26 September, 2017
22 April, 2018
Yakin Dogu Universitesi | Photo: Ahmet Tokyay
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Why can Yakin Dogu Universitesi believe they can win Final Four?

ISTANBUL (EuroLeague Women) – It has been an epic rise to prominence for this new powerhouse and we put women's specialist Paul Nilsen on the spot to ask him why Yakin Dogu Universitesi can win the Final Four?

[PN] They may be the rookies who are about to take a historic first footstep onto the Final Four hardwood, but if you don't think Yakin Dogu Universitesi could win their maiden title at the first attempt, then you are mistaken. Let's make this absolutely clear. Yakin Dogu Universitesi are in a great position to win the two games they need to climb to the top of that coveted podium.

The reasons for this are multiple and start with the momentum they have behind them. They have become magnets for making history and lifting silverware. From the Turkish Championship and Cups to delivering the EuroCup Women title last season. They look to be on an unstoppable upward curve and their eye-catching first-ever Regular Season campaign handed us more evidence of their capabilities.

In Courtney Vandersloot and Kayla McBride, they have arguably the best combo in the competition. I rate both players so highly and many people will know I am applying to become the 'President of the Courtney Vandersloot Fan Club'. She is probably having the best season of her life, playing the best basketball of her career and if you missed any of the highlight reels, the numbers stack up in jaw-dropping fashion. She leads the tournament in assists with a spectacular 9.3 per game – occupying the top four positions in the game highs chart with 16, 14, 13 and 13. Incidentally, the 16 coming against UMMC Ekaterinburg.

Meanwhile, McBride will do some serious damage at the small forward spot or as a shooting guard and was the leading scorer during the Regular Season. Enough said. She packs an offensive punch that can leave opponents on the canvas – floored. The real power though comes when they are both in full flow – if that happens next month in Sopron, then they have every chance of success. It is a devastating partnership. It is also an exciting and dynamic one and the duo are a great advert for the skills of the women's game in the wider context.

But success would not follow if Yakin Dogu didn't have players supporting these slots. You can't ignore the role of the hard-nosed Elin Eldebrink, or rejuvenated Turkish forward, Bahar Caglar.

Then when you then look at the frontcourt rotation, you could argue the club has the best in Euroleague Women. It doesn't get much more clinical or imposing and experienced than Ann Wauters, Quanitra Hollingsworth, Sandrine Gruda and Jantel Lavender. When saying those names out loud, Yakin Dogu probably do have the best frontcourt options.


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What about head coach Zafer Kalaycioglu as well? The veteran maestro who gets none of the attention of the other play-callers on leading teams, but just quietly gets on with his job. Last year when I was honored to see Yakin Dogu lift EuroCup Women silverware, I was at some practices and I saw the great relationship he has with his players. His roster may be the envy of most other teams, but managing a wide talent pool brings its own issues [and egos] but he has done a fine job in balancing this.

So with all of this in mind and not least, the best frontcourt rotation, probably the best backcourt and wing combo, plus a hugely impressive coach, why did I say recently that UMMC were my favorites? Well it's hard to go against Maya Moore and Alba Torrens of course, but I am now doubting myself a little bit.

It’s going to be so close. It really is - and that is a beautiful thing.

Yakin Dogu Universitesi have a great opportunity in front of them and there is one thing for absolute certain. If they do win this 2018 title, nobody can label it as a surprise. Even if they are Final Four first-timers.

You can follow Paul @Basketmedia365