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Preview: EuroCup Women Round of 8 play features many up-and-coming WNBA players

Starting Wednesday, the athletes in this round, including rising WNBA players like Moriah Jefferson and Sami Whitcomb, will be on full display in one of FIBA Europe’s top women’s basketball tournaments.

WNBA Finals - Game One
Seattle Storm guard Sami Whitcomb plays for French club BLMA in EuroCup Women. She’s also the third-leading scorer in the tournament.
Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Many WNBA players compete abroad in Europe in the winter. With European regular seasons nearly over, the continental tournaments are heading toward crunch time. On Wednesday, the eight remaining EuroCup Women teams will compete for a spot in the quarterfinals. They are played as home-and-home tournaments where the team with the most total points advances to the next round.

What is EuroCup Women and its relationship with EuroLeague Women?

EuroCup Women is the second tier continental tournament in FIBA Europe’s women’s professional basketball leagues. EuroLeague Women is the top-tier continental tournament. At various points in the season, some EuroLeague Women teams that didn’t advance in the play-in or group stages will be relegated to EuroCup to finish continental play.

Since this league is the second-tier continental tournament, most of the teams in this competition were not the champions of their domestic leagues last year. However, they were still among the best performers in their leagues.

This is the Round of 8. Why isn’t it called the quarterfinals?

The EuroCup Women quarterfinals has eight total teams, but four of the teams in that round are the fifth- and sixth-place teams from EuroLeague Women’s two eight-team groups. Therefore, this round is a play-in round before the quarterfinals.

The quarterfinals begin on Mar. 7.

EuroCup Women is a second-tier league. Why should I care when there’s EuroLeague Women and March Madness starting soon?

It is true that EuroCup Women isn’t as prestigious as EuroLeague Women. But there are more teams in this group and teams from EuroLeague Women get relegated to EuroCup Women midseason which makes this league exciting as well.

There may not be as much WNBA All-Star talent playing on EuroCup Women squads, but many younger WNBA players on EuroCup tier teams get more playing time, which is not the case on their American teams or if they were playing on a EuroLeague Women team instead. Also, if these players’ EuroCup Women teams do well enough this season, they may be in EuroLeague Women next season.

How can I watch FIBA EuroCup Women games?

Like EuroLeague Women, EuroCup Women games are available for free on FIBA’s YouTube channel. Even if you miss the games live, you can still watch an entire archive later.

Which teams are playing?

Here are the pairings, game times, notable WNBA players or players with WNBA experience, as well as what to expect for each team.

(1) BLMA (France) vs. (9) Galatasaray (Turkey)

  • Schedule — Game 1: Wednesday, Feb. 13, at 12 p.m. ET; Game 2: Thursday, Feb. 21, at 2 p.m. ET.
  • Notable WNBA players — For BLMA, Samantha Whitcomb (Storm) and Endy Miyem (Lynx) are familiar faces. For Galatasaray, Moriah Jefferson (Aces) is their most notable name.
  • Notes — BLMA is one of EuroCup Women’s top three-point shooting teams at 38.5 percent overall, while Galatasaray is averaging just 28.3 percent from deep. Whitcomb is the third-leading scorer in EuroCup Women play overall, averaging 21.8 points per game while shooting 46.8 percent from the three-point line. Barring a strong two-game run from Galatasaray, BLMA is a clear favorite in this round.

(2) Cukurova Basketbol (Turkey) v (7) Wisla CANPACK Krakow (Poland)

  • Schedule — Game 1: Thursday, Feb. 14, at 12:30 p.m. ET; Game 2: Thursday, Feb. 21, at 12:30 p.m. ET.
  • Notable WNBA players — Cukurova has Kelsey Bone (Aces), Chelsea Gray (Sparks), Astou Ndour (Sky) and Kim Mestdagh (Mystics). Wisla has Jordin Canada (Storm) and Mercedes Russell (Storm) as their most notable players.
  • Notes — Cukurova comes into this game a heavy favorite. In fact, they didn’t lose a single game in continental play yet. Ndour is their second leading scorer at 16.1 points per game, while Gray and Mestdagh also have been strong contributors this season. Wisla does not have as much WNBA talent as Cukurova but Storm reserves Russell and Canada are averaging a combined 22.7 points per game and developed a lot of chemistry with each other for the defending WNBA champions.

(3) Spar Citylift Girona (Spain) v (6) KSC Szekszard (Hungary)

  • Schedule — Game 1: Wednesday, Feb. 13, at 12 p.m. ET; Game 2: Wednesday, Feb. 20, at 2:15 p.m. ET.
  • Notable WNBA players — For Girona, Keisha Hampton spent time with the Lynx and Sky. Shay Murphy last played for the then-San Antonio Stars. For KSC Szekszard, Abby Bishop last played for the Storm and Erica McCall (Fever) are their most notable WNBA players.
  • Notes — For Szekszard, Bishop and McCall have been their primary contributors, with each averaging over 18 points per game. Hampton has been part of a more balanced attack for Girona, where she and Brazilian star Nadia Colhado each are averaging nearly 15 points per game in EuroCup competition.

(4) Tarbes GB (France) v (12) Lyon ASVEL Feminin (France)

  • Schedule — Game 1: Wednesday, Feb. 13, at 2 p.m. ET; Game 2: Thursday, Feb. 21, at 2:30 p.m. ET.
  • Notable WNBA players — Tarbes has Alexis Prince and Devereaux Peters who played in the WNBA as recently as last season. Lyon has WNBA champion Alysha Clark (Storm), while Clarissa Dos Santos played two seasons for the Sky (2015, 2016).
  • Notes — Once group play is finished, it’s possible that two teams from the same country could meet, and this is no exception. Prince has led the way for Tarbes, averaging 17.9 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. She also scored 30 or more points in two of her last four EuroCup games. Lyon is the lowest-seeded EuroCup team to advance to this round. But Clark has remained a steady presence, averaging 12.8 points per game on 46 percent shooting. Dos Santos is also a double-double threat, averaging 16.7 points and 10.7 rebounds per game including five consecutive double-doubles in EuroCup play heading into this round.