09 October, 2018
14 April, 2019
24 Cecilia Zandalasini (FENE), 30 Breanna Stewart (DYNK)
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Expert Panel: The race to make the Final Four

MUNICH (Germany) - With seven different nations represented in the EuroLeague Women Quarter-Finals and some exciting ties to look forward to, our expert panel has been breaking down what lies ahead.

Shona Thorburn is a multi-Olympian with Canada and the veteran guard is still playing for USO Mondeville, as well as commentating for livebasketball.tv. @ShonaThorburn

Paul Nilsen is FIBA's specialist on all things female hoops and has been covering EuroLeague Women for almost a decade. @Basketmedia365

Pierre Ploszajski is a EuroLeague Women addict and a co-author of the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2017 and 2019 Media Guides. @Pierrepiotr_

UMMC Ekaterinburg v TTT Riga

The reigning champions continue their title defense against surprise package Riga, and will be red-hot favorites to sweep the series and continue their stunning record of continuous Final Four appearances.

Key Matchup:

ST - I'm excited to see if Kristine Vitola will be able to open up the court if she can knock down some long shots early and pull Brittney Griner away from the basket and open up driving lanes for Shey Peddy. That being said, it's going to be a 'tall' order for Vitola to push Griner off the low block.

PN - You have got to love the prospect of Peddy facing up to Courtney Vandersloot. I love 'Sloot' but you have to say Peddy has had the better season. Both great players and fun to watch. TTT need Peddy to come up big in this series to stay competitive.

PP - Griner against Vitola. Since the beginning of the calendar year, Vitola is averaging a strong 16 points and 7 boards per game. She is a very capable mid-range shooter even from three. If she forces Griner to step out of the paint and thus free some space for her teammates, it would allow Riga to get more easy looks.


ST - It will be tough to slow down a UMMC team that have so many weapons and play very unselfish basketball (as evidenced by 23 assists per game). TTT Riga need to be able to control the pace of the game to give themselves a chance to win.

PN - Can TTT Riga cope with the depth of UMMC and especially the frontcourt rotation that includes Emma Meesseman, Griner and Maria Vadeeva who are all shooting the ball so well this season?

PP – Ieva Pulvere. If Riga want to believe in their chances of advancing past UMMC they will need all the firepower possible coming from Pulvere who can, any night, shoot the lights out if left with too much space

Series Prediction:

ST - The best part of this matchup is TTT Riga have nothing to lose, which makes them a scary opponent. That being said, I'm just not sure they have the depth to compete. So, 2-0 to UMMC.

PN - I think 2-0 to UMMC, although I am hoping I am wrong and I am rooting for TTT Riga to at least give their fans a win in the home game to sign off a great season.

PP - 2-0 UMMC. Too big, too deep, too good.

Dynamo Kursk v CCC Polkowice

It has not always been straightforward for Kursk, despite what their 13-1 Regular Season suggests. But this is the business end of the campaign and can they move up a gear against the Polish champions?

Key Matchup:

ST - Bre Stewart v CCC Polkowice. Yes, Stewart is that good that it will take all five defensive players needing to focus on her to try and slow her down.

PN - Natasha Howard and Quanitra Hollingswoth look rock solid and the former is growing in influence. She helps give Kursk the foundation to play. That is why Temi Fagbenle needs to show some of her best form of the year right now. One area CCC could edge is under the basket.

PP - Fagbenle and Stewart. Fagbenle will go against former Lynx teammate Howard in this series, but it will be her capacity to diminish Stewart's influence that will be key for Polkowice's chances to stay in games. It is a tough task, but she has been impressive this season and this new test will certainly motivate her even more.


ST - If CCC Polkowice can in fact make things tough for Stewart, who will step up for Kursk? Sonja Petrovic has had a solid season for Kursk but I don't think we have seen the same Anna Cruz and Marta Xargay from previous years.

PN - For me, this is all about whether CCC can shoot the ball reasonably well to stay competitive. Their defense is a given as this is usually their strength and they won't mind if it is ugly. But it will be wasted and a walkover for Kursk unless the Polish team finds some rhythm and especially downtown.

PP - Tiffany Hayes. To her own standards, Hayes has had a quiet season so far in EuroLeague Women. An All-Star in the WNBA, she is still due a big splash to reinforce this status here in Europe. This Quarter-Final series would be the perfect time to do it. Her speed, elasticity and tenacity can quickly become too much for any guard if she gets going.

Series Prediction:

ST - Statistically Dynamo Kursk are stronger in every category but CCC Polkowice have some experienced players in Jo Leedham-Warner, Styliani Kaltsidou and Fagbenle who I think, if they all play great on the same night, can push this to a Game 3. Ultimately Kursk are just too strong. 2-1 Kursk.

PN - Even if Kursk have left the door open in far too many games this season, I think any team heading into season crunch time with Stewart and Petrovic in their lineup should be looking to go 2-0.

PP - 2-0 Kursk. Similar to UMMC, the depth of Kursk, their overflowing talent at each position and the experience of their entire roster of this stage of the competition seem insuperable for Polkowice.

