FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2023 Power Rankings: Quarter-Finals Edition
LJUBLJANA (Slovenia) - With just eight teams remaining in the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2023 and with so much debate over who will make the podium, we've pushed the button on a bonus edition of the Power Rankings.
Taking into account the previous volume of the Power Rankings, performances so far and the all-important tournament bracket, here's how our panel is calling it, led by our FIBA women's basketball specialist Paul Nilsen.
1. Belgium (+3)
Tournament Record: 3-0
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 7th
A heart over head choice? There is certainly something magical about the neutral's view of a potential historic Belgium win, led by Emma Meesseman as MVP. Typically awesome at both ends of the court, she even lead the way in steals during the Group Phase. Real leadership. Both Julies (Allemand and Vanloo) are in top form, there are so many team components looking nicely oiled and coach Rachid Meziane seems to be doing a super job. So after two bronze medals, maybe they will skip silver and upgrade to gold.
However, let's be absolutely clear, while the Cats can win it, I have been strongly persuaded by panel colleagues. Because there's some question marks about who they have played. A lackluster Israel, short-handed Czech Republic and an eliminated Italy. In the bracket, they must go through Serbia and, most likely, France, which will take a hell of a toll and then they must win the Final. Also what about deal-breaking triples? No Kim Mestdagh or Hind Ben Abdelkader. My heart says yes and my head says 'hang on' - at least for a few seconds.
2. Spain (-1)
Tournament Record: 2-1
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 4th
We were all shocked by the opening night loss to Latvia. But has everyone read too much into this - or, maybe I have not read enough into it. The upsides are that Spain in theory at least are in the so-called 'easier' side of the draw - even if they will have to be physically strong to see off those teams with them. Secondly, they have the defensive capabilities and experience to get themselves to the title game. I hate backing against Spain not to win it, since I truly believe the likes of Maria Conde and Alba Torrens have to have one or two big games in them because of their quality. Also you have to love Raquel Carrera and the work she is doing as a rising star baller.
The flip-side is that nobody looks like they are in red-hot form exactly, the scoring power of past years is maybe not quite there and is the brutal truth that they would be big favorites if they had their usual naturalized player? Maybe without one, they could fall short. No Astou Ndour this time, having won titles with Sancho Lyttle before that. Let' s just say it would be a surprise if they didn't make the podium.
3. France (-1)
Tournament Record: 3-0
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 6th
Would it be a relief to take bronze instead of yet another silver? Yes, that's warped logic and I am only joking of course, but defensively, France are so well drilled, they can lock anyone down on any given day. They have many choices in terms of personnel, have finally figured out playing against zone defense, so opponents are now less likely to use this as much and the ever steady rise of their offensive output is encouraging.
The main point of concern is that watching them at times is really tough. They lack rhythm, they lack flair and just grind teams down. Nobody is really standing out and there are concerns over the shoulder injury to Iliana Rupert. If only a Mamignan Toure or Valeriane Vukosavljevic for example can shift to a higher gear, it could be so much better, while there have been public demands for France to be more expansive and get out and run. Either way, they could get the usual medal and to be fair, have not lost.
4. Hungary (+2)
Tournament Record: 2-1
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 24th
Hungary have been hugely impressive even if they had a bump in the road. They struggled a little on day one against Slovakia but blew them away; should have beaten Turkey comfortably but made errors and gift-wrapped them a one point win, but reacted with a fabulous success over Serbia. They have everything they need to end a number of massive historical waits - including more than three decades since the Semi-Finals.
It feels like it really is in their hands and they could even get a medal or make the Final. They have a very respected coach in Norbert Szekely, a great team ethos and deep roster, an in-form star player in Virag Kiss and a great blend age-wise. They can make a lot of adjustments in games because of their personnel. But now the challenge is a mental one. They lacked that 'killer instinct' against Turkey and now we are at the business end of the competition, there really is only room for 'stone cold assassins' now.
5. Serbia (-2)
Tournament Record: 3-1
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 8th
Oh what to make of the defending champions? So difficult to assess. On the evidence so far, maybe the podium ranking heading into this tournament was generous? At least that could be one conclusion after a disjointed campaign when they lost to Hungary and really had to slug it out against Great Britain to make the Quarter-Finals. They need to turn their trademark defense up a level if they want to continue in this competition towards the top four.
Offensively they have labored and really need their big-hitters to start performing. Aleksandra Crvendakic missed the first two games and is working her way back, Yvonne Anderson has been at a decent level but can do more and Tina Krajsnik has not yet produced like she can. At least Jovana Nogic is coming alive. So, are Serbia fading away or have they got one or two big displays in them to come? You should never write off a Marina Maljkovic team. Would it be all that surprising if they even stopped Belgium in their tracks?
6. Germany (+4)
Tournament Record: 3-1
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 36th
Despite a slow start to preparation in the wake of Lisa Thomaidis taking the reins, Germany are now showing what many had hoped for in this competition. They have really used their size to good effect and they have also managed to make enough shots from the backcourt to balance out their approach. While they could and maybe should have lost to Great Britain, here they are with the chance of a Semi-Finals spot.
The work of Marie Guelich has been very impressive and she has really shown her quality so far - as has Sonja Greinacher who's arrival from World Cup 3x3 duties coincided with the 5-1 winning streak they are on if you include the last prep games. Whether they have the mobility or experience to cope with the likes of Spain now remains to be seen but it feels like this tournament is already a success.
7. Montenegro (+7)
Tournament Record 3-1
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 21st
How do they do it? Seriously? Size and population-wise, no nation has punched above their weight like Montengro on such a consistent basis. It is jaw-dropping. Seven successive appearances since their 2011 debut and now in the Quarter-Finals for a third time. Some of the less generous observers will point only to the phenomenal Natasha Mack as the reason for this year's success because of her massive impact. But remember, they could have had Jelena Dubljevic as well and lost their prize asset to injury and subsequent retirement.
And, Mack has played a hard working role with maybe few people recognizing she took just 7 of 57 team shots in the fabulous win against Italy. That speaks volumes about her mentality and the team's choice of player. Most of all, it's not just about the naturalized player. The others have stepped up hugely, such as Milica Jovanovic, Marija Lekovic and Jelena Vucetic for example. Also what a job Jelena Skerovic as playcaller. Is their run about to close? Maybe. But they are a dangerous team when they get it right, that's for sure.
8. Czech Republic (+4)
Tournament Record: 3-1
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 23rd
Remember the last edition when we started off the Czech Republic text with, "If coaching awards were handed out before the tournament tips off for work in preparation (which of course is a ludicrous idea, but bear with us), then Romana Ptackova might be winning an accolade for herself." Well cut and paste indeed. What an incredible, fabulous job she has done to get her country to the top eight for the first time in a decade.
Her young players in particular did a fabulous job off the bench against Greece to get them into the Quarter-Finals. Teenagers like Dominika Paurova and Emma Cechova contributed very importantly and what about Petra Holesinska in that game? Ice running through her veins! Tereza Vyoralova, Natalie Stoupalova have impressed too. Have they got one more win in them? Possibly not and maybe the extra quality at this end of the competition will be a bit too much to overcome. But, what a job so far!
The Power Rankings are entirely subjective and is in no way a true, accurate ranking system. All comments are purely those of the author.
The FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2023 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.