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EuroLeague Women Quarterfinals Preview: UMMC Ekaterinburg goes for third championship in four-year span

Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner and Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart are just two of the WNBA stars playing for teams looking to bring a continental title to their overseas teams.

Seattle Storm v Phoenix Mercury - Game Three
Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner plays for UMMC Ekaterinburg, the favorites in this year’s EuroLeague Women playoffs.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The 2018-19 EuroLeague Women playoffs begin Tuesday and feature eight of the top teams in Europe, most of which have active WNBA players. Teams having multiple All-Stars on their rosters are in prime position to win the entire competition. But games are still to be played and anything can happen.

Here’s what is in store for the quarterfinals:

Frequently Asked Questions

Is EuroLeague Women truly the top championship for overseas teams? Yes and no. Within the continent, EuroLeague Women is the top trophy. However, professional basketball teams in Europe also compete for domestic league titles within their countries. In a country like Russia or Turkey where the quality of play is quite high, winning the Russian PBL or Turkish KBSL Finals is often just as prestigious. So, it wouldn’t be unheard of for the EuroLeague Women champion to fail to win in their domestic league.

What is at stake? The EuroLeague Women championship is at stake. But there’s also an automatic berth to the group stage of next year’s EuroLeague Women as well.

How do the EuroLeague Women playoffs work? The quarterfinals are a best-of-three series. Whichever team wins two games first advances to the Final Four. The Final Four and Medal Rounds are single-elimination tournaments.

Who won EuroLeague Women last year? UMMC Ekaterinburg won the EuroLeague title. It was their fourth overall title and their second in the last three years.

Who was the MVP last year? Like the WNBA, there is a postseason and regular season MVP award for EuroLeague Women. Washington Mystics forward Emma Meesseman was the Final Four MVP when she led UMMC Ekaterinburg to the championship last season. Sonja Petrovic won the regular season MVP last season for Dynamo Kursk.

Alright, how can I watch the games? All games can be watched for free on FIBA’s YouTube Channel.

EuroLeague Women quarterfinals series

Here is the complete series information, including game schedules, notable WNBA players and notes heading into game day:

UMMC Ekaterinburg (Russia) vs. TTT Riga (Latvia)

  • Schedule — Game 1: Tuesday, Mar. 5, at 9 a.m. ET; Game 2: Friday, Mar. 8, at 12 p.m. ET; Game 3*: Wednesday, Mar. 13, at 10 a.m. ET
  • Notable WNBA players — The loaded UMMC roster includes: Kayla McBride (Aces), Courtney Vandersloot (Sky), Brittney Griner (Mercury), Maria Vadeeva (Sparks) and Emma Meesseman (Mystics). Riga’s roster does not include active WNBA players, but Shey Peddy was a 2012 WNBA Draft pick and Ivey Slaughter played in the 2017 and 2018 WNBA preseasons.
  • Notes — UMMC has been EuroLeague Women’s deepest team in recent years. Their roster is at least as strong, if not stronger, than the Seattle Storm, which won the 2019 WNBA Championship. In group play, UMMC went 13-1, losing only once to USK Praha on Jan. 30. Riga went 8-6 in group play and will likely need a miracle to win this series.

Dynamo Kursk (Russia) vs. CCC Polkowice (Poland)

Sopron Basket (Hungary) vs. Bourges Basket (France)

  • Schedule — Game 1: Tuesday, Mar. 5, at 12 p.m. ET; Game 2: Friday, Mar. 8, at 2 p.m. ET; Game 3*: Wednesday, Mar. 13 at 1 p.m. ET
  • Notable WNBA players — For Sopron, Amanda Zahui B. (Liberty), Yvonne Turner (Mercury) and Candice Dupree (Fever) are their WNBA players. Bourges doesn’t have any active WNBA players, but Katherine Plouffe played college basketball at Utah.
  • Notes — Sopron is the defending runner-up from last year’s EuroLeague Women competition. They only have an 8-6 record in a three-way tie in this year’s group stage, where they earned the second-place bid in Group B based on tiebreakers. However, they should be favorites against Bourges, one of the teams without an active WNBA player.

USK Praha (Czech Republic) vs. Fenerbahçe (Turkey)

  • Schedule — Game 1: Tuesday, Mar. 5, at 1 p.m. ET; Game 2: Friday, Mar. 8, at 11:30 a.m. ET; Game 3*: Wednesday, Mar. 13, at 2 p.m. ET
  • Notable WNBA players — For USK Praha, their WNBA players are Alyssa Thomas (Sun), Isabelle Harrison (Aces) and Leticia Romero (Wings). For Fenerbahçe, Kelsey Plum (Aces), Kia Vaughn (Liberty), Cecilia Zandalasini (Lynx), Bria Hartley (Liberty) and Kiah Stokes (Liberty) are theirs.
  • Notes — The most notable part about this matchup is that Kia Vaughn returns to face her former overseas club where she won a EuroLeague Women championship and Final Four MVP in the 2014-15 season. Czech fans will be a little torn to see Vaughn donning another team’s jersey, given that she also is a naturalized Czech citizen and will play in this year’s Women’s EuroBasket. But this is probably the most evenly matched series in the quarterfinals, but with USK Praha being the slight favorite in this one.

*Game 3 is played if necessary.