All teams will be in action as the EuroLeague women resume play with their quarter-finals on March 8th. The higher seeded teams will play their first game at home with the second games on the road on March 11th. There are some great match-ups ahead and outside of UMMC Ekaterinburg no one has been quite as dominant. Travel may be a factor for some teams as there isn’t much time for recovery with only two days in between games one and two. The quarter-finals is a best of three series so if necessary, game three will be played on March 16th. The winners of the series will advance to the final four. The EuroLeague Women Final Four will be played from April 15th to the 17th with one of the the four participating teams hosting the event.
Now their toughest test will be against high-flying Fenerbahce who finished the regular season 5th in points per game, 1st in total rebounds, 3rd in assists and 3rd in points allowed. Wisla finished no higher than 13th in any one of the categories. Alexandria Quigley leads Fener in scoring with 14.8 points per game with Jantel Lavender controlling the inside averaging 13.4 points per game and a team high 8.4 rebounds per game. All season long Fenerbahce has found a way to win; four games were won by only five points or less. They’ve been tested this entire season and have been one of the most consistent teams throughout unlike Wisla who squeezed their way into the final 8. However, Wisla shouldn’t count themselves out. After two very impressive wins to finish the regular season, they should have confidence heading into to Turkey on Tuesday. I don’t think there was anyone outside of their locker room who thought they could actually beat Nadezhda Orenburg and they did. So here they are again, presumably facing a lost cause, with the chance to prove everyone wrong. My guess is they will put up a good fight but Fenerbahce is too deep and too talented to lose this series. I’m picking Fener to win the series in two games.
Beretta Famila Schio vs. ZVVZ USK Prague (USK Prague 2-1)
This will be one of the most competitive match-ups in the final eight competition. Defending EuroLeague Champions USK Praha will face Familia Schio in which no team has a clear cut advantage. Schio finished second in Group A behind Fenerbahce while USK finished third in Group B behind Russian powerhouses UMMC and Nadezhda Orenburg. The only advantage that may be had is that USK are the defending champions and that could go a long way with confidence and experience. However, Schio is just as experienced although they didn’t make it out of group play last season. Schio has some impressive wins against Galatasaray and Fenerbache and they also fare well in statistical standings ranking second in total points and rebounds. USK had an up and down regular season finishing with an 8-6 record and losing their last two games. Their addition of Candice Dupree midway through the season provided a huge boost for the squad but she didn’t play in their last game because of a broken finger. Hopefully she will be ready to go for the quarter-finals. Despite USK having an average season at best they are still my choice to win this series. I think this series will be a hard fought three games with the defending champions moving on to a second consecutive final four appearance where they know anything can happen!
UMMC Ekaterinburg vs. Galatasaray (UMMC 2-0)
This match-up will probably be like a thank you for participating series where UMMC will dominate for two games and send Galatasaray packing up their EuroLeague luggage. UMMC finished the regular season with a 12-2 record which was good enough for first place in Group B. With a loaded roster which includes mega star Diana Taurasi, Britney Griner, Sancho Lyttle, Kristi Toliver and Alba Torrens I don’t see anyone other than UMMC celebrating another EuroLeague championship after last winning in 2013. Galatasaray enlisted some reinforcement with the addition of veteran Ann Wauters but even her services won’t be enough to to see them get past this hurdle. If anything, we are all hoping for at least a competitive series. I think it’s safe to say that the end of the road for Galatasaray will be at home on March 11th with UMMC taking the series 2-0 and advancing to the final four.
Nadezhda Orenburg vs Dynamo Kursk (Orenburg 2-1)
This will also be another very competitive match-up as the two other Russian powerhouses don’t have to leave their country for this series. Game one will be played in Orenburg as they finished second in Group B with a 9-5 record where Dynamo Kursk finished third in Group A with a 10-4 record. Orenburg, led by Dewanna Bonner who leads her team in scoring with 16.6 points per game had two very disappointing losses to end their regular season to Castors Braine and Wisla Can-Pack. Despite those losses Orenburg has been one of the better teams throughout the competition. They were one of the two teams to beat UMMC during group play. Dynamo Kursk finished their regular season on a four game winning streak. After losing Epiphany Prince early on in the season Dynamo brought in Lindsey Harding as her replacement. They rank first in assists in EuroLeague play which is a big reason for their success; everyone shares the ball. The most consistent player for the Russian squad has been Nneka Ogwumike who is averaging 17.7 points per game and 8.6 rebounds while shooting nearly 60% from the field! Both teams are familiar with one another as they have faced each other in their domestic league play. Orenburg has been the winner in both contests so far this season. For that reason and the fact that Orenburg has been the better team during the EuroLeague competition I think they will win the series in three games. Dynamo will win at least one contest but if Orenburg is at their best they are a very hard team to beat.