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EuroLeague Women: 2023 playoffs begin with Fenerbahçe Alagöz Holding the clear favorite

A star-studded Fenerbahçe Alagöz Holding roster that includes Breanna Stewart, Courtney Vandersloot and Emma Meesseman enters the 2023 EuroLeague Women postseason as the favorite to win the competition championship. Can defending champion Sopron Basket use its defense and experience to upset Fenerbahçe in the first round?

Fenerbahce Alagoz Holding v Tango Bourges Basket - FIBA EuroLeague Women
Emma Meesseman (right) is just one of the many weapons at Fenerbahçe Alagöz Holding’s disposal.
Photo by Mehmet Murat Onel/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The 2023 EuroLeague Women playoffs tip off Tuesday, with four matchups between the eight best clubs from the competition’s group play phase. The opening round (often referred to as the EuroLeague Women Quarterfinals) will be played in a best-of-three format, and the prevailing clubs will advance to the EuroLeague Women Final Four (semifinals). Here are the clubs that will be competing:

  • Fenerbahçe Alagöz Holding (Turkey)
  • Sopron Basket (Hungary)
  • CBK Mersin Yenişehir Bld (Turkey)
  • Tango Bourges Basket (France)
  • ZVVZ USK Praha (Czech Republic)
  • Perfumerias Avenida (Spain)
  • Beretta Famila Schio (Italy)
  • Valencia Basket Club (Spain)

Just like last season, Fenerbahçe will enter the quarterfinals as the favorite to win the EuroLeague championship, though the gap between the Turkish club and the rest of the field is considerably larger this time around. Thanks to the additions of all-world players such as Breanna Stewart, Emma Meesseman and Courtney Vandersloot, Fenerbahçe has the most star power of any team in the competition. Statistically, Fenerbahçe boasted by far the best offense in group play, averaging 86.4 points per game on 47 percent shooting from the field, and also led the competition in steals per game at 11.9. Simply put, it would be a big surprise if Fenerbahçe didn’t at least advance to the semifinals, let alone the championship round.

Clubs like Praha and Mersin are dangerous in their own right, though. Alyssa Thomas put up maybe the most impressive all-around stat line in the competition during group play — 16.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 2.5 steals per game — and is fully capable of willing Praha to victory. Along those same lines, Mersin has the high-end talent — Chelsea Gray and Tiffany Hayes, in particular — to come up big in clutch situations and propel the club deep into the tournament.

Needless to say, rosters like these are what make EuroLeague Women the greatest collection of international basketball talent in the world, and the postseason is when the best of the best truly shine. You’re not going to want to miss the EuroLeague Women playoffs, which will be streamed live and for free on FIBA’s EuroLeague Women YouTube channel. Now, let’s look at each of the upcoming quarterfinal matchups and which players to keep an eye on.

EuroLeague Women Quarterfinals schedule

Fenerbahçe Alagöz Holding (12-2) vs. Sopron Basket (8-6)

Game 1: Tuesday, March 14 at 12 p.m. ET

Game 2: Friday, March 17 at 1 p.m. ET

Game 3: Wednesday, March 22 at 12 p.m. ET (if necessary)

Notable players: Breanna Stewart, Satou Sabally, Emma Meesseman, Kayla McBride, Alina Iagupova, Courtney Vandersloot, Kiah Stokes (Fenerbahçe Alagöz Holding); Ezi Magbegor, Yvonne Turner, Bernadett Határ, Jelena Brooks, Olivia Epoupa (Sopron Basket)

Matchup details: Of all the quarterfinal matchups, this one is probably the most lopsided. Fenerbahçe has the most talented roster in the competition and enters the postseason having won ten-straight games; Sopron, on the other hand, lost three-straight games to finish group play and almost didn’t qualify for the playoffs at all. Sopron historically plays slow, defensive-minded basketball — the club’s discipline played a big role in earning it the EuroLeague Women championship last season — but much of last year’s Sopron roster is now playing elsewhere, and Fenerbahçe has only gotten stronger since its disappointing defeat in that postseason. Defense and pace of play will certainly be factors for Sopron against the favored Fenerbahçe, but even if the defending champs play perfect basketball on the defensive end of the floor, they simply don’t have the firepower or the depth to overcome the Turkish giant.

