EuroLeague Women Power Rankings - Quarter-Finals Volume
MUNICH (Germany) - With another Regular Season done and dusted and with the Quarter-Finals to now look forward to, it's time for the most pivotal EuroLeague Women Power Rankings of the campaign.
Taking into account the 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 Alagoz Holding (-)
Regular Season record: 12-2 (1st in Group A)
Quarter-Finals: v Sopron Basket
This is the year that all Fenerbahce fans have been dreaming of for so long - right? The year when they finally land that elusive first title after so many missed opportunities and heartbreak Finals. Lock it in. It's happening. It has to. If we (wrongly) thought this was the case last year when red-hot favorites and stung by Sopron, consider this simple fact. 12 months later, they have Courtney Vandersloot and Breanna Stewart. Oh yes, get ready to book your tickets Fener fans. It's an impossibility to see them miss out again.
Was the addition of Courtney Vandersloot the last piece of the jigsaw for the title-chasing Fenerbahce?
The caveat is that this is women's basketball. And, as has been said so many times, it is beautifully consistently inconsistent. So, you never know for 100 percent sure. But seriously, you can start printing the EuroLeague Women merchandise now. The 'new UMMC' are getting it done this time!
2. ZVVZ USK Praha (+1)
Regular Season record: 10-4 (2nd in Group A)
Quarter-Finals: v Perfumerias Avenida
You still get the sense that in any one-off game, Praha are a team that can get it done and even against runaway favorites Fenerbahce, cause the upset. This is simply because of the freedom they play with and the massive amount of talent and scoring power. They have already pushed Fenerbahce during the Regular Season and they are on the other side of the bracket - this would be a Final worth watching if it pans out like this.
Slovenian ace Teja Oblak pulls the strings for Praha at the point guard spot
Alyssa Thomas is still the centerpiece and if she's firing, then that solid foundation along with Brionna Jones under the basket, boosted by Temi Fagbenle too, is key. The question marks are maybe more around the wings and backcourt. Valeriane Vukusavljevic has been great, but Maria Conde certainly has another gear to find and while Teja Oblak has shown exceptional leadership, once she sits down on the bench for whatever reason, Praha look more vulnerable, In summary, if they keep the tempo high, they are hard to live with.
3. CBK Mersin Yenisehir Bld (+1)
Regular Season record: 10-4 (1st in Group B)
Quarter-Finals: v Tango Bourges Basket
To their credit, they finished top of Group B - albeit in a very tight situation that could have went either way. But just when things looked to be running smooth, there has been a not untypical poorly timed slice of drama, with DeWanna Bonner departing and Jelena Dubljevic coming in. While the latter is a great veteran player, Bonner had been a major contributor and suddenly the dynamic of the team will be impacted at just the wrong time. Firstly, Jonquel Jones leaves (earlier in the season) and now Bonner.
Chelsea Gray is one of the clutch ballers on the Mersin roster
You just never truly know what you are going to get with Mersin. On and off the court. On their day they have the capacity to beat anyone because they undeniably have clutch stars like Chelsea Gray and Tiffany Hayes. But, do they have the depth and choice of options to make their first Final Four? Perhaps just, especially with the expert hand of Robero Iniquez in place. But, have we over-egged this cake putting them 3rd? Hmmmm, maybe.
4. Beretta Famila Schio (+2)
Regular Season record: 10-4 (2nd in Group B)
Quarter-Finals: v Valencia Basket Club
Whisper it quietly - but are Beretta Famila Schio set to advance to their first ever Final Four? Participants at previous Final Eight tournaments, this step to the last four would be a deserved reward for their consistency in so regularly challenging and competing in the competition. The fly in the ointment is that the Quarter-Finals stage is where they normally fall on their sword. This time though, there is reason to have real confidence. They signed off the Regular Season hammering Sopron Basket and they are yet to lose on their home floor, so if they protect that fortress, then Final Four is assured.
Is Astou Ndour ready to step things up even more in the paint for Schio?
Coach Giorgios Dikaioulakos has got them well drilled across the floor as you would expect from such a highly regarded playcaller and the players have responded with some nice team basketball. Marina Mabrey has showed out in the backcourt, Rhyne Howard brings the noise from the wings and Astou Ndour is a handful inside. Yet behind those headline names are so many other contributors with Gio Sottana and Jasmine Keys just two examples. The stage is set. Opportunity knocks loudly, but Valencia will be a huge challenge. It could go either way and maybe only home advantage tips the scales in Schio's favor.
