EuroLeague Women Power Rankings, Quarter-Finals edition
MUNICH (Germany) - With the Regular Season now firmly in the books and the Quarter-Finals lying in wait, it's time for Volume 5 of the EuroLeague Women Power Rankings - the Quarter-Finals edition.
Taking into account the adjusted lineup for the Quarter-Finals and subsequent bracket to the Final, as well as recent results, performances, roster changes and Volume 4 of the rankings where relevant, here's how things are potentially shaping up.
1. Fenerbahce Safiport
Regular Season Record: 11-3 (1st in Group B)
Quarter-Finals: vs TTT Riga
This has been a Regular Season of two distinct parts for head coach Victor Lapena, who had a rocky start when missing some key personnel at the beginning of the campaign. During those early struggles, when his side suffered a handful of defeats, the playcaller was always adamant that Fenerbahce could achieve their aims once he had a full quota of players to choose from. And, that is exactly how it is panning out. They now head into their Quarter-Finals series against TTT Riga with a terrific nine straight wins behind them.
It was no coincidence that the return of Satou Sabally sparked an uplift in form for the team
In the recent past, Alina Iagupova has been a real standout for the Turkish juggernauts, but most of the most stellar work has been shared out a bit more this time around and this makes them look the most likely team to finish top of the podium as things stand. The dynamic play of forward Satou Sabally, scoring power of Kayla McBride and defensive capabilities of Elizabeth Williams in particular, have all been the backbone of the team's renaissance in the past couple of months.
They will be tough to beat and will have their aims firmly on making the Final at the very least - but a historical first-ever title does seem within touching distance and they may never have a better opportunity to finally do it after all these years. However, they did receive a bit of a wake-up call recently when they lost in the Turkish League to bitter rivals Galatasaray in the Istanbul derby.
2. Sopron Basket
Regular Season Record: 8-6 (2nd in Group B)
Quarter-Finals: vs BLMA
Sopron have shown a lot of inconsistency this season, but managed to squeeze out second place in Group B at the top of a three-way tie and that means they can look forward to the realistic prospect of yet another Final Four appearance. The series against BLMA will hold few fears ands not least because they were originally due to face ZVVZ USK Praha before the revised lineup came into place.
If Gabby Williams brings her A-game to the Quarter-Finals series, Sopron could end up at another Final Four event
Inconsistency is perhaps the biggest concern for head coach David Gaspar - basically not knowing which team will turn up.There was a low point recently when the team lost the Hungarian Cup Final unexpectedly to DVTK Miskolc, while there have been departures and some roster churn with the likes of Aby Gaye and Shay Peddy exiting. Injuries have not helped either, most recently to Nevena Jovanovic.
The high points have come from the fact they can now look towards a possible Final Four again - maybe even another Final - plus the outstanding campaign posted by Bernadett Hatar. Her imposing height and finishing skills have been superb throughout the year and Gabby Williams and Brianna January remain as trustworthy as ever. Throw in the emergence of young Aliz Varga and the recent signing of Stefanie Dolson and it's clear it's all to play for. Opportunity knocks loudly!
3. ZVVZ USK Praha
Regular Season Record: 10-4 (3rd in Group A)
Quarter-Finals: vs Beretta Famila Schio
It's been business as usual for ZVVZ USK Praha in terms of their usual challenging for honors. While the Czech team lost a couple of early games when a bit more short-handed, the return of twin turbos Alyssa Thomas and Brionna Jones certainly super-charged their campaign. While the former has been the standout in past seasons, it has perhaps been Jones this year that has been most influential - an absolute towering presence.
Spanish wing Maria Conde is enjoying her best ever EuroLeague Women season
Meanwhile with Spanish ace Maria Conde truly enjoying a breakout season on the wing, Veronika Vorackova maturing rapidly and Teja Oblak leading like always from the backcourt, the signs have been good. Depth-wise, there are some question-marks and even more so in the wake of a worrying injury to Dragana Stankovic at the recent FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup Qualifying Tournaments. She has enjoyed a terrific first campaign in the Czech capital and defensively, it is a blow if she does not return soon.
The Quarter-Final clash with Beretta Famila Schio could be epic. It's perhaps closer to call than some may think. If they do advance, Praha may also prove to be the fly in the ointment for Fenerbahce, with the two teams potentially meeting in the Semi-Finals.
4. Perfumerias Avenida
Regular Season Record: 11-3 (2nd in Group A)
Quarter-Finals: vs Spar Girona
As usual, the expertise of master EuroLeague Women navigator Roberto Iniguez has been essential, with his leadership key to propelling Avenida to the Quarter-Finals. As the second best team in Group A, the Spanish side have won 10 games and only lost twice to the mighty UMMC and once to ZVVZ USK Praha. This underlines how much of a tough nut they are to crack for any opponent.
Behind the headline displays of Kahleah Copper, the work of Maite Cazorla has been impressive for Avenida
Dominant in the Spanish League, they will head into their Quarter-Final series with domestic rivals Spar Girona as slight favorites, but needing to play at their highest level. They will need to show their usual intensity, defense and teamwork. Right now, all options seem to be on the table for Avenida. From going all the way to another Final, maybe even winning it, to not even making Final Four at all.
