21 teams from around Europe played in the Euroleague Women First Round and before the Playoff starts, Swish Appeal has prepared a review of the competition that receives most of the WNBA talent during winter. Angel McCoughtry’s Fenerbahce made the perfect performance, with 12 wins and no defeats.
With UMMC Ekaterinburg organizing the Final Eight and getting their place guaranteed since day one, this first round was, for the Russian team, a way to prepare a group of players who know each other perfectly to get it done when April comes. The goal, obviously, is to repeat their 2013 success, if possible, with bigger impact.
This first round was almost perfect, with 8 wins and 2 defeats, but Head Coach Olaf Lange might need some more guarantees from his roster until the decisive matches. Two players deserve to be placed above all the others on the team. Candace Parker was impressive during the entire first round, averaging 15.3 points and 9.2 rebounds, while Diana Taurasi supplemented it with an average 14.8 points and 6.4 assists. The French international Sandrine Gruda was other player highlighting in UMMC’s shirt, with 11.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.
UMMC Ekaterinburg won Group A, where Tango Bourges, Kayseri Kaski, Good Angels Kosice and Beretta Famila Schio won the Playoff seed. From these teams, you might take a look to Opals Center Marianna Tolo, who never played in the United States, but surpassed Johannah Leedham, Endene Miyem and Celine Dumerc as the Bourges best scorer. Seatle Storm’s Tanisha Wright averaged 13.9 points and 5.3 rebouns with the Turkish side Kayseri and Plenette Pierson got to 17.5 points and 7 rebounds in only six games with Good Angels Kosice.
12 wins and counting
After the harsh defeat in last season’s Final, Fenerbahce preferred to keep their team’s heart and try to conquer the title in their rival’s home with much of the same players. Angel McCoughtry is their main player, demonstrating her will to win a title that has been running from her since she first came to Europe. 14.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.3 steals do not show enough of her quality, commanding a team where newcomer Isabelle Yacobou brought aggressiveness to the paint, reinforcing Anastasia Veremeenko and Cappie Pondexter strengths in Roberto Iniguez’ team. Pondexter, with 4.5 assists per game, is one of the Top 10 Guards of the Tournament.
Five of the Group B seven teams got seeded to the Euroleague Playoff. The Sparks’ Jantel Lavender deserves all the talk, being the Euroleague’s First Round best scorer, with an average 20.4 points, and also one of the best rebounders, with 10.8 a game. Wisla Can-Pack Krakow was just the third team in the Group, but the Ohio State graduate is making it big in Europe. Other players deserving the highlight are Nadezhda’s Dewanna Bonner (18.0 points and 8.6 rebounds), Euroleague Rookie Tiana Hawkins, with 17.3 points and 6.6 rebounds with Euroleasing Sopron’s shirt, and Spanish Center Laura Nicholls (15.0 points and 9.1 rebounds) from Rivas Ecopolis.
Surprise in Group C
For starters, this Group was the one promising more balance, with no clear favorite to win it. But USK Prague, who was the most improved team in this season tournament, surprised everyone finishing in first place. With Kia Vaughn as the best rebounder, and Danielle Robinson arriving during the tournament to play the last four games, Jelena Dubljevic, from Montenegro, was the team’s best scorer, with 18.8 points per game, while Spanish Laia Palau was the one making more assists in the tournament, with 7.7 per game. The presence of Danielle Robinson in the Playoff might add intensity and game solving moments, in a group where experimented Eva Viteckova plays also an important role.
Spartak Moscow Vidojne finished in second place with a roster with almost made exclusively of European players (Asjha Jones left early) and full of youth. Former Chicago Sky Sonja Petrovic (13.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game) made the best performance in the first round. Galatasaray’s eight wins and four defeats was the least impressive runs of this season, if we consider the presence of Shavonte Zellous (15.9 points per game), Sancho Lyttle (14.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game) and Alba Torrens (13.5 points and 2.8 assists) in their roster. Eshaya Murphy (18.7 points and 6.8 rebounds) from Perfumerias Avenida and Belinda Snell (13.5 points per game) from CCC Polkowice, were the other seeded teams’ best performers.
Euroleague Playoff Schedule
With UMMC Ekaterinburg receiving the Final Eight Round from April 7 to 13, fourteen teams will play a playoff round of a maximum three games, starting in March 11th. Here are the pairings:
Fenerbahce v CCC Polkowice
USK Prague v Rivas Ecopolis
Sparta&k Moscow Vidojne v Euroleasing Sopron
Galatasaray v Perfumerias Avenida
Tango Bourges v Good Angels Kosice
Nadezhda Orenburg v Wisla Can-Pack Krakow
Kayseri Kaski v Beretta Famila Schio