EuroLeague Women Power Rankings, Volume 1
MUNICH (Germany) - The start of the EuroLeague Women Regular Season has almost arrived and it's time to check out the first set of Power Rankings for the 2021-22 campaign.
Taking into account roster changes and of course the luck of the draw, who looks destined for the Quarter-Finals, then Final Four and ultimately the title? Also, who is heading for EuroCup Women and who is going to miss out altogether?
Heading to the Quarter-Finals?
1. UMMC Ekaterinburg
Death, taxes and UMMC having the most stacked roster. It was even the case when the Russian powerhouse didn't actually win silverware - they were always the favorite before the first ball of a campaign was thrown up. They have kept the same roster and the defending champions will want another title. Jonquel Jones just won WNBA MVP, they have Olympic champions like Breanna Stewart and Brittney Griner, plus Alba Torrens and Emma Meesseman. Its long list of talent, boosted further by the arrival of Belarus international Alex Bentley. Go figure!
Even if Fenerbahce had stood still since their Final Four appearance last season, it looks like nobody else has overtaken the Istanbul juggernaut in terms of potential. But you can easily argue that they have pushed on even more since last year. The addition of players like Amanda Zahui, Elizabeth Williams and Bria Hartley gives them more top-level performers. Victor Lapena is doing a great job in getting results and being able to keep Kayla Mc Bride, Satou Sabally, Jasmine Thomas, Olcay Cakir Tugut and the one and only unstoppable Alina Iagupova means they probably have their best ever roster for the 2021-22 season.
3. ZVVZ USK Praha
Praha look destined to continue with their tried and trusted formula. It starts with the legendary playcaller Natalia Hejkova, plus the devastating combo of Brionna Jones and Alyssa Thomas who is back after that injury last year which hurt the Czech side last season. Behind those headline performers are some really super ballers, including a nice guard duo of Teja Oblak and the arriving Barbora Balintova, as well as a list of players who can all come up big on any given night such as Veronika Vorackova, Maria Conde, Alena Hanusova and Dragana Stankovic.
4. Sopron Basket
Sopron could be on course for yet another Final Four appearance. David Gaspar has really proved his skills as heads coach and he can call upon a nice mix of returnees and newcomers. Jelena Brooks has been joined by fellow Serbian Nevena Jovanovic, while Gabby Williams will be doing Gabby Williams thing all year long. Bernadett Hatar has WNBA experience this time around, while the club has high hopes for the impact Napheesa Collier will make, with the excellent Shey Peddy at the club initially. But they will miss unsung hero Tina Krajisnik for sure.
5. Perfumerias Avenida
Undone in a big way by Valencia at the Spanish SuperCup recently, it was a shock to the system for Avenida but they didn't have main guns Katie-Lou Samuelson or Kahleah Cooper. With one of the most experienced and successful EuroLeague Women coaches of all time in Roberto Iniguez, they will be ready and pushing for Final Four again. They have the veteran hand of Silvia Dominguez and the vibrant Maite Cazorla, while the frontline of Emese Hoff, plus new arrivals Shante Evans and Maria Fasoula looks rock solid.
The strength and experience of Anete Steinberga will be important for Galatasaray in the paint
The pressure is always big on Galatasaray and even more so when Fenerbahce are looking to continue their dominance domestically and have made moves to secure another Final Four. Galatasaray making the last eight again feels like the minimum requirement. Yet they are not that deep, but do have a great pairing in the paint of Tina Krajisnik and Anete Steinberga. With Pelin Bilgic growing in stature and Riquna Williams always ready for the clutch, it might be that Chelsea Dungee could be the difference-maker. It's her first overseas experience and while she did not play much in her first WNBA season, it seems this famous club has high expectations for her.
7. Dynamo Kursk
There is little doubt that the roster does not have the same level of star dust sprinkled on it as some past seasons, and especially when they were crowned champions and then made the Final. But, after a couple of seasons when things have not gone well and looked a little chaotic on the court, it looks like a really solid season could be on the cards. The one-two punch of Slovenian duo Nika Baric and Eva Lisec will be key, while there is a buzz about the continued emergence of Anastasiia Kosu. Center Natasha Howard can be a big physical presence and they have re-signed Arike Ogunbowale who is a proven scorer, but can they re-discover team concepts? They will need to.
8. Umana Reyer
Are we being too generous or not generous enough with the reigning Italian champions? It will be interesting to see how they go, with memories of the agony of a last second EuroCup Women Final loss on their minds, but also that stunning five game series win against Schio which helped ease the pain. That said, they just lost in the Italian SuperCup to Schio which was a blow, but they didn't have their headline signing Astou Ndour who is such a great baller. She will be tough to stop alongside Gintare Petronyte. In the backcourt, Yvonne Anderson will do her thing, Francesca Pan can score in bunches and it means they should get plenty of wins on the board.
