April 8, 2023 

EuroLeague Final Four: Every contender’s strengths and weaknesses

Praha, Fenerbahçe, Famila Schio and CBK Mersin remain

After 14 weeks of regular-season play, four quarterfinals series and a total of 124 games, the EuroLeague has reached the Final Four. All that remain are two semifinals, a third-place matchup and the ultimate winner-takes-all final between the two best teams of the campaign.

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The official announcement of the Final Four venue only arrived on March 27, but the rumors turned out to be true and Praha, in the Czech Republic, is the place where the hosts — along with Fenerbahçe, Famila Schio and CBK Mersin — will fight for the right to become the freshest EuroLeague champion.

With a week to spare between now and the Final Four tip-off, it’s time to address each of the four contenders’ strengths and weaknesses ahead of their semifinals matchups.

Remember that the first games will take place on Friday, April 14, followed by the final and third-place games on Sunday, April 16.

New York Liberty forward Natasha Howard (6), Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart (30) and New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu (20) prepare to rebound in the Seattle Storm’s game against the New York Liberty, Friday, May 27, 2022, at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, Wash. Photo Credit: Lydia Ely

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Fenerbahçe vs. Famila Schio

The absolute favorites of the competition, Fenerbahçe coasted through the first round of the playoffs (2-0 against Sopron) and will face a surprising Famila Schio team that had to go the distance against Valencia in the quarterfinals to make it past the Spanish side on their way to the Final Four. Both teams will be looking to win the EuroLeague for the first time with Famila Schio being the only side of the two with a European title (2008 EuroCup) already in their cabinet.

  • Fenerbahçe’s strength: Outscoring opponents without even trying. The difference between Fenerbahçe’s scoring prowess and the next-best team this season is staggering. Including postseason play, the Turkish team has dropped 85.8 points per game on their opponents compared to second-best Praha’s 78.9. No other team is scoring more than 74 points per game this season. This alone already makes Fenerbahçe the clear favorite in this and any other matchup while leading the league in assists and (the fewest) turnovers also helps.
  • Fenerbahçe’s weakness: Allowing too many points to their opponents. Perhaps the fact that they find it so easy to score points is the thing making Fenerbahçe players switch off a bit on defense? They play with house money, of course, because the 85-plus points per game are nearly impossible for anyone to match, but allowing more than 70 (70.4) per game to their rivals has Fenerbahçe ranking as a below-average defensive team in the full EuroLeague season. They have also lacked proper shot-blockers, but Famila Schio might not have enough interior presence to hurt them there.
  • Famila Schio’s strength: Fluid, highly efficient offense. The Italian team has played 17 games this season and still boasts a top-four mark in assists per game as a team, dishing out 18.9 per outing. Three of the four teams playing in the Final Four are in that club, so that’s not bad company. Famila Schio also has the third-best average efficiency only topped by Fenerbahçe and Praha’s figures, and they have shot the ball from the floor at a 44.4% clip this season (third-best league-wide) hitting 34.2% of their three-point shot attempts (best among Final Four teams).
  • Famila Schio’s weakness: Mediocre defense and no freebies. As good as Schio has been at shooting the ball from the floor, they have been equally bad at scoring free throw shots. They rank dead last on that front, hitting only 69.4% of their FTA through the season. On top of that, the Italian team has so far ranked as a below-average squad in the rebounds, blocks and steals categories, all of them key if they want to have a chance at stopping Fenerbahçe in their matchup.

Praha vs. CBK Mersin

After the final venue was confirmed, Praha will play host through the remainder of the EuroLeague and into the Final Four, trying to win the title on their home turf. Both the hosts and the visitors from Turkiye played a three game series in the quarterfinals, defeating Avenida and Tango Bourges respectively. Praha is looking to win their second EuroLeague (2015) while CBK is trying to accomplish the feat as a debutant in the competition.

  • Praha’s strength: Strong, creative and effective all-around game. It’s hardly genius to highlight the pairing of Alyssa Thomas and Brionna Jones as Praha’s main strength, but it’s as real as it gets. The two EuroLeague and WNBA teammates are dominant inside and outside with virtually no flaws to their game. Just these two, on a per-game average, combined for more than 33 points, 20 rebounds and eight assists between themselves. The other three starters average nearly 10 points per game each and more than a combined 12 assists and 12 rebounds per game between them together. If they can avoid getting into foul trouble, it’s going to be hard to stop that unit.
  • Praha’s weakness: Who cares (about turning the ball over)? The players on Praha’s roster definitely are not the ones giving too much of a damn about keeping possession of the ball judging by their wild 15.9 turnovers per game, a bottom-four figure in the EuroLeague this season through the quarterfinals and most definitely the worst average among Final Four teams (Famila Schio has the next-worst figure at 13.6). Also interesting is the fact that Praha blocked just the 12th-most shots per game this season considering they will have to deal with Elizabeth Williams in the paint when they face CBK.
  • CBK Mersin’s strength: Taking care of the ball and preventing opposition points. It’s funny that CBK excels at two very different things on the court: limiting their opponents’ scoring and taking more than proper care of the ball themselves. Both Turkish teams (CBK and Fenerbahçe) average the fewest turnovers (12.2) per game among those qualified for the Final Four. Even though CBK steals a bottom-four 6.2 possessions per game, they still know how to limit scoring to a meager 66.8 points per game. That’s the second-best average among the last-four teams and just 0.3 points-against below Praha’s average.
  • CBK Mersin’s weakness: Lack of chemistry. This is probably more nitpicking than anything else, but we have yet to watch this squad competing as a team at the biggest, brightest and largest of stages. Jonquel Jones, DeWanna Bonner and Briann January led the team for a few games but left it mid-season. Chelsea Gray and Elizabeth Williams have played together for nine games. Tiffany Hayes has been the only constant threat because they even changed coaches (Roberto Iñiguez arrived from Avenida) two-thirds into the season to boost their chances at a title. All of those names belong to the upper echelon of basketball royalty, but will they be able to put it all together when under real pressure?

All games will be streamed live and for free on the official EuroLeague YouTube channel, so you won’t have any excuse to skip watching them as they happen or on-demand later!

Written by Antonio Losada

International freelance writer covering the WNBA overseas. Bylines at places, touching different bases. Always open to discussion over @chapulana || Full portfolio

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