25 September, 2019
19 April, 2020
25 Alyssa Thomas (USK)
to read

Expert Panel: Who will make it to 2020 Final Four?

MUNICH (Germany) - With incredibly exciting EuroLeague Women Quarter-Final ties to look forward to, we have gathered our expert panel to predict what lies in wait.

Shona Thorburn is a multi-Olympian with Canada and is currently an assistant coach with Basket Landes, as well as commentating for LiveBasketball.tv @ShonaThorburn

Tom Thuillier is a EuroLeague Women expert and social media specialist who works with FIBA across multiple female competitions. @tom_thuillier

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


LDLC ASVEL Feminin v Nadezhda

Key Matchup

ST: I'm excited and possibly a little biased to watch two Canadians going up against each in Michelle Plouffe vs Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe. Both play the same position, but have very different styles and strengths to their games. Having played with each other with the Canadian national team, they also know each others strengths and weaknesses. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top, since they are both very valuable to their respective teams. 

TT: I'm excited to see Helena Ciak facing the EuroLeague Women All-Time shot blocker in Anastasiya Verameyenka. This season was Ciak's best individually, but it will be interesting to see how she will deals with Verameyenka's mobility and soft shooting touch.

PN: Erica Wheeler vs Julie Allemand looks intriguing . The former still hasn't recaptured the brilliance of last season when Nadezhda won EuroCup Women. She is struggling to buy buckets, but what an opportunity to turn things around, especially in the absence of Yvonne Turner. Meanwhile Allemand has come alive of late for club and country, also getting the boost of signing to the WNBA recently.


ST: ASVEL need to take advantage of possibly playing two games at home. They are a team when playing well they have proven to be a top Euroleague Women team, they have a lot of scoring threats with Ciak, Plouffe, Allemand, Clark and lets not forget Johannes.

TT: Lyon had ups and downs during the regular season with a 2-5 record on the road. The consistency of Nadezhda and their previous experience in European competitions could also be the key.

PN: Anastasiia Shilova, because while Alysha Clark is in super form on the wing for Lyon, if Shilova shoots the three well, it gives Nadezhda the most dangerous dimension and they look a different team, capable of causing some damage.

Series Prediction

ST: 2-1 for LDLC ASVEL I think it will be difficult for them to pull off a road win but they should be able ride the backs of their fans and win two games at home. 

TT: 2-1 for LDLC ASVEL since they have the momentum with a perfect six wins in six games last month, including beating BLMA and Fenerbahce. 

PN: 2-1 for Nadezhda. I would love to see LDLC ASVEL Feminin make it to Final Four in their first season as it would be a super story and achievement. And remember, I had Lyon down as a top four team in my first Power Rankings and most people laughed. But is it just me, or have Nadezhda come from nowhere and been way, way under the radar? My logic is that it is tough to win in Orenburg and Lyon have not been great on their travels. But are Nadezhda capable of winning one of two games in Lyon? Yes, although it is going to be so, so close - on paper. 

ZVVZ USK Praha v Famila Schio

Key Matchup

ST: Sandrine Gruda vs Alyssa Thomas. The latter has posted another All-Star season for Praha, averaging 18.3 points per game to go along with 11.4 rebounds. Gruda on the other hand is playing some of the best basketball of her life. Having watched her help France qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, she has raised her level and is playing with such confidence. Can either player stop each other?

TT: 'The Drine Machine' v 'The Engine'. Both Sandrine Gruda and Alyssa Thomas have operated once again at full capacity this season. Gruda has averaged her second best points per game tally of her terrific 15 seasons in the league. Meanwhile Thomas increased her outstanding numbers from her first season.

PN: Scratch beneath the top line of the scouting report and I am going with Francesca Dotto and Cristina Ouvina. The onus on Dotto is huge, since when Schio go really big, which happens so often, she is the only true guard who can punch at this weight. Ouvina is doing great and Praha also rotate in Teja Oblak as a combo, so Dotto will have a lot of work to get through. How she handles it early could set the tone. Can Ouvina dominate her and shut her down defensively?


ST: Does Schio have enough power to slow down the second best scoring team, best rebounding team and second best assist team in the competition? Schio will need some big performances from their role players if they want to pull off an upset. 

TT: The ability for both team to shoot the ball well from three-point range can create a lot of opportunities. Especially with Schio trying to control the pace of the game and establishing their low-tempo in order to limit Praha from running the court.

PN: The impact of the Coronavirus on Italian sport can't be ignored. And, especially those in the region that Schio resides, meaning the players could be undercooked in terms of game time and that could manifest itself in terms of a lack of 'game rhythm'.

Series Prediction

ST: 2-0 for Praha. I'm excited to watch two of the best coaches go up against each other in Natalia Hejkova and Pierre Vincent. Both are great basketball minds, who have more accolades than most other coaches. 

