January 1, 2022
Looking into the EuroLeague crystal ball
Let's predict the final EuroLeague standings and how the postseason will play out
It’s the first week without a single EuroLeague game on the schedule. It happens twice a season and, well, we can’t have it all, folks. Santa got the better of the week this time. Not that we can complain, though!
The European competition will stay off the schedule for another week and change, resuming on Jan. 12. That being said, it’s my duty to keep you updated on the EuroLeague, whether there are games or not.
This week, I’m doing that with something that is usually very appealing and interesting and fun: predicting the future. We’re still a ways away from the EuroLeague postseason, but we can still try to predict what could be ahead of us and what could happen when the regular season is over. So, in keeping with the bracketology we always see ahead of college basketball’s March Madness, let’s project the rest of the 2021-22 EuroLeague campaign!
How will the EuroLeague regular season end?
Okay. I’ll do this in a 100% objective way using the most powerful and innovative and precise projecting system.
Actually, I’ll pretty much do the opposite.
I will take the current standings through 10 weeks of play and give teams points for upcoming games based solely on their past performances this season to come up with the final standings. (Remember: Teams play two legs, one home and one away, against each other during the regular season.) Then we’ll look at how the postseason bracket would look and go from there to crown our fantasy champ.
Predicting the final regular-season standings
Except for CB Avenida and Reyer Venezia, whose game from Week 10 was postponed, every team has already played 10 games this season. That rescheduled match will take place on Jan. 15 in the middle of a three-games-in-one-week stretch for those two squads (jeez), and everything will (hopefully!) get back to normal the week after that.
Anyway, adding one point for each loss and two for each win going forward based on what happened in the first leg (Week 1 to Week 7) of competition, these would be the final standings for Group A and Group B. Asterisks denote teams that would qualify for the postseason.
|1||* UMMC Ekaterinburg||14||0||28|
|2||* USK Praha||11||3||25|
|3||* CB Avenida||10||4||24|
|2||* Famila Schio||9||5||23|
Projected EuroLeague quarterfinals and predictions
The quarterfinals are scheduled to go down as follows: A1 vs. B4, A2 vs. B3, B1 vs. A4 and B2 vs. A3 in best-of-three series. That means the first-place finisher in Group A will play the fourth-place finisher in Group B and so on. Let’s fill out the teams with our projections above, describe what could happen in each series, and then move on to the Final Four.
QF1. UMMC Ekaterinburg (A1) vs. Girona (B4)
I don’t think this matchup needs a lot of explaining. UMMC has been terrific all season, has yet to drop a game, and, if things hold, could very well finish the season with a perfect 14-0 record. Girona might surpass this projection—it is welcoming WNBA Rookie of the Year Michaela Onyenwere for the remainder of the EuroLeague regular season—but I’m sticking with the Russians.
This being a three-game series, I have to predict 2-1 and not 3-0 here. Girona is a staple in Spain, and although its European season hasn’t been that great to date, it could snatch a game from UMMC. Ultimately, though, Ekaterinburg should advance without much trouble, so don’t rule out a sweep.
QF2. USK Praha (A2) vs. Sopron (B3)
Although the standings do (and will) not reflect it, Praha has been as good as Ekaterinburg through 10 games. Yes, Praha has a worse record, but it has scored six more points than UMMC in that span, is just three assists and 13 rebounds behind the Russians, and has 134 (!) steals compared to UMMC’s 66. Praha’s players have also accrued a 1,096 total efficiency to UMMC’s 1,084.
Sopron, while having a fantastic squad, should fall a bit short of Praha’s talent and level of performance. Sopron has relied mainly on Gabby Williams and Bernadett Hatar, but it has had some ups and downs throughout the season. On top of that, Sopron has the third-fewest assists out of all 16 EuroLeague teams so far. I’ll hand Praha the series win here.
QF3. Fenerbahçe (B1) vs. BLMA (A4)
There is virtually no way Fenerbahçe reaches the quarterfinals and gets eliminated by BLMA, assuming the French club makes it there. The Turkish side has been an absolute bulldozer lately. Although it dropped a couple of mind-bending games in the first three weeks of the season, its only other loss came against what should be the second-best team in Group B. As crazy as it sounds, Fenerbahçe might have four serious MVP candidates in Elizabeth Williams, Alina Iagupova, Kayla McBride and Satou Sabally. Sheesh.
