15 September, 2021
10 April, 2022
Long Read
to read

Quarter-Finals preview: Who's heading to the Final Four?

MUNICH (Germany) - The countdown is on to make the prestigious EuroLeague Women Final Four next month and there's only the Quarter-Finals hurdle to overcome for the last eight remaining clubs.

Here's the lowdown on what promises to be four exciting best- of-three series in the Quarter-Finals:

Fenerbahce Safiport v TTT Riga  

Satou Sabally gave Fenerbahce Safiport a huge mid-season boost when she returned from injury

Without defending champions UMMC Ekaterinburg in the competition following the suspension of Russian clubs, the mantle of favorites has been snapped up by Fenerbahce Safiport, who are still searching for their maiden title. The Turkish powerhouse will be expected to encounter few problems against their Latvian opponents, who land in the last eight unexpectedly. However, with six wins during the Regular Season under their belt, Riga can't be taken for granted and have completed some major surprises in recent years against the biggest clubs.

Team Leaders: Kayla McBride, Alina Iagupova, Satou Sabally (Fenerbahce Safiport) - Daugile Sarauskaite, Jasmine Thomas, Ieva Pulvere (TTT Riga)

Key matchup: Fenerbahce have so many weapons and not least the incredible dual firepower of Kayla McBride and Alina Iagupova. However, it just feels like Satou Sabally is the one that has helped get her team rolling in a big way, so it will be a big task to try and slow her down and nullify the impact of the German star. That task could fall to the experienced British veteran Chantelle Handy.

Will TTT Riga be able to find the level of defense they need to slow down Fenerbahce Safiport?

'X-Factor': Defense, defense, defense - that's where it's at for TTT Riga. Unless they pull out their A-Game at the defensive end, this surely won't be a massively competitive series. That's simply because with just 61.8 points per game, TTT Riga are the lowest-scoring team not only in the Quarter-Finals, but of the entire Regular Season. 

Stats don't lie: While the TTT Riga defense will have to be top drawer, it's Fenerbahce Safiport who block more shots per game than anyone else. They are way out in front with 67 during the campaign, a massive 17 more than second-placed ZVVZ USK Praha. It's mainly the imposing physical presence of center Elizabeth Williams they have to thank for that.

ZVVZ USK Praha v Beretta Famila Schio 

Will February EuroLeague Women MVP Alyssa Thomas be the difference-maker for ZVVZ USK Praha in the series?

This series may turn out to be the most compelling. Both teams have top-quality performers, vastly experienced play-callers in Natalia Hejkova and Girogios Dikaioulakos, plus the confidence that stems from being dominant in their respective domestic leagues. Each club has also taken big scalps through the Regular Season and proven they can win big games. The Prague team has the impressive Final Four track record, but Schio look hungry and ready to make the most of their opportunity, having ridden all the way to this stage from the Qualifiers.

Leaders: Alyssa Thomas, Brionna Jones, Teja Oblak (ZVVZ USK Praha) - Sandrine Gruda, Diamond De Shields, Kim Mestdagh (Beretta Famila Schio)

You may struggle to find a better matchup in the whole of the Quarter-Finals than Sandrine Gruda against Brionna Jones

Key matchup: Brionna Jones of Praha potentially going up against Sandrine Gruda of Schio in the paint will be an absolute treat for fans. Both have had amazing individual seasons and pushed their respective teams to this stage. Whoever wins this battle could play a big role in sending their club to the Final Four!

'X-Factor': The tempo in this one might be a huge deciding factor. Praha may like to play a bit more quickly at times, while Schio might want to engage in more of a half-court contest. That will place a lot of emphasis on the guards of course and the ability of each team to be strong on their own boards.

Stats don't lie: Beretta Famila Schio are the most clinical free-throw shooting team left in the competition, sinking 80.5 percent of their attempts from the stripe. Meanwhile nobody goes to the line as much as ZVVZ USK Praha, who shoot a massive 20 .2 free-throws per game (making 75.3 percent).

Sopron Basket v BLMA

Sopron Basket will be hoping that homecourt advantage in the series can be a big advantage for them against BLMA

Sopron Basket have managed to make the Final Four party in recent years and will be feeling very confident they can retain their ticket to the big show as they prepare to play BLMA. The French side are chasing a first appearance at the event and since they're struggling in the French League, it might look difficult on paper. With Sopron Basket having also blown hot and cold this season, that sets this series up nicely.

Leaders: Gabby Williams, Bernadett Hatar, Briann January (Sopron Basket) - Olivia Epoupa, Sydney Wallace, Haley Peters (BLMA)

Key matchup: Olivia Epoupa will have to really try and be dominant in the backcourt and use her speed and athleticism to the absolute maximum to carry BLMA to the Final Four. The french livewire has so much energy and can disrupt the Sopron offensive sets early. In her way most probably lies Briann January, a baller who arguably does not get the kudos she deserves, especially for her defensive skills. This is going to be a hard-nosed duel where neither player gives up an inch of ground.

Will playmaker Olivia Epoupa prove to be the key for BLMA to upset Sopron Basket in this series?

'X-Factor': Guarding the towering 2.08 Sopron center Bernadett Hatar is always awkward for any team, but considering she is having the season of her career, even more so. Not just around the hoop, but also because she can operate well in the high post too. How well BLMA defend this standout aspect of Sopron's usual approach will be important.

Stats don't lie: BLMA are the second-best three-point shooting team left in the competition, averaging 36.2 percent from downtown per game. They are probably going to need to make some scores from long range if they want to come out on top in this series.

Perfumerias Avenida v Spar Girona

Emese Hof has been excelling and growing again with Perfumerias Avenida this season

It's a quirk of the Quarter-Finals that these two domestic rivals and Spanish heavyweights will go up against each other, with the huge carrot of a Final Four berth awaiting the winner of the series. For Spar Girona it would mean a historic first step, while for Avenida it would mean they get a chance to go one better than 2021 ,when they reached the Final and went down to UMMC.

Leaders: Kahleah Copper, Maite Cazorla, Emese Hof (Perfumerias Avenida) - Kennedy Burke, Rebekah Gardner, Julia Reisingerova (Spar Girona)

Julia Reisingerova has a big job to do for Spar Girona when it comes to dropping anchor in the paint

Key matchup: With Maria Fasoula out injured of late, there will be an extra burden on the shoulders of Avenida center Emese Hof. Her battle with Girona's Julia Reisingerova might not be the top matchup on everyone's list, but it might be vital. Not least because if one of them gets into foul trouble or has a serious off-night and misfires, their team could be in trouble. 

'X-Factor': The availability and ability to contribute of some Avenida players could be the determining factor. With injury doubts over Fasoula and prize asset Katie Lou Samuelson, plus star baller Kahleah Copper forced to go back to the States because of a personal issue, much could hinge on who Perfumerias Avenida has in the line-up. They still have experience and quality running deep, but they are bonafide title material with Copper and Samuelson in situ.

Stats don't lie: The depth and teamwork of Avenida is evidenced this season by the fact that their second unit contributes a mind-blowing 31.4 points per game off the bench.