Only four games remain in the 2022-23 EuroLeague Women season, as the competition’s Final Four (postseason semifinals) tips-off Friday, pitting Fenerbahçe Alagöz Holding against Beretta Famila Schio and CBK Mersin Yenişehir Bld against ZVVZ USK Praha. The winners will then meet for the EuroLeague Women Championship on Sunday with a third-place game also being held that same day.
The EuroLeague Women playoff system is designed so that the teams in the Final Four will be cross-matched by regular-season group, and thus will not be familiar with their opponents. There is, however, a possibility that the final and third-place games are rematches of a regular-season game, depending on how the Final Four shakes out.
Final Four preview: Who will win it all in Prague?— EuroLeague Women (@EuroLeagueWomen) April 12, 2023
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As always, each game will be streamed live and for free on FIBA’s EuroLeague Women YouTube channel. Let’s meet the clubs that will be participating in the Final Four, as well as their strengths and notable players.
Beretta Famila Schio (Italy)
At a glance: 72.7 points, 7.8 made 3-pointers and 18.9 assists per game
This will be the first-ever Final Four appearance for Schio, which defeated Valencia Basket Club in a tightly-contested three-game quarterfinal series to get there. It was, in a way, a continuation of what we saw from both clubs during group play: Schio tied fellow Final Four participant CBK Mersin Yenişehir Bld for first place in Group B with a 10-4 record, while Valencia was considered to be the “best of the rest” in Group A at 9-5.
Schio will likely be considered an underdog entering the Final Four, but that’s not to say the Italian club doesn’t have talent. Rhyne Howard and Marina Mabrey combine to average 26.5 points, 3.2 steals and 3.5 made 3-pointers per game on the perimeter, while Astou Ndour-Fall has put together one of the better seasons of her storied international career, averaging 11.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game while shooting 53.9 percent from the field.
If Schio is going to pull off an upset (or even two) in the Final Four, however, it will need each of these players playing at the peak at the same time, which has been hard to come by this season. Schio’s ability to fire away from the outside could definitely be seen as an advantage it has over other Final Four participants — Howard and Mabrey combined to shoot 10.2 threes per game, and Schio as a team takes and makes more shots from behind the arc than any other in the Final Four — and in a single-elimination format, all it takes is one hot shooting performance for history to be made. We’ll see if Schio’s stars are up to the challenge.
CBK Mersin Yenişehir Bld (Turkey)
At a glance: 70.4 points and 14.5 free throws made per game; 80.5 percent free throw percentage
It took a while for Mersin to truly hit its stride, and a 2-3 start and Jonquel Jones’ early departure from the club were definitely lowlights, but the Group B favorites finished group play strong, winning their last five games. Two blowout victories against Tango Bourges Basket in the quarterfinals later, and Mersin is looking like a club that truly belongs with the rest of the EuroLeague Women elite.
Mersin has arguably the most dynamic starting backcourt in the competition, with Chelsea Gray and Tiffany Hayes combining to average 32.7 points and 9.2 assists per game. Gray, in particular, has had a terrific season, at times carrying the club with her usual clutch shot-making, while Hayes has been the engine driving Mersin’s success at the free throw line; no team shoots or makes more free throws than Mersin, which is the one clear statistical advantage the club has over its opponents.
Granted, this kind of offensive output has been somewhat inconsistent over the course of the season, but Mersin is fully capable of defending, too, with former EuroLeague Women Defensive Player of the Year Elizabeth Williams once again leading the competition in blocks (2.3 per game). It may not always be pretty for Mersin, but this is a club that has gotten stronger with every bit of adversity it’s overcome, and it’s playing its best basketball at the right time.
Fenerbahçe Alagöz Holding (Turkey)
At a glance: 85.8 points, 23.4 assists and 11.9 steals per game
Fenerbahçe enters the 2023 EuroLeague Women Final Four as the clear favorite, which may sound familiar; the Turkish club was likely the strongest team in the competition last year after UMMC Ekaterinburg was disqualified, but came up short in the finals in what would be described by even the most neutral EuroLeague Women fans as a disappointment.
One year later, Fenerbahçe is back in the Final Four, this time with considerably more star power. With an all-world roster featuring Breanna Stewart, Courtney Vandersloot, Emma Meesseman, Kayla McBride, Satou Sabally and Alina Iagupova, Fenerbahçe cruised through group play, winning 12-straight games and looking more and more like the basketball superpower it is on paper as the season went on.
The numbers back it up. Statistically, Fenerbahçe has far and away the strongest resume of the Final Four teams; during group play, the club led EuroLeague Women in scoring (85.8 points) and steals (11.9) per game while tying ZVVZ USK Praha for the lead in assists per game (23.4). Fenerbahçe also leads the competition in overall scoring efficiency, ranking No. 1 in field goal percentage (46.8 percent) and free throw percentage (81.9 percent).
Of course, anything can happen in EuroLeague Women — we saw that last year — but Fenerbahçe’s advantage over the field has only grown since 2022. It would be a surprise if anyone else is crowned champion.
ZVVZ USK Praha (Czech Republic)
At a glance: 78.9 points, 43.6 rebounds and 23.4 assists per game
As has been the case for several years now, Praha goes as far as Alyssa Thomas and Brionna Jones take it — and that’s usually pretty far.
The duo, which has stuck together in the Czech Republic for longer than most imports in international ball, virtually guarantees Praha having a physical advantage over its opponents. The 43.6 rebounds per game Praha averages are by far the most in EuroLeague Women, and the club also played the stingiest defense of any Final Four team during group play, allowing just 66.8 points per game. Thomas’ averages alone are jaw-dropping: 16.6 points, 10.9 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 2.2 steals per game.
A club can’t sustain year-by-year success like Praha has with just two good players, though, and this season it’s been Valériane Vukosavljević (14.9 points per game) and Maria Conde (10.8) providing the perimeter scoring punch. When Praha has things rolling, it’s a treat to watch; seven of the club’s 10 victories in group play were by 20 points or more, and Praha ranked second in the competition to Fenerbahçe in cumulative point differential (184) — no one else was even close.
Praha has one more advantage that no other club in the Final Four does: home court. EuroLeague Women historians will be quick to point out that the last time Prague hosted the Final Four, the home club emerged victorious, though the competition itself wasn’t as top-heavy with talent as it is now. We have seen Thomas will her teams to victories against favored opponents before, however, so nothing is outside the realm of possibility, especially for a club with a ceiling as high as Praha’s.