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EuroLeague Women: Fenerbahçe, Avenida, Praha among favorites entering 2022 quarterfinals

The 2022 EuroLeague Women playoffs are underway and for the first time since 2018 a new champion will be crowned. Fenerbahçe Safiport, Perfumerias Avenida and ZVVZ USK Praha are the three teams most likely to win it all.

Fenerbahce Oznur Kablo v Sopron Basket - EuroLeague Women
Satou Sabally (left) is just one of Fenerbahçe’s many weapons and could be the deciding factor in a potential championship run.
Photo by Esra Bilgin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

After a regular season full of twists and turns both on and off the court, the 2022 FIBA EuroLeague Women postseason is officially upon us. The first round (quarterfinals) will begin this Tuesday, March 8; the quarterfinals were originally scheduled to begin in late February, but had to be pushed back to accommodate make-up games that had originally been postponed due to COVID-19-related disruptions.

Entering the 2022 quarterfinals, EuroLeague Women is now faced with another significant off-court development. Last week, FIBA announced a series of decisions made to “safeguard the integrity of competitions and the safety of all participants” in response to current events in Ukraine; Russian teams and officials are now barred from participating in FIBA competitions until further notice, while Ukrainian teams participating in FIBA competitions cannot play their games in Ukraine.

For EuroLeague Women, that means the exclusion of UMMC Ekaterinburg — which went a perfect 14-0 in the regular season and has won the last three EuroLeague Women championships — and Dynamo Kursk from the postseason. The two Russian clubs will be replaced in the quarterfinals by TTT Riga and Spar Girona, which will in turn be replaced in the EuroCup Women quarterfinals by KSC Szekszárd and Galatasaray.

The revised playoff bracket will still follow the typical EuroLeague Women format. The competing clubs — purposefully cross-matched by regular-season group to ensure fresh matchups — will play best-of-three series in the quarterfinals, which are scheduled to run through March 19. The semifinals and finals will then be played on April 8 and 10, respectively.

The favorites

Needless to say, the exclusion of Ekaterinburg from the postseason opens up more competitive scenarios for the rest of the field. While clubs like Perfumerias Avenida (11-3 during the regular season), ZVVZ USK Praha (10-4) and Fenerbahçe Safiport (11-3) had strong regular-season performances and have the amount of international talent required to win a EuroLeague title, none of them were considered a hands-down favorite to win it all prior to FIBA’s decision to remove Ekaterinburg from the competition.

Praha, in particular, has a high ceiling, as evidenced by a six-game regular-season winning streak in which the Czech club outscored its opponents by nearly 36 points per game. Connecticut Sun teammates Alyssa Thomas and Brionna Jones are the key cogs in Praha’s success; Jones led EuroLeague Women in FIBA’s efficiency metric (24.1) and was second in scoring (20.1 points per game) during the regular season, while Thomas showcased her usual all-around excellence, averaging 14.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 2.1 steals per game. Thomas was named EuroLeague Women MVP for the month of February and Jones earned MVP honors for December.

Avenida, meanwhile, was equally as impressive, ultimately beating out Praha for second place in Group A. The Spanish club features a well-balanced roster that includes a sizeable frontcourt (Bella Alarie and Emese Hof) and plenty of outside shooting on the wing (Katie Lou and Karlie Samuelson). Its offense is driven by Kahleah Copper, who led EuroLeague Women in scoring at 24.2 points per game, including three 30-point efforts. Last season’s runner-up, Avenida has to be excited at the prospect of returning to the EuroLeague Women finals and potentially winning it all this time around.

Then there’s Fenerbahçe, which entered the 2021-22 regular season as Group B’s most talented team and a trendy pick to eventually dethrone Ekaterinburg as EuroLeague Women champions. The legendary Turkish club overcame a slow start to finish the regular season on a nine-game winning streak; its backcourt of Kayla McBride (19.3 points per game) and Alina Iagupova (16.3 points and 5.6 assists per game) alone makes the team a must-watch, with Satou Sabally and Elizabeth Williams providing defensive versatility and playmaking. Don’t be surprised if Fenerbahçe stays hot and wins the whole thing.

As always, all games will be streamed live and for free on FIBA’s EuroLeague Women YouTube channel. Here’s the complete quarterfinals schedule, as well as a breakdown of each matchup and a list of players to watch for.

