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Women’s EuroBasket 2019 Preview: WNBA players look to lead their teams to Olympic qualifiers

Alex Bentley and Emma Meesseman are two of the most prominent WNBA players who will play in the continental competition where Olympic qualifying berths are on the line.

Atlanta Dream guard Alex Bentley will play for Belarus in this year’s Women’s EuroBasket competition.
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2019 is one of four continental tournaments FIBA holds before major worldwide tournaments like the Olympics and the FIBA Women’s World Cup. Of the four FIBA regions (Europe, Americas, Asia, Africa), Europe has the highest level of competition from top to bottom.

Which WNBA players are leaving for Women’s EuroBasket?

Player Team Country
Player Team Country
Alex Bentley Atlanta Dream Belarus
Astou Ndour Chicago Sky Spain
Glory Johnson Dallas Wings Montenegro
Maria Vadeeva Los Angeles Sparks Russia
Temi Fagbenle Minnesota Lynx Great Britain
Bria Hartley New York Liberty France
Marine Johannes New York Liberty France
Kiah Stokes New York Liberty Turkey
Amanda Zahui B. New York Liberty Sweden
Yvonne Turner Phoenix Mercury Hungary
Emma Meesseman Washington Mystics Belgium
Kim Mestdagh Washington Mystics Belgium
There are many WNBA players who will be on the other side of the ocean for Women’s EuroBasket. List originally compiled by Jenn Hatfield of High Post Hoops

Here’s what to know about this year’s tournament:

When and where do I watch the games?

The first day of competition started today, June 27, and the tournament will conclude on July 7. The tournament will be held in Serbia and Latvia.

All games can be streamed on WatchESPN in the United States. They can also be streamed on LiveBasketball.TV worldwide.

Which teams are in?

There are 16 teams in the competition. Here are the group drawings and team rankings:

  • Group A: No. 25 Great Britain, No. 24 Latvia, No. 2 Spain, No. 38 Ukraine
  • Group B: No. 12 Czech Republic, No. 4 France, No. 26 Montenegro, No. 41 Sweden
  • Group C: No. 50 Hungary, No. 31 Italy, No. 63 Slovenia, No. 6 Turkey
  • Group D: No. 13 Belarus, No. 16 Belgium, No. 11 Russia, No. 8 Serbia

What is at stake?

This year’s Women’s EuroBasket tournament will determine FIBA Europe’s six teams for the 2020 Olympic Qualifying Tournament. The goal for the teams is to finish in the top six. These six finishers will be among 16 total teams in the qualifying tournament, which includes teams from all four FIBA regions.

There is a new twist to next year’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament: Japan, the 2020 Olympic hosts, and the United States, the 2018 FIBA Women’s World Cup Champions, are required to participate in the Qualifying Tournament despite having guaranteed berths. It will be interesting to see if the USA Basketball women’s national team plays most of its Olympic players or if they will bring a “B” squad instead.

The date of the Olympic Qualifying Tournaments will be determined in the future.

Which WNBA teams are affected the most by EuroBasket?

For most teams, they will lose one rotation player. But one team does have a significant disadvantage due to EuroBasket departures: The Liberty, who have have four players out.

Bria Hartley and Amanda Zahui B. left midseason to go to France and Sweden, respectively. Meanwhile, Marine Johannès and Kiah Stokes have yet to report to the Liberty because they decided to train for the entire spring with France and Turkey, respectively.

With four players not on the team, three of whom were rotation players last year, this is disruptive and could partly explain why New York is 3-7 at this point in the season. Perhaps things may improve for them in the second half of the season.

Other teams that have EuroBasket participants haven’t been affected much, though they also have less depth. For example, Dream guard Alex Bentley averaged 7.5 points and 2.2 assists per game before heading off to play for the Belarusian national team. Though she is not necessarily Atlanta’s leading scorer, Bentley still averaged 23 minutes per game. The Dream are still 2-6 as of games played through June 25, but Atlanta can still use more depth where possible.

On the surface, the Mystics appear to be unaffected. They are currently on a four-game winning streak despite being without forward Emma Meesseman and reserve guard Kim Mestdagh, who are playing for Belgium. Meesseman specifically was averaging 13.3 points in 23 minutes per game while shooting 65.5 percent from the field.

There is an argument to be made that the Mystics are playing better without Meesseman and Mestdagh. But if star forward Elena Delle Donne misses games during the next two weeks, Mystics fans will miss Meesseman more than they do right now.

Do teams with no players going to EuroBasket have an advantage?

It’s possible that WNBA teams without EuroBasket participants may do better because they have more depth. The Connecticut Sun are 9-3 and lead the WNBA standings. While their great play is the primary reason behind their success, Connecticut benefits from additional depth since they don’t have to worry about players leaving midseason.

However, the Fever, Aces and Storm also do not have any players going to EuroBasket and aren’t among the league leaders. Still, the Fever and Aces could get a depth advantage against a team like the Liberty. But for the Storm, they have a significant injury bug. In addition to Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird, Jewell Loyd is also injured, hurting her ankle in a 60-56 loss to the Aces on Tuesday. So in Seattle’s case, they are not at an advantage.