Sopron Basket v Bourges Basket

After last year's fairytale run all the way to the Final, can Sopron Basket really make it consecutive Final Four appearances. Bourges are craving finally making it back to the last phase and do have several players in top gear.

Key Matchup:

ST - I think Cristina Ouvina is one of the strongest on-ball guard defenders and averages 2.5 steals per game. That being said, having to slow down Yvonne Turner who is the engine that makes this Sopron team run, is going to be very tough. Will Ouvina have enough left in the tank to provide a spark on offense for Bourges?

PN - I agree wholeheartedly with Shona here. Stopping Turner is stopping Sopron. But, from a Bourges perspective and perhaps a neutral, what about two in-form players but at different book ends of their respective careers in Sopron veteran Candice Dupree and Bourges young gun Alexia Chartereau?

PP - Queralt Casas and Marine Johannes. Sopron might try several options to guard the unofficially most exciting player in EuroLeague Women and Bourges' main offensive force: Casas, Turner and Zsofia Fegyverneky are all able to take care of the task, but Casas looks to me like the natural fit to do it. Her quickness, great anticipation and good hands will be needed to slow down the free-scoring French ace.


ST - I think both these teams lost games in the Regular Season they should have won and when that happened, the go-to players had 'off' nights. So, who is going to step up when Johannes gets frustrated, when the shots aren't falling for Turner or Dupree? Sarah Michel, and Katherine Plouffe for Bourges, plus Casas, and Amanda Zahui for Sopron?

PN - Composure in the clutch. On paper at least, it looks and feels like a tight series. We could have three tight ones and it could boil down to who has ice in their veins at the end of each meeting.

PP - Aleksandra Crvendakic. Unless Bourges decide to play Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe at the three spot, Sopron have a big advantage, talent and size wise, with the Serbian ace on the wing, though Michel certainly knows a thing or two about defense herself as well. I wouldn't be surprised to see Sopron go for their Serbian wing a lot in this game.

Series Prediction:

ST - This is a very tough call as I think both these teams match up very well together. I'm going to have to go with home court advantage being the difference maker. 2-1 Sopron.

PN - If I am true to my words above, I have to back the veteran experience of Turner, Dupree and Fegyverneky. Plus, I find it nearly impossible to back against Roberto Iniguez as his track record is astonishing, so maybe Sopron 2-1.

PP - 2-1 Sopron. It could go either way, with both teams being highly competitive and strong. But the home court advantage for Sopron, and their amazing fan base should play in their favor.

ZVVZ USK Praha v Fenerbahce

Defying the major roster surgery last summer that had observers predicting a season of struggle, Praha have been excellent. Fenerbahce have been up and down all season long, but have they finally found the recipe for success they have been searching for?

Key Matchup:

ST - I'm excited to see Valeriane Ayayi go up against Cecilia Zandalasini. Two young guns of the European game who have already made a name for themselves with their excellent play at club level and with their national teams. Will we see the Zandalasini from FIBA Women's Eurobasket 2017?

PN - They have both had super seasons for their respective teams, but Alyssa Thomas and Anastasiya Verameyenka are two totally different players. Assuming they are both in the four spots, this could be very interesting. Although it may come down to Verameyenka and Marija Rezan, and Thomas being tracked by Kia Vaughn.

PP - Thomas and Vaughn. Two strong anchors in the paint, both powerful forwards. Thomas has been outstanding this season from Day 1. But, if there is anyone who, thanks to her vast experience and quality defense know-how could manage to contain her, it is Vaughn. The Czech Republic national team center doesn't mind a second focusing on defensive tasks. She will face a big challenge against Prague, two or three big games for her and Fenerbahce might be in the Final Four mix.


ST - If Praha can beat UMMC (which they did during the Regular Season) they can beat anyone. They average 80 points per game and pull down 12 boards a game, so Coach Garnier for Fenerbahce is going to have to have a strong scouting plan to try and slow down such an excellent offensive team.

PN - Looks like a classic case of Praha firepower and all-out offensive guns blazing against Fenerbahce and their ability to shut teams down when they are focused on defense. A lot of emphasis will be on how Bria Hartley and Kelsey Plum play at that end of the floor for Fenerbahce.

PP - Zandalisini. It has not really been the Zandalasini we were used to watching and admiring in the past couple of years. She doesn't seem to find her flow and confidence in the Fenerbahce system, but nevertheless, still remains a world class act who can explode and take over a game at any time. Now in the post season, she could finally bring her game a step ahead.

Series Prediction:

ST - ZVVZ USK Praha should have their eyes already set on a trip to the Final Four. 2-0 Praha.

PN - On talent and depth, Fenerbahce should be favorites and might yet find some consistency and quality at a level the resources spent should demand. Praha play with more freedom and expression, perhaps without fear or pressure, so I think the Czechs might sneak this 2-1. Another tight one though.

PP - 2-1 Praha. Fenerbahce has been too inconsistent this season to be placed as favorites, plus they don't hold the home court advantage. Praha have a big opportunity of advancing to the Final Four for the fourth time in five seasons!