October 6, 2021
FAQ: The 2021-22 EuroLeague season has arrived
Answers to your most pressing questions as EuroLeague tips off
The WNBA is right in the middle of its hottest stretch as we enter Game 4 of both Semifinals Wednesday night. The stakes can’t be higher. Chicago is leading its series against Connecticut. Phoenix is holding onto a 2-1 lead over Las Vegas, too. We’re this close to having the no. 5 and no. 6 seeds facing each other in a true-underdog WNBA Finals.
And then? The season is about to finish and the W will then proceed to go into hibernation for more than half a year until the ball is back on the court come next May. Yikes. Best-case scenario, we still have nine games to enjoy. Worst-case scenario, there are only seven left. Not good.
What is good, though, is the fact that today, on the sixth day of October, European hoops will start rolling with the tipoff of the 2021-22 EuroLeague Women regular season. Now, you might feel completely lost about what all of this means. Fear nothing, folks, as we’re here to go through a bunch of questions that any casual and/or expert fan out there might have thought of at some point.
Let’s get the conversation started!
So, what is this whole “EuroLeague” thing about?
We’re in the year 2021 and that means this should be nothing new for those of you who have followed the WNBA for a good chunk of years. That’s because you have inevitably heard about Europe, about playing overseas, and about W superstars competing all year round. Well, that’s precisely where the EuroLeague pops up in the picture.
European pro basketball, contrary to that played on American soil, is organized on both national and continental stages, joint but separated at the same time. Teams over Europe play in a domestic league (and a bunch of national cups, too), and depending on their performance in those competitions they make it to the EuroLeague.
You can very well consider the EuroLeague the European counterpart to the WNBA in that it features the very best teams across the continent and the best talents of the women’s hoops world.
Gotcha. I have heard about relegations and promotions happening in European basketball. Does that take place in the EuroLeague, too?
Not in the EuroLeague, but yes in the national and domestic competitions. It is always hard for the best teams — basically those that make the cut to be part of the EuroLeague field — to get relegated from their national leagues barring a catastrophe. It can happen, but it doesn’t too often.
The EuroLeague doesn’t use any sort of promotion/relegation system. The 16 best teams of Europe qualify for the competition, battle against each other, and at the end of the season one and only one is crowned champ.
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Is this a battle royale type of thing? Like, a WNBA with 16 franchises playing all against each other?
No, that’s not the case.
First of all, the EuroLeague is comprised of 16 teams/clubs/organizations but not what we’re accustomed to knowing as “franchises” in the American context. European teams and their players operate as different parts of multiple systems that ultimately intersect in this supercharged competition they call EuroLeague. While basketball (namely the WNBA) and other major sports in the USA use a single system in which players are all part of the same pool and sign deals with their respective leagues, then are “assigned” to a particular franchise until their contracts run out or they’re moved, each individual team in Europe nurtures its own talents via an internal development program, and there is no such thing as a draft that links players to the EuroLeague once they declare.
And no, not all 16 teams play against each other throughout the regular season. In fact, they only do so against seven other squads on home-and-away matchups in a time span covering from October to February.
I’m super lost. This definitely looks like a mess…
Let’s assume you either started watching the competition last season during the COVID pandemic, or this is your first year doing so. If you watched the 2020-21 season, then you’ll need to reset your brain because last year was a very unique one that saw the tournament modified to comply with the health and safety measures applied by FIBA and governments around the continent.
This season, EuroLeague is back to its usual format: two groups of eight teams each, home-and-away mini-series of games between every two teams in the group, four spots for the best teams to qualify for the playoffs, and two more for the fifth- and sixth-best squads to keep their continental runs going at a lower-level competition (the EuroCup Women, something similar to EuroLeague but entirely separated from it).
Once we reach the postseason, the eight best teams (four from each group) would be there in a bracket tournament. The quarterfinals are played on a best-of-three series of games. From there, the four series winners move onto the Final Four and the competition enters a single-elimination, winner-take-all format for the semifinals and the final. There is also a third-place game, though I guess nobody wants to be part of that match.
Much clearer now. So this thing starts today and lasts until February, you said!?
You’ve got that right.
Oh, and you better stick till the final day of the regular season. Reigning champ UMMC Ekaterinburg and runner-up CB Avenida will face off in the very last game of the season once we reach Feb. 1 in a re-do of last year’s final.
That’s a damn long regular season, and then come the playoffs…
I guess you know that there won’t be any WNBA games any time soon once the season is over in a few days, so tell me a better plan than watching the best players keeping at it for the next handful of months.
You’re right. So, how come WNBA players go overseas to play basketball non-stop and all-year-round?
I don’t want to get too deep into this, but things have worked in this way for quite some time now. And it is mostly down to monetary issues related to how low the salaries and caps are in the WNBA.
While the W features 12 franchises, all of them capped at a maximum amount of money, European clubs don’t have that limitation applied to them by the EuroLeague. It’s pretty much the MLB model out there, in which different teams have different budgets depending on their owners, their sponsorship deals, etc… In other words, Europe is a gold mine that cares about women’s basketball and can afford to pay the best players (those in the WNBA) properly, making it a no-brainer decision for the women to cross the ocean and hoop across Europe for a few months.
Aren’t players entering risky business with this approach to the offseason?
Well, they are.
Injuries happen. This year we’re still trying to claw our way out of a pandemic, and we are coming off a longer/harder-than-ever season in which the Olympics were thrown in the middle of everything.