CBK Mersin Yenişehir Bld (10-4) vs. Tango Bourges Basket (8-6)

Game 1: Tuesday, March 14 at 12:30 p.m. ET

Game 2: Friday, March 17 at 3 p.m. ET

Game 3: Wednesday, March 22 at 10 a.m. ET (if necessary)

Notable players: Chelsea Gray, Tiffany Hayes, Elizabeth Williams (CBK Mersin Yenişehir Bld); Yvonne Anderson, Kayla Alexander (Tango Bourges Basket)

Matchup details: At a glance, Mersin’s core of imports looks like it would make for an elite basketball team, and in a way it does: Mersin has won five-straight games entering the playoffs, earning Group B’s No. 1 overall seed. The club lost DeWanna Bonner before the end of group play, however, significantly reducing its amount of offensive talent and ripening it for an upset. Bourges leans heavily on Anderson, which may very well not be enough against Mersin’s defense, but the French club can defend well, too, ranking in the competition’s top four in turnovers forced. Don’t rule out Bourges pulling off an upset in the series, even if Mersin will be favored to win two of three.

ZVVZ USK Praha (10-4) vs. Perfumerias Avenida (9-5)

Game 1: Tuesday, March 14 at 2 p.m. ET

Game 2: Friday, March 17 at 3:30 p.m. ET

Game 3: Wednesday, March 22 at 2 p.m. ET (if necessary)

Notable players: Alyssa Thomas, Brionna Jones, Maria Conde, Temi Fagbenle, Valériane Vukosavljević (ZVVZ USK Praha); Bridget Carleton, Michaela Onyenwere, Maite Cazorla, Alexis Prince, Mariella Fasoula (Perfumerias Avenida)

Matchup details: Avenida had an interesting season, starting group play at 5-1, then faltering in the middle of the phase and eventually sneaking into the playoffs with four straight wins. That momentum could end up being important against Praha, which is probably the most physically imposing team in the competition; the combination of Thomas and Jones, just as in previous EuroLeague Women seasons, is punishing in the paint and on the boards, and Praha as a team ranked first in group play in assists per game (24.4). Avenida is perfectly capable of scoring the ball, too, having hit a competition-high 39.7 percent of its 3-pointers, so there’s potential for at least two exciting, high-scoring games in this series. It’s hard to envision a club as experienced and with as much size as Praha losing, though.

Beretta Famila Schio (10-4) vs. Valencia Basket Club (9-5)

Game 1: Tuesday, March 14 at 3 p.m. ET

Game 2: Friday, March 17 at 2 p.m. ET

Game 3: Wednesday, March 22 at 3 p.m. ET (if necessary)

Notable players: Rhyne Howard, Marina Mabrey, Astou Ndour-Fall, Kim Mestdagh (Beretta Famila Schio); Lauren Cox, Raquel Carrera, Leticia Romero, Alba Torrens, Cierra Burdick (Valencia Basket Club)

Matchup details: If there’s a quarterfinal matchup that doesn’t have an obvious favorite, it’s probably this one. Both Schio and Valencia have high offensive ceilings, and while Schio’s talent may be more eye-popping on paper, Valencia has assembled a balanced team that didn’t need much fanfare to be one of the best in Group A. Valencia has the edge in 3-point shooting (37.1 percent to 34.4 percent) and steals (10.4 per game), while Schio is the better 2-point shooting club (49.9 percent to 45.3 percent) and has been slightly higher-scoring (73.2 points to 71.3 points per game) in group play. Schio will draw more attention due to the names on its roster — Howard and Mabrey, in particular — but don’t be surprised if Valencia forces a full three games or even comes away with the series win.