Heading to EuroCup Women?
Kitija Laksa has had a productive time to her first season with Schio
9. Famila Schio
We feel you. Schio just won the Italian SuperCup against Venezia and have every chance of making the Quarter-Finals. The face that these two great derby rivals are one place apart in the rankings represents just how close they are likely to be domestically again. There is so little between them. The arrival of Georgios Dikaioulakos means they have another coach who is terrific defensively in particular, so they will be very hard to break down. Giorgia Sottana and Kim Mestdagh are a great combo in the backcourt, Kitija Laksa has found the hot hand on the wing, while Sandrine Gruda remains a marquee go-to player like she has been all her career. They may have suspect depth but will be highly motivated after the Italian Finals loss and you would not back against them riding into the last eight.
10. Spar Girona
Maybe Girona are the most difficult team to assess. Not least because they have sadly lost one of their marquee signings of the summer to injury, in Michaela Onyenwere who could be out for some time. They also must cope without the excellent Chelsea Gray and Sonja Vasic, two of the headline summer departures. Frida Eldebrink still gives them a big scoring presence as does Rebekah Gardner. With Maria Araujo back from injury, the frontcourt looks solid with Giedre Laubuckiene and Julia Reisingerova. A really tough Liga Femenina challenge trying to keep pace with Valencia and Avenida is not going to help them so their chances of success look to be in the balance.
It was a great start to the campaign for new head coach Valery Demory that Montpellier won the French Champions Trophy last weekend and that puts BLMA in a good place to start the Regular Season. The backbone of a competitive team is in place and they have lots of veteran know-how via Diandra Tchatchouang, Ana-Maria Filip, Haley Peters and Ana Dabovic - although the latter appears to have some injury concerns. The arrival of Olivia Epoupa will be significant as she injects some quickness and athleticism into the mix in the backcourt.
12. KSC Szekszard
They got in the history books by making it through the Qualifiers and it is tough to know what this first season will hold. The roster looks talented but also fragile in terms of the rotation. There's maybe a contrast between the experienced frontcourt of Nikolina Milic, Cyesha Goree and Sara Krnjic and the backcourt of younger stars such as Zala Friskovec. In 2020-21 they brought in DeWanna Bonner midway and maybe they'll need to add another quality player for the rigors of a competitive domestic season and challenging first EuroLeague Women Regular Season.
A Regular Season ending?
Experienced playmaker Celine Dumerc will once again lend her experience to Basket Landes
13. Basket Landes
This probably feels harsh, but it's a tough pool to be in - right? Two clubs have to be at the bottom of Group B and therefore in this category of the rankings. But this could be the one that blows up our face! Marianna Tolo will help with matchups and especially defensively. Experienced Brazilian Clarissa Dos Santos could be huge if she replicates her form from Izmit last year, but she is already out for six weeks injured. The loan of Marine Fauthoux from Lyon is interesting as she can learn from the legendary Celine Dumerc, while it's positive head coach Julie Barennes signed a long-term deal recently.
14. VBW Arka Gdynia
Having suffered a big setback this week with a Polish SuperCup loss to arch-rivals Polkowice, it is not the start they needed. It's tough to envisage Gdynia making the Quarter-Finals or even EuroCup Women, but last year they played really well in the bubbles and did not get what they probably deserved. Alice Kunek staying is huge as she was really good last year, while the arrival of Megan Gustafsson and Ana-Marija Begic gives them some teeth in the frontcourt. But it looks tough without the brilliant Barbora Balintova pulling the strings at point guard after her move to Prague. There is a big job to do for French guard Romane Bernies and Swedish shooter Klara Lundquist.
15. TTT Riga
The Latvian club will be wishing they had been able to hang on to Kitija Laksa since their former winger is killing it in Schio and heading into this new campaign they look like they might struggle for consistency. They have some excellent young players in Laura Meldere, Vanesa Jasa and further down the pipeline, Raina Tomasicka who is a young gun to watch for the future. Jasmine Thomas will take on much responsibility along with Great Britain veteran Chantelle Handy but much might depend on how American import Jada Lewis does during her rookie pro-season overseas.
16. MBA Moscow
It's a quick blow to the jaw for the rookies with this prediction, but feel free to use these words as extra motivation. The Russian side has no track record or tradition at this level and have everything to prove since they never even made the last stage of EuroCup Women. Respect to them that they are looking to enter with almost all Russian domestic players. They have the know-how of Elena Kirillova and Anastasia Logunova, plus talents like Nina Glonti who was a breakout baller for the Russia national team at the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2021.
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.