But at the end of the day, so many superstars are playing overseas that it’s widely accepted and, in some cases, even a necessity for those professional players that are not at the top of the salary table and have to make it through the year without cashing in vasts amounts of money–to the extent WNBA players fill their bags, which is not that great of an amount.
On top of everything, players want to compete at the highest possible level to prove their worth while fighting the best talents out there, so it makes sense to move from the no. 1 competition to the no. 2 over the cold months. The WNBA offers so few roster spots that most players are perenially hanging on a thread and need to convince European (and other continents organizations) teams of how good they are, just in case their WNBA careers come to a halt earlier than expected.
I get what you mean. Also, is talent distributed evenly among all EuroLeague participants?
Not really. Remember what I talked about before when I touched on the differences between the American and the European business models? The no salary-cap thing? That swings things wildly when it comes to roster building.
Just as an example, the reigning champions UMMC Ekaterinburg won the trophy after putting together a massively talented roster due to their financial prowess. They have won three straight EuroLeague editions in a row, and it’s more than probable that the Russian team would have snatched the 2020 title too had it not been canceled. Seriously.
If you’re wondering why UMMC is so absolutely fantastic, the following players logged at least 15 minutes in that Final game against Avenida last season: Alba Torrens, Allie Quigley, Courtney Vandersloot, Breanna Stewart, Emma Meesseman, Jonquel Jones, and Brittney Griner. I bet some of those names definitely rang a bell.
Okay. That’s some loaded team, isn’t it? Are there any other WNBA Star-laden teams in Europe?
Surely. Not every team out there can afford to build such a Monstars-like squad, obviously, but pretty much every EuroLeague team is able to bring at least one or two active/former WNBA players to the fold every year.
You can find a list, including all 2021-22 EuroLeague teams and their WNBA imports for the upcoming season, below in a handy chart, data from the official FIBA site.
I think you have convinced me. How did you say I can watch and follow the EuroLeague, then?
Awesome! You couldn’t have picked a better time, as the competition is tipping off this very day!
FIBA shows games over YouTube for free, and some of them are archived for later/on-demand viewing, so you’re good on that front. The matches take place weekly–on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays–with tip-offs ranging mostly from 11 am EST to 4 pm EST. You can find the full schedule over here.
We here at The Next are going to cover this year’s EuroLeague in full for the first time, and we hope you jump aboard and stay up to date with our coverage for the next few months. We will bring you features, interviews, storylines, and roundups of all of the action taking place around the league.
Get ready, because we’re just getting started!
WNBA Players Going Overseas (data from FIBA)
|EuroLeague Team||Player||WNBA Franchise|
|Basket Landes (France)||Sophie Cunningham||PHO|
|Beretta Famila Schio (Italy)||Charli Collier||DAL|
|Beretta Famila Schio (Italy)||Sandrine Gruda||LAS|
|Beretta Famila Schio (Italy)||Kim Mestdagh||WAS|
|BLMA (France)||Haley Peters||ATL|
|BLMA (France)||Avery Warley-Talbert||LVA|
|Dynamo Kursk (Russia)||Arike Ogunbowale||DAL|
|Dynamo Kursk (Russia)||Natasha Howard||NYL|
|Fenerbahçe (Turkey)||Satou Sabally||DAL|
|Fenerbahçe (Turkey)||Elizabeth Williams||ATL|
|Fenerbahçe (Turkey)||Bria Hartley||PHO|
|Fenerbahçe (Turkey)||Kayla McBride||MIN|
|Fenerbahçe (Turkey)||Kiah Stokes||LVA|
|Fenerbahçe (Turkey)||Amanda Zahui B.||LAS|
|Galatasaray (Turkey)||Riquna Williams||LVA|
|Galatasaray (Turkey)||Chelsea Dungee||DAL|
|Perfumerias Avenida Salamanca (Spain)||Kahleah Copper||CHI|
|Perfumerias Avenida Salamanca (Spain)||Katie Lou Samuelson||SEA|
|Perfumerias Avenida Salamanca (Spain)||Karlie Samuelson||SEA|
|Perfumerias Avenida Salamanca (Spain)||Bella Alarie||DAL|
|Perfumerias Avenida Salamanca (Spain)||Maite Cazorla||ATL|
|Sopron Basket (Hungary)||Gabby Williams||LAS|
|Sopron Basket (Hungary)||Briann January||CON|
|Sopron Basket (Hungary)||Shey Peddy||PHO|
|Sopron Basket (Hungary)||Bernadett Hatar||IND|
|Spar Girona (Spain)||Michaela Onyenwere||NYL|
|Spar Girona (Spain)||Kennedy Burke||SEA|
|Umana Reyer (Italy)||Astou Ndour-Fall||CHI|
|Umana Reyer (Italy)||Kayla Thornton||DAL|
|UMMC Ekaterinburg (Russia)||Breanna Stewart||SEA|
|UMMC Ekaterinburg (Russia)||Jonquel Jones||CON|
|UMMC Ekaterinburg (Russia)||Brittney Griner||PHO|
|UMMC Ekaterinburg (Russia)||Courtney Vandersloot||CHI|
|UMMC Ekaterinburg (Russia)||Allie Quigley||CHI|
|UMMC Ekaterinburg (Russia)||Emma Meesseman||WAS|
|UMMC Ekaterinburg (Russia)||Maria Vadeeva||LAS|
|UMMC Ekaterinburg (Russia)||Alex Bentley||ATL|
|VBW Arka Gdynia (Poland)||Megan Gustafson||WAS|
|ZVVZ USK Praha (Czech Republic)||Alyssa Thomas||CON|
|ZVVZ USK Praha (Czech Republic)||Brionna Jones||CON|