EuroLeague Women Quarterfinals schedule

Perfumerias Avenida (11-3) vs. Spar Girona (7-7)

Game 1: Wednesday, March 9 at 2:30 p.m. ET

Game 2: Wednesday, March 16 at 3:15 p.m. ET

Game 3: Saturday, March 19 at 1 p.m. ET (if necessary)

Notable players: Kahleah Copper, Katie Lou Samuelson, Karlie Samuelson, Bella Alarie, Emese Hof, Maite Cazorla (Perfumerias Avenida); Kennedy Burke, Rebekah Gardner, Laia Palau, Julia Reisingerova (Spar Girona)

Matchup details: Though Girona didn’t make the initial postseason cut in Group B, it was one of the pleasant surprises of the 2021-22 regular season, thanks in large part to Burke (18.2 points, 6.1 rebound and two steals per game). When stacked up against Avenida, though, Girona’s team statistics are fairly pedestrian; Avenida’s offense is much more explosive (80.7 points per game and 35.8 percent on 3-pointers compared to Girona’s 69.4 points per game and 29.9 percent on 3-pointers) and the team in general is far less reliant on any one player. A big series from Burke is just one of the many things Girona will need in order to upset Avenida.

Sopron Basket (8-6) vs. BLMA (6-8)

Game 1: Tuesday, March 8 at 12:15 p.m. ET

Game 2: Thursday, March 10 at 2 p.m. ET

Game 3: Wednesday, March 16 at 1:15 p.m. ET (if necessary)

Notable players: Gabby Williams, Briann January, Bernadett Határ, Jelena Brooks (Sopron Basket); Olivia Epoupa, Sydney Wallace, Haley Peters, Mamignan Toure (BLMA)

Matchup details: Sopron was actually ranked at No. 2 in FIBA’s EuroLeague Women postseason power rankings, and if the Hungarian club has one thing going for it, it’s defense. Williams and January hounding the basketball on the perimeter while having Határ backing them up in the paint is a nuisance for opponents to play against, so we’ll see if the offensive playmaking of Epoupa and Wallace is enough to overcome that. Pace of play will be crucial in this matchup; Sopron usually intends to keep scores low, so BLMA will need to speed things up if it’s to avoid falling into a halfcourt slog.

ZVVZ USK Praha (10-4) vs. Beretta Famila Schio (8-6)

Game 1: Tuesday, March 8 at 12 p.m. ET

Game 2: Tuesday, March 15 at 2:30 p.m. ET

Game 3: Friday, March 18 at 1 p.m. ET (if necessary)

Notable players: Alyssa Thomas, Brionna Jones, Maria Conde, Teja Oblak (ZVVZ USK Praha); Diamond DeShields, Sandrine Gruda, Kitija Laksa, Kim Mestdagh, Jasmine Keys (Beretta Famila Schio)

Matchup details: While Thomas and Jones have been powering Praha for most of the season, don’t discount Conde’s contributions — the young wing averaged 17.2 points per game and is one of the team’s most credible outside threats. Schio, meanwhile, has the veteran experience of Gruda on its side, along with two of the competition’s premier 3-point shooters in Laksa (43.3 percent) and Mestdagh (42.2 percent). At the end of the day, Praha’s overall level of talent may be too much to overcome, but Schio is no slouch and has the roster to at least keep things close.

Fenerbahçe Safiport (11-3) vs. TTT Riga (6-8)

Game 1: Tuesday, March 8 at 11 a.m. ET

Game 2: Thursday, March 10 at 11 a.m. ET

Game 3: Wednesday, March 16 at 3 p.m. ET (if necessary)

Notable players: Satou Sabally, Alina Iagupova, Kayla McBride, Elizabeth Williams, Bria Hartley, Amanda Zahui B., Kiah Stokes (Fenerbahçe Safiport); Ieva Pulvere, Jasmine Thomas, Daugilė Šarauskaitė, Vanesa Jasa (TTT Riga)

Matchup details: With all due respect to Riga and what it’s accomplished, this is likely the biggest mismatch of the quarterfinals. Fenerbahçe has been proving for months how difficult it is to match up with, and it’s perhaps the most dangerous two-way club left in the competition. Thomas has the potential to put up some impressive scoring numbers, but many more things would have to go right for Riga to have a chance at the upset. Fenerbahçe simply has too much interior defense and perimeter scoring and should breeze through this quarterfinal matchup without much of an issue.