There are some issues unclear after their marquee player Kahleah Copper had to return to the US to attend to a family matter. Her scoring ability is incredible and she is a game-winner in waiting - if she is back playing. Ditto for Katie Lou Samuelson and Maria Fasoula ,who have had injury problems, and that is why the addition of Adaora Elonu is important if she is cleared to play. At least Emese Hof is continuing to evolve impressively, while Maite Cazorla is emerging as a baller who makes the team tick. Whether the famous 'Blue Tide' of Avenida fans can dream of another Final Four will simply depend who Coach iniguez can get out onto the floor in coming weeks.
5. Spar Girona
Regular Season Record: 7-7 (5th in Group B)
Quarter-Finals: vs Perfumerias Avenida
Now there are roller-coasters and there are roller-coasters. Imagine being a Spar Girona fan. Your team is favorites to take the last Quarter-Finals ticket and you blow the chance with a home loss to Basket Landes. But then, you are given an unexpected second chance. Not only that, you get to go up against your big Spanish rivals and your former head coach in the Quarter-Finals!
Kennedy Burke has had an amazing first season in the competition wearing a Spar Girona jersey
Spar Girona have had some big highs and lows on all fronts, but this is now a great opportunity in front of them. They have a main core of contributors in the dynamic Kennedy Burke who has been fantastic all season alongside Rebekah Gardner, while Julia Reisingerova has done a rock solid job inside. With the legendary Laia Palau having handed out more than 5 assists per game, they have the tools to possibly overcome their rivals. They maybe just have to be more consistent in their shot selection, since only TTT Riga have a lowest shooting percentage in these Quarter-Finals.
6. Beretta Famila Schio
Regular Season Record: 8-6 (3rd in Group B)
Quarter-Finals: vs ZVVZ USK Praha
It will be fascinating to see if Schio can take advantage of being given a second bite at the Quarter-Finals cherry. Needing to win against Fenerbahce Safiport in their last game to secure their ticket, they lost. So, it looked like Spar Girona would take advantage and win against Basket Landes to advance, but the French visitors didn't read the script and won on Spanish soil. That result sent Schio through to the last eight.
Sandrine Gruda is a EuroLeague Women legend who has done super things like usual for Schio
The opportunity to play ZVVZ USK Praha is one that Schio will relish and they might just enter this series feeling confident and with nothing to lose. Flying high in the Italian League and having shown all season long they can take impressive results (beating Fenerbahce and Sopron at home, winning in Kursk for example), can they cause an upset? Or, is it that much of an upset at all? Any team boasting the experience and quality of the evergreen Sandrine Gruda has a fabulous base to build around and cause problems.
If Diamond DeShields can find some form, Kitija Laksa and Kim Mestdagh make some buckets from long range and Jasmine Keys continues to play the season of her career to date, then it might be tight in these games. Both coaches certainly know about organizing a strong defense. Considering Giorgios Dikiaoulakos had to take his team through the Qualifiers to even make the Regular Season, it's been a marathon and maybe Schio still have some gas left in the tank. If so, there could be some further twists and turns still to come.
Regular Season Record: 6-8 (4th in Group A)
Quarter-Finals: vs Sopron Basket
While credit is absolutely due to BLMA for making the post season, it feels like they never really got themselves going with any sustainable momentum - something underlined by them being one of only two teams left in the competition without a winning record.
Sydney Wallace has been one of the few BLMA players to have hit the heights this season
Ending the Regular Season with three consecutive defeats and just one win in five games is not ideal for Valery Demory and his team, who also have domestic struggles at the wrong end of the French League to focus on. If they want to cause a huge upset they are going to have to find a gear they have not yet shown.
Not least because they don't have a single player in the top 35 for efficiency and too few players are playing at the peak of their form. Sydney Wallace, Haley Peters and Mamignan Toure look the most likely source of joy, with the team having really missed the absent Ana Dabovic and her explosive firepower.
8. TTT Riga
Regular Season Record: 6-8 (5th in Group A)
Quarter-Finals: vs Fenerbahce Safiport
It may be the case that TTT Riga will not know whether to laugh or cry having been unexpectedly granted a reprieve and clutched from the EuroCup Women Quarter-Finals and into the EuroLeague Women last eight. Cry because they have such an incredibly tough task against Fenerbahce Safiport, but no doubt elated that they can boast about making this stage. After all, few anticipated they would have a near 50-50 Regular Season record. They came within just one win of that feat, having entered the campaign as big underdogs.
Daugile Saurauskaite has impressed under the basket for TTT Riga this season
Massive credit must go to playcaller Martins Gulbis because few, if anybody, expected them to be close to where they are now. Their success has largely been due to a big one-two backcourt and frontcourt punch from Jasmine Thomas and Daugile Sarauskaite.
Meanwhile the experience of Chantelle Handy, Gunta Basko and Ieva Pulvere has also come in handy. They will certainly need all of that know-how since they not only face the leading team, but will know Fenerbahce are especially tough when they play at home.
Disclaimer: The power rankings are entirely subjective and is in no way a true, accurate ranking systems. All comments are purely those of the author.
The EuroLeague Women Power Rankings are put together by our panel, led by FIBA's women's basketball specialist Paul Nilsen. He eats, sleeps and breathes female hoops and is incredibly passionate about the promotion of the women's game at all levels. Paul uses an extensive network of players, coaches, clubs and Federations to shape his work and opinions.