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EuroLeague Women Preview: Alyssa Thomas stars for ZVVZ USK Praha in opening game of 2020-21

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EuroLeague Women kicks off its condensed 2020-21 season on Tuesday, and the stakes are higher than ever due to a new group format and reduced number of regular-season games.

EuroLeague Women Final Four 2019
Alyssa Thomas (center) was arguably the best player in EuroLeague Women last season. She returns to ZVVZ USK Praha for 2020-21.
Photo by Andrea Kareth /SEPA.Media /Getty Images

EuroLeague Women is back for 2020-21, and while things look a little different this season, the spirit of the competition — an international women’s basketball event featuring many of the best players in the world — remains the same.

Rather than the usual 14-game regular season that plays one game per week, EuroLeague Women’s 2020-21 schedule consists of regular-season games that span a total of just seven days — four in December and three in January. Additionally, the two-group format has been changed to a four-group format to minimize travel and risk during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

With such a condensed competition system, the stakes for each regular-season game are very high. Tuesday might be the first day of the 2020-21 season, but most games are already must-wins, especially for teams that don’t have rosters loaded with WNBA talent.

Four of the top EuroLeague Women teams (according to FIBA) are featured early on Tuesday’s slate. Alyssa Thomas and ZVVZ USK Praha will kick things off when they take on a new-look Fenerbahçe squad, while Arike Ogunbowale will make her EuroLeague Women debut for Dynamo Kursk. Then you have the latest iteration of the UMMC Ekaterinburg super team, which is once again favored to win the competition with its ridiculous amount of WNBA talent.

As always, the games will be streamed for free on FIBA’s YouTube channel. Here’s what you need to know for each matchup:

Tuesday, December 1

Fenerbahçe vs. ZVVZ USK Praha

When: 9:00 a.m. ET

Where: Metro Energy Sports Hall, Istanbul

How to watch: FIBA YouTube livestream

Matchup details: If you’re looking for star power, the first game of the day will be essential viewing. Alyssa Thomas returns to ZVVZ USK Praha, where she put up incredible averages last season: 18.3 points, 11.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 3.1 steals. She’s joined by Connecticut Sun teammate Brionna Jones. Meanwhile, Fenerbahçe rolls out a deep team chock full of WNBA talent, including Jasmine Thomas and Kayla McBride in the backcourt, Satou Sabally and Cecilia Zandalasini on the wing and Kiah Stokes and Kia Vaughn in the frontcourt.

Dynamo Kursk vs. Nadezhda

When: 11:00 a.m. ET

Where: Caferaga Sport Saloon, Istanbul

How to watch: FIBA YouTube livestream

Matchup details: After a disappointing 2019-20, Kursk reloaded, bringing in Arike Ogunbowale, Amanda Zahui B., Stephanie Mavunga and Alex Bentley as its newest core of international players. Conversely, Nadezhda, which finished 9-5 last season, isn’t quite as stacked; the team will be relying heavily on Monique Billings in this battle of Russian clubs.

UMMC Ekaterinburg vs. Famila Schio

When: 11:00 a.m. ET

Where: Pavelló Fontajau, Girona

How to watch: FIBA YouTube livestream

Matchup details: UMMC Ekaterinburg enters the 2020-21 season as the clear favorites once again; Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley, Jonquel Jones, Breanna Stewart, Emma Meesseman and Maria Vadeeva are all featured on this star-studded roster. Sandrine Gruda and Natalie Achonwa will have their hands full for Schio — which, to be fair, will be said for most of Ekaterinburg’s opponents this season.

LDLC ASVEL Féminin vs. Arka Gdynia

When: 12:00 p.m. ET

Where: Metro Energy Sports Hall, Istanbul

How to watch: FIBA YouTube livestream

Matchup details: LDLC ASVEL Féminin finished second in Group B last season, but being in the same four-team group as both Fenerbahçe and Praha this does not bode well for the French club, which features Alysha Clark, Marine Johannès and Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe. Arka Gdynia, which finished 3-11 last season and has no WNBA players on its roster this season, will have even bigger problems; it might only be the first game day of the season, but this is already a must-win matchup for both of these teams.

Bourges Basket vs. Sopron Basket

When: 12:00 p.m. ET

Where: Novomatic Arèna, Sopron

How to watch: FIBA YouTube livestream

Matchup details: With Galatasaray’s status up in the air, Group D is down to just three teams, making this a critical matchup. Sopron, in particular, is looking good heading into the season, bringing back Briann January and adding Glory Johnson, Megan Walker and Gabby Williams. Bourges, meanwhile, is led by Marissa Coleman; keep an eye out for 19-year old center Iliana Rupert, too, as her name may be popping up in future WNBA Draft conversations.

TTT Riga vs. Spar Girona

When: 2:00 p.m. ET

Where: Pavelló Fontajau, Girona

How to watch: FIBA YouTube livestream

Matchup details: The burning question for Group C entering the season: Who will finish second behind Ekaterinburg? Spar Girona earned its spot in EuroLeague Women with a convincing qualifying round victory, and the Spanish club has one of the best point guards in the world in Chelsea Gray. Riga doesn’t have a star to match her, but Megan Huff could break out in EuroLeague Women play, and Kitija Laksa is a player who can light up the scoreboard at any time.