January 29, 2022 

With a week left in the EuroLeague, 11 teams are still chasing postseason berths

Just three of eight quarterfinal berths have been locked up

The EuroLeague saw eight teams play four total matches last Wednesday in what was Week 13 of the season. Yet, when we went to bed on Wednesday night, only 93 games had taken place this season instead of the scheduled 104.

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Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the schedule starting in Week 10 and continuing through the last month—half of the planned games had to be postponed this week, for example—the schedule slowly but surely got totally unbalanced. Ugh.

When organizers decided to re-schedule early postponements, such as the Week 10 game between Avenida and Reyer Venezia, they slotted them in between other game days in January. That wasn’t the smartest decision in hindsight because, for example, one of those rescheduled matches (BLMA vs. Avenida from Week 11) was postponed again and is now taking place in mid-February. The schedule was always planned to give teams a few weeks of rest between the last game of the regular season and the start of the playoffs, so there was room in mid-February to put some of those postponed games. That is now what will happen next month.

Three rescheduled games should be played this weekend, but every other postponed match will be played after Week 14 (that is, from Thursday, Feb. 2 on). The EuroLeague quarterfinals were (and still are) scheduled to tip off on Wednesday, Feb. 23, but there are now three postponed games taking place on that date, so expect a delay in postseason play.

So, to sum up, no new teams qualified for the quarterfinals in Week 13, leaving us with the three from Week 12. Only one team has played all 13 games (Arka Gdynia), and it’s already out of contention for a postseason berth. All qualified teams so far are from Group A (UMMC, Avenida and Praha), with not a single quarterfinalist confirmed yet from Group B!

It’s time to recap what went down last Wednesday and preview what’s ahead for the 11 squads still vying for a place in the EuroLeague playoffs when the regular season comes to an end … sooner or later.

Group A: Avenida holds off KSC, still aims for No. 1 spot

There is little chance that Avenida can still get the No. 1 spot in Group A, but Avenida did its part this week to make the potential Week 14 showdown with UMMC the ultimate decider of that. The schedule has made things a little bit unpredictable, but Avenida and UMMC will enter the final game day of the season having played 12 games each. (UMMC will recover one on Saturday, Jan. 29, thus balancing the two teams’ schedules.)

Avenida needed a win against KSC to keep its chances at the top seed alive, but defeating the 0-11 EuroLeague debutants turned out to be much harder than it was projected to be for the Spanish side. Avenida needed overtime to edge KSC 88-84! Kudos to the Hungarians, who put on a fantastic effort and forced Avenida’s players to have season-defining performances to defeat the underdogs.

Katie Lou Samuelson blows by Sabrina Ionescu and rises in front of and over a vertically extending Natasha Howard to take a layup
Seattle Storm forward Katie Lou Samuelson (33) attempts a layup in a WNBA game against the New York Liberty. (Photo credit: Neil Enns | Seattle Storm)

Katie Lou Samuelson was unstoppable, leading everyone in Week 13 with a 29 efficiency mark (on 27 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals), but Avenida needed much more than that. Kahleah Copper had to play 42 minutes; Emese Hof put up a 17-point, nine-rebound, two-assist, two-steal line; and two more players logged 26 or more minutes. And even then, Avenida only won by four!

Shoutout to KSC and its starting five because the effort was nonsensical. Four of the five starters played 39 or more minutes; Reka Balint logged 17, but her main substitute, Zala Friskovez, racked up 39 minutes herself. None of the other three players who got on the court for KSC played more than eight minutes. Four KSC players scored 16 or more points, while two (Agnes Studer and Cyesha Goree) finished with either eight assists or eight boards.

The schedule is tough for KSC going forward, as it will face UMMC and TTT Riga in its final two games, but here’s hoping it can snatch at least one win in its first EuroLeague season!

As for Avenida and UMMC, they will most probably face each other, with the former sitting at 22 points and the latter boasting 24 (assuming it defeats KSC this weekend). That means that, by the end of next week and if Avenida beats UMMC by at least nine points, both will sit atop the group, with Avenida first and UMMC second due to their head-to-head results. Anything below that +9 point difference for Avenida will serve no purpose for the Spaniards given that they dropped the first-leg game 102-110 against the Russians. This is the highest of high-stakes games, folks!

Group B: Seven teams are still fighting for a postseason berth

This group of teams is pure, true, crazy, unadulterated madness. Seven of the eight teams can still mathematically reach the EuroLeague quarterfinals. Galatasaray and Basket Landes both have the worst odds, as they could each reach 21 points if they win out, but they have to play each other. The other five teams could all reach 23 or more points, which would put them above current league-leader Sopron’s 20 after Wednesday’s results.

Sopron blasts a very disappointing Galatasaray

The Hungarian side Sopron did its homework and defeated a sad Galatasaray team that will need a miracle to make the playoffs. It’s a tale of two very different stories for Sopron (which is now alone atop Group B with 20 points) and Galatasaray (ranked fifth with 17 points).

