropes of the Final Four, the step up in class from the Regular Season and even the Quarter-Finals is significant. Yet, there are reasons for Sopron Basket to keep believing in a fairytale.

Firstly and I feel most importantly, they have that expert EuroLeague Women navigator at the helm in Roberto Iniguez. Right from the moment he was appointed, you felt with his work ethic, quality and track-record, something good was on the horizon – and, so it has proven. He has been here plenty of times before and will have his side intensely focused on the small details.

You can also bank on the incredible home support who will turn things up loud. They love their team and are appreciative of what they have achieved. Sometimes home court and expectation becomes a burden and a pressure. Yet, I sense it is the opposite with Sopron and their fans. They are just loving the ride and that label of being underdogs.

Sopron can also continue to dream since shocks are not exactly rare in this competition. Nobody predicted wins for Galatasaray in 2014, or particularly for hosts ZVVZ USK Prague a year later. Nadezhda also came close to upsetting UMMC in Istanbul during 2016.

Chemistry is something that seems to cascade through this Sopron side. It is helped by the Serbian connection of having Tina Jovanovic, Danielle Page, Aleksandra Crvendakic and Jelena Milovanovic all on the roster together. The first pair are unsung heroes who will roll their sleeves up and do whatever it takes for the cause, while Crvendakic and Milovanovic are potential game-winners in waiting.

Perhaps Yvonne Turner holds the key, since when the dynamic guard gets hot, she is white-hot – as proved in the decider against Fenerbahce. If she can find anywhere near that level again [without trying to force it] then Sopron could be in business.

There will be important cameos from young Spanish guard Angela Salvadores or Hungary rising star Debora Dubei, while veteran Zsofia Fegyverneky is a legendary figure whose experience is priceless. When Alaina Coates returned home to attend a family tragedy last month, the team stepped up and they will have to do so again when facing the best teams in the competition.

Yes, Sopron are clear underdogs, but they are a highly dangerous unit. If Yakin Dogu Universitesi are not at their best, you can be sure the home side will be ready to pounce and deliver a knockout blow. It won't be a lucky shot either, because Sopron have demonstrated this season that they can go the distance and won't be knocked to the canvas easily.

I can't wait.

You can follow Paul @basketmedia365