Kudos to BLMA, though, if it qualifies for the postseason with a top-four finish. Without a single player posting an average efficiency mark above 14.0 (that’s Olivia Epoupa’s current number), it’d be quite impressive to make it into the bracket. But it won’t get much better than that for them, I’m afraid.
QF4. Famila Schio (B2) vs. Avenida (A3)
This is probably the lone upset of the quarterfinal round if it shapes up as projected. Avenida got destroyed by Praha back in Week 5, but the Spaniards also put UMMC’s backs against the wall in a tightly contested match—perhaps the greatest game in the history of EuroLeague/overseas play. The team is loaded, Kahleah Copper hit the ground running and is more than an MVP candidate, and Avenida has Finals experience after advancing there last season.
Famila Schio has been led by an even stronger MVP contender: Sandrine Gruda. The center and former WNBA player is averaging 15 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and one block per game. Diamond DeShields recently joined her (DeShields has played just four games so far), which should be enough to make Famila Schio a very compelling team and a strong competitor against Avenida. This smells like an upset, but it also has a very serious probability of ending 2-1 by the thinnest of margins.
Having fun with the 2022 Final Four
Here we are! The Final Four—just like the NCAA March Madness—is a winner-take-all, do-or-die game rather than a three-game series. That means that fireworks are coming, no matter who is playing. Continuing with the potential EuroLeague season that we have projected, these would be the games and the results we could expect.
SF1. UMMC Ekaterinburg vs. Avenida
Have mercy for us who live and breathe. The first game between these squads was an absolute beauty. It wasn’t decided until late into the fourth quarter. The teams scored more than 100 points each and combined for 212. They racked up total efficiency marks of 83 (Avenida) and 132 (UMMC). Simply put, the match couldn’t have been any better.
And you know what? That was only the first match between these two. They will meet again in the last week of the regular season! If the standings finish as projected, it’s all right. If things get a bit tighter and UMMC Ekaterinburg drops at least one game, though, we might witness a win-and-get-the-No.-1-seed game between these two.
Do you remember who made the EuroLeague Final last season? Oh, sure, UMMC and Avenida. Would this semifinal game be as good given its lower stakes? Not really. Why? Because it’d be even better. Bring it on!
SF2. USK Praha vs. Fenerbahçe
No, seriously. Give me these semifinals right now, please and thank you, because I just can’t wait this long. Obviously, any time UMMC and Avenida face each other, it will definitely grab headlines. But this season, we might have a better semifinal match between Praha (an absolute offensive unit) and Fenerbahçe (the true Monstars, All-World squad of the year, if you ask me).
Through Week 10, Praha has put together six wins in a row. It has dumped 80+ points on every opponent in that span while limiting opponents to no more than 61 points. You read that right. MBA Moscow is the only team to score more than 55 against them in the past six matches, and nobody has been able to score more than 75 points on Praha all season.
Fenerbahçe hasn’t been a bad team, either. The Turkish side has closed the pre-Christmas stint with a 3-0 record including trouncing intra-city rival Galatasaray 107-62. Last season’s EuroLeague MVP (Iagupova) calls Istanbul home, Sabally has finally hit light speed, and the McBride/Williams pair has been dominant. Too much for Praha to handle? I think so.
And your 2022 EuroLeague champion is…
Final. UMMC vs. Fenerbahçe
Yes, Ekaterinburg is making the final, the same as it did last season. Fenerbahçe will be at the other end of the court. Anything and everything can happen in a single-elimination Final Four, of course, so it’s not inconceivable that any other combination of teams would advance. But UMMC and Fenerbahçe seem to be pointed in the absolute right direction. They lead their groups through Week 10, they have the most loaded rosters in the league, and they are putting up great results but getting better on a weekly basis. Sorry, Praha, it is what it is.
As impossible as it seems, Fenerbahçe has a league-leading three players (McBride, Williams and Sabally) averaging efficiency marks of 20+. Praha has two and UMMC only one (reserve Maria Vadeeva). Of the 16 players averaging at least 10 points and seven rebounds this season, four play for either the Russian or the Turkish sides. Of the 10 players averaging at least 10 points and four assists, one plays for Fenerbahçe and three play for UMMC.
It’s cherry-picking stats to an extent, yes, but these two teams and their players pop up in whatever list you create. Their performances are always on the right side of things. And the MVP has an ample probability of coming out of either Istanbul or Ekaterinburg.
Oh, and the trophy will stay in Russia. Such is UMMC’s inevitability.