While not even winning out would guarantee qualification for Sopron, Galatasaray needs two wins in its remaining two games to have a chance. The Turkish side will play Basket Landes this Sunday in a winner-stays-alive game. After that, it’s an affair with Famila Schio (one of the teams currently tied for second with 19 points) in the last game day of the season. Galatasaray needs to win that game by four or more points to pass the Italians in the standings after losing their first-leg contest. In other words, it doesn’t look very good for the Turkish side.

WNBA imports Bernadett Hatar and Gabby Williams led the way for Sopron against Galatasaray, combining for 28 points while posting the highest efficiency figures of the match at 22 and 21, respectively. Turnovers and poor shooting (4-of-10 from the field, 1-of-3 from beyond the arc) hurt Williams’ efficiency, though she put on a much more packed eight-rebound, seven-dime, two-steal performance than Hatar’s eight-rebound, one-block contribution.

Recently acquired Kelsey Plum couldn’t do a thing to help Galatasaray in her 36 minutes, finishing with 12 points and five rebounds but shooting only 31.2% from the field on a not-very-advisable 16 attempts (including shooting 1-for-6 on triples). My leading MVP candidate just a few weeks ago, Tina Krajisnik, had her second consecutive dud (four points, seven rebounds, five turnovers), and it’s going to be virtually impossible for her to win the award now.

Fenerbahçe beats group-trailer Arka Gdynia, creates three-way tie for second

Good for Istanbul, which boasts two EuroLeague teams in Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe. The latter didn’t let the Turkish fan base down with a victory over Arka Gdynia. The result surely didn’t surprise anyone because Arka Gdynia has only won two games this season and Fenerbahçe’s team is loaded to the brim.

The four most efficient players in that game played for Fenerbahçe: Kayla McBride (26), Olcay Cakir (23), Satou Sabally (19) and Elizabeth Williams (19). Oh, and adding wood to the fire, Alina Iagupova contributed a 16-point, 10-rebound double-double on top of Cakir’s 11 points and 13 assists. “Impressive” falls short of describing this squad.

Ana-Marija Begic was as good as possible for Arka Gdynia with a 15-point, five-rebound, two-steal, one-assist, one-block line, but she still finished with a plus-minus of minus-18. That gives you an idea of how tall the task ended up being for Gdynia, as the Polish side lost by 20 points.

If we’re being honest, though, this result combined with the next one made things as spicy as possible entering the final week games of the season.

New York Liberty guard Epiphanny Prince (10) dribbles during a WNBA game against the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, USA on July 11, 2018. (Photo credit: Chris Poss)

Dynamo Kursk blocks Famila Schio from clinching

As if Group B wasn’t already tight enough at the top, the Russians of Dynamo Kursk had to make it even more exciting by defeating—blasting, should I say—Italian side Famila Schio 80-64. There is now a three-way tie for second in the group, with Sopron ahead of them by just one point. However, Fenerbahçe, currently fourth, has 19 points through only 11 games, so you can pencil that team into a tie for first with Sopron. (Remember, the EuroLeague awards losing teams one point, so as soon as Fenerbahçe plays its 12th game like the other teams, it will be up there.)

Sandrine Gruda and Jasmine Keys were as good as advertised for Famila Schio, and Diamond DeShields kept doing wonders for the Italians with her second double-double of the season (13 points, 10 rebounds, four assists) and her most efficient game (a game-leading 21).

Yet all of that couldn’t stop the exploits of Eva Lisec, Arike Ogunbowale, Natasha Howard and Epiphanny Prince on the Russian side. Lisec led the squad with a 20 efficiency translated from 10 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, four steals and one block. Ogunbowale was her high-volume self, shooting 43% from the field on 14 attempts for 20 points (she also shot 6-for-7 from the charity stripe). Howard put up 16 points and eight rebounds, and Prince contributed 13 points, four rebounds and four assists. There was just too much production for Dynamo Kursk to end up losing the game.

Looking at the standings, the numbers would have Sopron at 20 points, Fenerbahçe at 20, Famila Schio at 19 and Dynamo at 19 through 12 games played when things get balanced in a few days. The problem for Dynamo Kursk, though, is that one of its postponed games is against Girona, which will sit at least in fifth with 18 points once it plays its 12th game. The Russian side controls its own fate, but it will need wins against Girona and Fenerbahçe to make the postseason.

On tap for this weekend and the remainder of the EuroLeague regular season due to postponements: Sopron vs. Fenerbahçe and Girona vs. Kursk (Jan. 29), Famila Schio vs. Galatasaray (Feb. 2), Kursk vs. Fenerbahçe (Feb. 3) and Fenerbahçe vs. Famila Schio (Feb. 19). Bring on the fireworks!

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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