March 11, 2023 

EuroLeague postseason: Previewing the quarterfinals series

What to expect from each quarterfinal matchup

All 16 EuroLeague teams wrapped up their regular-season campaigns last midweek. Half of them made it to this year’s postseason after 14 weeks of facing competitors from everywhere across the continent.

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Although we already knew the outcome of Group A before the last matchday of the regular season, Group B came down to the wire with three teams fighting for two playoffs berths that ended up in the hands of reigning-champs Sopron and Spaniard side Avenida, leaving fellow Spanish team Girona out of contention.

The results from last Wednesday set up the quarterfinals field and the matchups of the first knockout stage of the EuroLeague postseason. The first round of games, following a best-of-three format, will take place on Tuesday, March 14, with the second matches scheduled for Friday, March 17.

Taking advantage of the two-week pause the competition entered last Wednesday, here’s a rundown of all four quarterfinals matchups, including the key for all eight teams to earn a series win and advance past the first round of the postseason.

UNCASVILLE, CONNECTICUT/USA – July 20, 2018: Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart (30) shoots as Connecticut Sun center Jonquel Jones (35) defends during a Seattle Storm vs Connecticut Sun WNBA basketball game at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Photo Credit: Chris Poss)

A1. Fenerbahçe vs. B4. Sopron

In a fascinating turn of events, the final from the last edition of the EuroLeague is going to be one of this season’s quarterfinal series as Fenerbahçe will keep chasing the dream of winning the competition for the first time against the team that defeated them in the final game of last season. Things have changed a lot since, and while Fenerbahçe kept on loading their roster with more and more talent, Sopron had to endure the losses of key performers such as Finals MVP Gabby Williams. Sopron ultimately made it to the postseason by a hair, and more because of other teams falling short of expectations rather than them putting on a strong regular-season effort.

How can Fenerbahçe win this series? Just showing up. That sound like a joke, but that’s also as true as it gets. Fenerbahçe started the regular season with a 0-2 losing record but then proceeded to win 12 consecutive games. They have finished inside the top five in all statistical categories with the exception of points allowed, which doesn’t really mean that much when you’re scoring 86 or more points per game against your opponents while limiting them to 71 points per outing. This team has no flaws, is loaded with multiple WNBA superstars and they (once and for all, and we think for real this time) seem to be closer than ever to lifting the cup when all is said and done.

How can Sopron win this series? Defense, defense, defense. As “bad” as Sopron have been this season, having to wait until the final week of play to seal their qualification for the postseason, one thing has been steady on their matchups all year long: a stout defense. Sopron wrapped up the 14-game regular season with the second-best figure in the points allowed category, limiting opponents to just 63 points per game. Of course, they will have to deal with an absolute flamethrower in Fenerbahçe’s offense, but Sopron finished the year inside the top seven in blocks and steals as a team and showed very serious defensive chops. A tall task, but their best traits are actually the ones that match up best with Fener’s advantages.

Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas (25) congratulates Connecticut Sun forward Brionna Jones (42) during the WNBA game between the Phoenix Mercury and the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA on August 04, 2022. (Photo Credit: Chris Poss)

A2. Praha vs. B3. Avenida

After a season full of turmoil that ended with a coach fired (and then hired by group-rival CBK) and a new man in charge, Avenida fixed their mid-season woes (four consecutive losses) and closed the regular season with four consecutive wins to get into the postseason, although in a much less dominant fashion than they did in past years. Praha never lost more than two games in a row and those two were back-to-back defeats to a strong Polkowice side.

How can Praha win this series? Crashing the boards and avoiding turnovers. Three of the top four regular season teams on a statistical average (combining all categories) came from Group A with Fenerbahçe and Praha ranking first and second overall. Praha’s only blemish was their “low” marks in blocks and turnovers, although as is the case with Fenerbahçe they made up for that with huge points scored alongside top finishes in the rebounds and assists per game categories. Avenida has struggled mightily at grabbing boards (ranked 11 among the 16 regular-season teams) and stealing possessions (ranked 11) so that should ease the work of Praha and help them in this head-to-head series.