5. Valencia Basket Club (-3)
Regular Season record: 9-5 (3rd in Group A)
Quarter-Finals: v Beretta Famila Schio
Calm down Valencia fans, the fall of three places looks a lot more dramatic than it is. In reality it is merely a reflection of the fact that when the last volume was published, Valencia were on absolute fire when they won a stack of games on the road. Since then, they have cooled a little, not helped by some injury worries which have seen the veteran skills and experience of Alba Torrens and Cristina Ouvina parked on the sidelines. They are rated as doubtful for this series or at least highly doubtful even if they appear in terms of being able to contribute anywhere near full capacity.
Young Elena Buenavida has impressed of the bench for Valencia along with fellow rising star Raquel Carrera
But do not despair Valencia fans! The energy and talent mixed together continues to be a vibrant mix that could well be enough to sneak past Schio. Queralt Casas will bring it, with Lauren Cox and Marie Guelich tough to stop inside. You also have to love the emergence of Elena Buenavida, following in the footsteps of another young gun in Raquel Carerra. History could be about to happen for this highly ambitious club, so seatbelts on - this might be a roller-coaster epic of a series! And, us neutrals can't wait to see it!
6. Tango Bourges Basket (+1)
Regular Season record: 8-6 (4th in Group A)
Quarter-Finals: v CBK Mersin Yenisehir Bld
With a great tradition in this competition stretching back decades, Bourges might clinch their first spot in the Semi-Finals in nine years. They may be ranked sixth here, but with CBK Mersin having to make a major roster change and with Bourges pushing all the big guns hard this season in Group A, it would not be a huge shock to see them make it to the Semi-Finals. Olivier Larfargue has probably not received the credit deserved for taking them to this post-season having also won the EuroCup Women title just under a year ago
Yvonne Anderson continues to make Bourges tick from the backcourt
The physicality of his team, their defense and overall control and discipline is always impressive. If they made a few more scores from long-range then they could even dream big. Yvonne Anderson is always a threat, Anete Steinberga and Kayla Alexander pack a hard-nosed punch and young Pauline Astier is a delight off the bench. Surely with home support so vital at Le Prado, they can at least take it to a third and decisive game?
7. Perfumerias Avenida (+1)
Regular Season record: 8-6 (3rd in Group B)
Quarter-Finals: v ZVVZ USK Praha
It's been something of a soap opera this season and yet amazingly, despite the changes, distractions and disruptions, here we are, another Quarter-Finals place. But what is the next plot-line going to be in this dramatic season? We have already had Roberto Iniguez moving to Cukurova and star baller Aleksandra Crvendakic following suit. For a moment, Avenida looked in real peril, like the Play-Offs ship might sink without a trace. But, after a huge wobble and amazing recovery, could the Spanish club be sailing towards Final Four?
After a tough opening, Coach Vazquez has masterminded a four-game winning run for Avenida
The only reason they are 7th is that they have been put up against Praha in the bracket which is not an impossible task, but undeniably super tough. Ask Avenida fans in mid-January about this current scenario and they would surely have taken it. They had lost four in a row and now, inspired by a terrific job from Coach Pepe Vazquez, they have the confidence to punch hard after ending the Regular Season with four victories in succession. The fans will be up for it and make life so uncomfortable for Praha, the defense will be rugged and focused (and it will have to be), but will they be able to control that tempo and keep pace offensively? We will soon find out.
8. Sopron Basket (-4)
Regular Season record: 8-6 (4th in Group B)
Quarter-Finals: v Fenerbahce Alagoz Holding
It looks like the wheels have now come off for the reigning champions after firstly the disappointing home defeat to Basket Landes, and then a blowout at Beretta Famila Schio in their last game. It was a little crazy on reflection, as they went from possible Group B winners to potentially not even qualifying at all. In fact, Sopron wouldn't even be in the last eight at all had Avenida not done them a favor by beating Girona.
Will this be the end of the road for the reigning champions?
Maybe a 'Muchas Gracias' card has been sent to Salamanca, but then again, Fenerbahce in the Quarter-Finals is not exactly much of a gift. Sopron will be huge underdogs. But that is a label they relish, so could they revive the spirit and form that saw them crowned champions in Istanbul last year? The gap between the respective offensive firepower is vast, so their defense will have to be absolutely amazing and the most likely scenario is that the curtain comes down on this fairytale period.
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.