July 30, 2022
EuroLeague preseason updates: Revealing the regular-season groups and qualifier tournament matchups
And reviewing the teams that will return to the EuroLeague this season in search of a championship
The last time we checked on the 2022-23 EuroLeague season, nothing was set in stone. We only knew the teams that would fight for a place in the EuroLeague and their division into two groups: one of teams that qualified straight into the regular season and another of teams that have to play in qualifier tournaments to make it there.
The qualifier draw took place on July 15 in Munich, Germany, and it determined the qualifier tournaments to be played starting on Oct. 12, only a few days before the EuroLeague regular season tips off. Here are the results:
- Qualifiers Tournament A: ACS Sepsi-SIC (ROU), Olympiacos SFP (GRE), KKZ Crvena Zvezda (SRB). The winner will be placed in Group A for the regular season.
- Qualifiers Tournament B: DVTK Hun-Therm Miskolc (HUN), Elizur Landco Ramla (ISR), Botas Spor Kulubu (TUR). The winner will be placed in Group B for the regular season.
- Qualifiers Play-Off: Villeneuve d’Ascq-LM (FRA) and Spar Girona (ESP) will play a home-and-away qualifier series. The winner will be placed in Group B for the regular season.
In addition, there was another draw to determine the groups for the EuroLeague regular season.
Per FIBA, each of the already-qualified clubs was assigned a seed prior to the draw based on how they had performed in European club competitions over the past three seasons. In addition, the draw rules state that, for countries with two teams, those teams “shall be drawn into different groups if possible.” For countries with three teams, no more than two teams from the same country can be in the same group.
These were the resulting two regular-season groups, with three spots still up for grabs through the qualifiers:
- Group A: Fenerbahçe (TUR), USK Praha (CZE), Bourges (FRA), Valencia (ESP), KSC Szekszard (HUN), Polkowice (POL), Virtus Bologna (ITA), Winner of Qualifiers Tournament A
- Group B: Sopron (HUN), Avenida (ESP), Famila Schio (ITA), Landes (FRA), Yenisehir (TUR), Mechelen (BEL), Winner of Qualifiers Tournament B, Winner of Qualifiers Play-Off
Interestingly, the groups couldn’t have been drawn more perfectly in terms of avoiding clubs from the same nation being in the same group. Inevitably, there will be two French or two Spanish teams in Group B once Villeneuve or Girona qualifies, and there could be two Hungarian or Turkish teams if Miskolc or Kulubu qualifies. This is not the case with Group A, as none of the three teams competing for the open slot are from any of the countries already represented in that regular-season group.
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After covering the newcomers that already qualified for the regular season in the last entry of this column, it’s time to review the teams that are coming back for another run at the EuroLeague title, starting with the three clubs that were assigned to Group B. We’ll tackle the teams from Group A in the next installment of this series.
Sopron Basket (HUN)
Who better to start with than the reigning champs in Sopron Basket? Sopron had a monster season last year, as is now a tradition for the Hungarians. The team won all of the competitions it took part in, including the national league, the cup and the EuroLeague. Those victories constituted the 14th national title, 10th cup title and first EuroLeague title in the Hungarian club’s history.
Some would argue Sopron wasn’t the strongest EuroLeague team from a statistical point of view, but it had the MVP of the Final Four in WNBA import Gabby Williams and played ferocious and tenacious defense. However, Sopron had to shuffle its roster this offseason more than it probably wanted.
For starters, Williams signed with French team Asvel ahead of the next overseas season. Sopron also lost veteran guard Briann January, who retired from European basketball after winning the championship. It has made up for those two losses with the additions of Courtney Vandersloot, Alice Kunek, Dragana Stankovic and Brittney Sykes.
The quality of Sopron’s roster is still undeniable, but so many changes might make for a longer-than-optimal adaptation period. We’ll have to wait and see how the new pieces fit into Sopron’s equation next season.
Perfumerias Avenida (ESP)
Last season, Avenida fell short of the Final for the second year in a row after losing to Sopron by just five points in the semifinals. The loss isn’t leaving Avenida too upset, though. Though a perennial contender in continental basketball, Avenida is known for operating on a tight budget, so the club and its fans see any postseason run like last year’s as an accomplishment.
Nobody — not even Avenida’s brass — knew at the time, but the signing of future WNBA Finals MVP Kahleah Copper in the spring of 2021 proved to be a magnificent move on the cheap by the Spanish club. Even though she only appeared in 14 games for Avenida, Copper was so good that she entered the EuroLeague’s MVP conversation despite logging between 100 and 200 fewer minutes than the other contenders.
In addition to Copper, Katie Lou Samuelson and her older sister Karlie Samuelson; WNBA import Bella Alarie; and homegrown talents such as Maite Cazorla, Silvia Dominguez and Leonor Rodriguez built the foundation that helped Avenida win the Spanish league over Valencia and the national cup over Girona last season.
It’s been a summer of change for the Salamanca-based club, though, with Copper, the Samuelson sisters, Alarie and Emese Hof all departing. Avenida responded by signing center Julia Reisingerova (a 2018 WNBA draftee) and Minnesota Lynx point guard Moriah Jefferson. Avenida is always going to be in contention, so it’s just a matter of whether it can make that final push to lift the EuroLeague trophy.
Beretta Famila Schio (ITA)
Famila Schio will enter next season looking to win an elusive continental trophy. It is coming off of an Italian championship after defeating up-and-coming Virtus Bologna three games to one in the league playoffs. Schio has won 10 of the last 11 Italian super cups and seven Italian leagues in the past decade alone, but it hasn’t lifted a European trophy since winning the EuroCup in 2008.
This offseason, Schio lost Kitija Laksa and Sandrine Gruda, and Diamond DeShields, who played for Schio last season, has yet to be confirmed as part of the team’s squad for 2022-23. But Schio landed 2022 WNBA No. 1 draft pick Rhyne Howard and inked overseas free agents and WNBA imports Amanda Zahui B., Astou Ndour-Fall and Marina Mabrey.
Italy has seen a lot of clubs bolster their rosters this offseason and should have the best domestic league in terms of balanced competition and talent. But Famila Schio has made the moves to remain a top team domestically, get over the hump in continental competition and make the EuroLeague Final Four next season.