How can Avenida win this series? Keeping up their stout defense and improving inside the paint. Avenida has limited the last four teams they have faced to 61 (three times) and 63 (once) points scored to wrap up the regular season on a four-game winning streak. Praha has scored at least 66 points in each of their last four games, including 71 or more in three of those four matchups. Something has to give. The only way Avenida stands a chance of advancing is by finding a way to limit the offensive prowess of the Czech Republic team; but even then it’s going to be hard for the Spanish side to knock their foes out. The best two players on Praha’s roster (Alyssa Thomas and Brionna Jones) are monsters on the glass — coincidentally where Avenida has struggled the most this year.

B2. Famila Schio vs. A3. Valencia

Italian team Famila Schio and the squad from Valencia will face off in the (on paper, at least) most balanced series of the quarterfinals. Both teams finished the regular season with an overall top four rank (third and fourth-best respectively), making for the most compelling head-to-head series of the first knockout round. Famila Schio was steadier and slightly above average all across the board while Valencia relied more on a couple of facets of the game (mainly defensive statistics) generating more doubts about other parts of their skill set.

How can Famila Schio win this series? Having pinpoint-accurate, strong offensive play. Famila Schio finished the regular season ranked between third and ninth in all statistical categories. Their best skills showed up in offensive play (fourth-best assists per game figure) and that helped them finish with the fifth-highest scoring average among teams in the group stages. If they want to deal with Valencia, though, they will need to take absolute care of the ball while finding the right pass every single play. Valencia boasts the best per-game averages in blocks, steals and personal fouls committed so they know where and how to apply pressure and succeed in defense, complicating opposing offenses to operate as smoothly as Schio’s has done through their campaign to date.

How can Valencia win this series? Improving on the boards and capitalizing on their defensive efforts. For a team that committed the second-most steals and blocked the most shots through the regular season, it’s interesting that they could only come up with the ninth-best plus/minus among all 16 teams competing in the group stage. That, of course, means that Valencia knows how to apply pressure on defense but they just don’t turn those efforts into offensive goodies — not entirely, at least. If they can flip some of those steals and blocks into a slightly higher scoring output, while also improving a bit on the boards (they ranked 13 out of 16 teams in blocks per game), then they might be able to make this a three-game series and advance to the Final Four.

B1. CBK Mersin vs. A4. Tango Bourges

Is there anything CBK hasn’t gone through this season? They had an MVP candidate in Jonquel Jones playing for them but she returned to the USA midway through the campaign. They signed Briann January when everybody thought she had retired. They snatched one of the best players and the coach from Avenida midseason. On and on the headlines go… Meanwhile, in France, Tango Bourges were slowly but surely building an under-the-radar playoffs-bound season that saw them overtake upset newcomers from Polkowice on the merit of their head-to-head series through the regular season.

How can CBK Mersin win this series? Improving the offensive play and taking care of the ball. Cukurova could “only” finish with the ninth-best average on the points-per-game front through the regular season. One of the underlying problems was their ridiculous assists numbers, with barely 15 dimes per game as a team. That, paired with a low steals-per-game figure, didn’t help them score that much on a weekly basis even though they kept up the third-best turnover rate. CBK might edge Tango Bourges by default, to an extent, but they will need to play much better offensively as a team if they want to end up winning it all when/if they reach the Final Four.

How can Tango Bourges win this series? Keeping their hands active within the legal boundaries. Bourges does something very well and that is committing thefts. The French team stole 135 possessions throughout the regular season for the fourth-best average among all 16 teams in the group stage. They were also lively on offense, dishing out the fifth-most dimes and grabbing above-average rebounds. They were, perhaps, too active act times: Tango Bourges committed the fifth-most personal fouls and that might hurt them in this series considering CBK scored nearly 80% of their free-throw attempts.

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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