TT: 2-0 to Praha. It's one of the best offenses of the league against one of the best defenses. Advantage offense!

PN: 2-0 to Praha. They are so good to watch, play with freedom, have all the elements of a successful side with great chemistry and some super individuals. They are like a runaway train at times.

Fenerbahce Oznur Kablo v Bourges Basket

Key Matchup

ST: Alina Iagupova vs Ana Dabovic. If Iagupova plays after missing recent games in the competition, she could be the game changer. Dabovic throughout her career has always stepped up in big games. She has a killer mentality on the court and is never intimidated by the opposing team. If Iagupova doesn't play, Fener will need to rely on Cecilia Zandalasini who is having an excellent EuroLeague Women season, averaging 16.2 points per game. 

TT: Marissa Coleman vs Cecilia Zanadalasini. Bourges will need a solid performance from their veteran player. Her experience, good size and versatility could help in her difficult task to guard 'Zandi'.

PN: Alexia Chartereau vs Tugce Canitez / Laura Nicholls. I agree this game is looking backcourt focused to almost everybody, but this could also be pivotal. I think Chartereau has had another excellent year in the forward spot for Bourges, while Canitez looks rejuvenated and comes in with confidence after being named MVP of the Turkish Cup. If Nicholls matches up with Chartereau, it will be a clash of styles and fascinating to see if she can take her opponent out beyond the three-point line. 


ST: How much will Alina Iagupova play? This could be the X-factor. Also, will Isabelle Yacoubou play for Bourges? So many things could change the outcome of this series.

TT: The last time Iagupova and Chelsea Gray played together, it ended in failure with a surprising elimination for Cukurova in the EuroCup Women Quarter-Finals. In a different context today, the chemistry between the WNBA All-Star and the sensational Ukrainian could be a major concern regarding Fenerbahce's ambitions - or, it could blossom.

PN: Pressure, pressure, pressure. Fenerbahce are favorites and expectation is high, especially against their recent failure to make the Final Four after all those years being virtual ever-presents. From head coach Victor Lapena and right across all the staff and players, the one goal is to make Final Four. If Bourges push them hard, whether they can stay mentally strong and composed will be a huge factor. Most pro-players at this level will be fine with it, but Istanbul and Fenerbahce is a little different to most other situations players will ever find themselves in.

Series Prediction

ST: 2-1 to Fenerbahce if Iagupova plays a full role. If she doesn't, I think the advantage will be for Bourges and especially if we see the return of Yacoubou, who started working out a few weeks ago. 

TT: 2-0 to Fenerbahce since they are back on track and ready for a return to the Final Four.

PN: 2-1 to Fenerbahce as I think the accomplishment of Bourges in turning around their awful start to the season has been underestimated. But, the time is now for Fener to return to the big table. Not doing so is unthinkable.

UMMC Ekaterinburg v BLMA

Key Matchup

ST: It's a tough matchup for BLMA, but it will be fun to see Gabby Williams, who has had an outstanding first season domestically and in EuroLeague Women, go up against Breanna Stewart from UMMC. 'Stewie' is coming off that Achilles surgery and so is still finding her groove, but I expect her to raise her game every time she steps onto the court.

TT: Sami Whitcomb and Allie Quigley are two of the deadliest shooters in the league and it's going to be a fun one to watch and especially if one of them catches fire! 

PN: Cheyenne Parker has only just arrived and she somehow has to contain UMMC standout Brittney Griner, who has been as brilliant as ever. If BLMA don't have a viable presence in the paint at both ends of the floor who can stand up to Griner and Co, they are dead in the water before they start.


ST: How do you stop what is possibly one of the strongest EuroLeague Women teams ever put together? Well, I'm not sure you can, but you will need some big performances from the likes of Sami Whitcomb, Gabby Williams and newly required Cheyenne Parker for BLMA. Meanwhile UMMC can't go into this game looking past this series, since BLMA has proven they can score, by averaging just over 70 points per game, which is the 5th best in the competition.

TT : BLMA have nothing to lose. They will make their debut at this stage of the competition without two starters in the shape of Stephanie Mavunga and Diandra Tchatchouang. They'll come out firing and it makes them dangerous.

PN : Tempo. If BLMA allow UMMC to get into their groove and control the pace of the game, it's over. BLMA have to do it ugly. It's the only way. 

Series Prediction

ST: 2-0 for UMMC. They are just too strong and have too many weapons for BLMA to be able to pull off the huge upset. BLMA have nothing to lose and whenever a team plays with no pressure, they can be dangerous...but it just won't be enough this time around.

TT: 2-0 UMMC. It will be difficult to slow down UMMC, but BLMA can give them a hard time at least at home.

PN: 2-0 to UMMC as anything other than that would represent a massive, massive upset.