February 5, 2022
The EuroLeague regular season is over… or is it?
Making sense of the remaining race, plus MVP breakdowns
If you read last week’s column, you might think we’re already past the last gameday of the 2022 EuroLeague Women regular season. I wouldn’t blame you. It is the thing that makes the most sense because the regular season was scheduled to finish this past Wednesday with all games played from the first of October 2021 to the first of February 2022. And of course, it did… Or did it?
This week we got to watch six games taking place in the ELW realm. That’s not the full schedule as two games had to be postponed, but six matches were definitely more than the four we’ve been watching for the past few weeks. But again, pesky postponements. And that’s why the regular season is over-but-not-over yet.
Of course, because this has been the most chaotic season ever, there are some games still to be played with impact on the standings. With only three teams from each regular-season group qualified for the quarterfinals and a berth still up for grabs on both of them, some of those games are huge.
Let’s review what happened, what is still to come, and some of the best performers from the “last” week of regular-season ELW play.
EuroLeague Week 14 Yields Three Quarter-Finalist per Group
Group B gets a clearer picture with just two teams left fighting for the last QF berth
As ridiculous as it sounds, only four of the 16 teams in the EuroLeague field have already played their full 14-game regular-season schedule. Seriously. Sopron, Dynamo Kursk, Galatasaray, and Arka Gdynia are the only squads with 14 games played, all of them pertaining to Group B. All four could play their W14 matches in time and that also meant they came to know their different fates.
Sopron, even in defeat, qualified for the QF round. Something similar happened to Dynamo Kursk, which fell to group-leading Fenerbahçe but benefited from other results to clinch that QF berth. Galatasaray, still with last-gasp chances of qualifying entering this week, flopped against Famila Schio and saw the dream vanish in thin air. Finally, Arka Gdynia couldn’t add to their two-win season falling against stronger Spain-based Girona by 13 points.
So three teams have already clinched while only two more remain in the run for that final spot in the soon-to-come quarterfinals: Famila Schio and Girona. Let me review Group B with a few simple bullet points so everything is a little bit easier to digest on your side:
- Fenerbahçe is sitting atop the group and locked into first position with one postponed game left in its schedule.
- Sopron and Dynamo Kursk are currently no. 2 and no. 3 in the group tied at 22 points each with all 14 games played.
- Famila Schio is currently the no. 4 seed with 21 points, followed by Girona at no. 5 with 20 points. Both teams have just one game left in their schedules.
- Galatasaray (19 points in 14 games), Basket Landes (19 points in 13 games), and Arka Gdynia (16 points in 14 games) are the group trailers, all of them already eliminated from contention.
Now, for what matters heading into the last and deciding games of the regular season:
- Fenerbahçe vs. Famila Schio (Feb. 19): This game could solve all of the remaining mysteries. A victory by the Italian side would mean they qualify no matter what the other two teams do. A defeat to the Turkish Fenerbahçe, though, would make everything super spicy going into the other high-stakes game.
- Girona vs. Basket Landes (Feb. 23): This game might mean nothing (if Famila Schio wins its game)… or it might mean everything. Let’s assume Famila Schio losses. Girona would then need to win its game against Basket Landes to jump over Famila Schio (they’d be tied at 22 points but Girona holds the head-to-head advantage). If Girona losses it won’t qualify no matter the other game’s result. If Famila Schio wins on Feb. 19, this Feb. 23 game would have no quarter-final implications.
Now, for the conspiracy theorist: will Fenerbahçe sit their starters against Famila Schio now that they have sole possession of the no. 1 seed? Does that mean the Italians will have it easier to win and qualify? Will Basket Landes not care at all about their game against Girona as the French are already eliminated?
Keep in mind that there are still things in play for the non-QF teams, though: squads ranked fifth and sixth in each group “qualify” (or better said drop) to the EuroCup Women, the second-tier European competition. It’s not that Landes is already gone from Europe, for example, so don’t count on them throwing their last game away.
Group A is all about bottom-half madness
While there is a clear division between the top-three teams playing in Group A (UMMC, Avenida, and Praha; all of them with 13 games played and 22 or more points over the season) and the next four-best squads (BLMA, Riga, Venezia, and MBA Moscow), the truth is that there is still one final seed in play and that three of those bottom-four teams (not KSC Szekszard, trailing the whole group without a single victory, nor Venezia, which can’t mathematically bridge the gap with current no. 4 BLMA) can still qualify and have at least two games left in their schedules. Crazy stuff.
BLMA and TTT Riga are tied at 17 points right now, with Venezia and MBA trailing them with 15 and 14 points respectively. As always, that’s incomplete information given the “loser’s points” awarded in EuroLeague games. So, considering that, this is how things stand (assuming one point per loss, two per win, and looking at the minimum tallies through 14 games played):
- UMMC clinched the no. 1 seed in Group A after demolishing Avenida last Tuesday. They will play one more game (vs. MBA) trying to close the season with a perfect 14-0 record.
- Avenida lost to UMMC but stayed second. That said, they lost to Praha by 25 points earlier in the season while beating them by 10 in their other game, so they don’t hold the head-to-head advantage. A tie in the table would favor Praha.
- Praha defeated Venezia and is one point shy of the no. 2 seed. If they win their last game (vs. TTT Riga) and Avenida losses its game, then Praha would qualify second with Avenida falling to the third seed due to head-to-head results.
- All of BLMA, Riga, Venezia, and Moscow will have at least 17 points when all games are played, counting on the loser’s points to be awarded through 14 games.
- Venezia can’t mathematically jump over BLMA, so the Italian side is already out of the QF race.
- BLMA will finish with between 20 and 23 points. TTT Riga with between 19 and 21. MBA Moscow with between 17 and 20. All of them are still fighting for the last QF berth in Group A.
With three teams still in a position to qualify — two of them with only 11 games played — things are overly complicated to make any sort of sound prediction. That said, we can go in order (following the dates of the re-scheduled games) to try and get the most probable outcome of those matches and the final Group A standings when all is said and done:
- MBA vs. BLMA (Feb. 17): BLMA won this matchup by nine points earlier this season and holds the head-to-head advantage. MBA needs to defeat BLMA by double-digits if they want to stay alive in the fight for qualification; losing would mean elimination. A win by MBA would leave both teams with 12 games played: BLMA at 18 points, and MBA with 16 by the end of this match.
- Praha vs. Riga (Feb. 19): If Praha wins they’d jump Avenida for the no. 2 seed, at least until Avenida plays its final game; and they’d stay third if they lose. Riga can afford to lose this game and still remain in contention. If they win it, they would jump BLMA (if BLMA lose to MBA) or stay tied in points with BLMA (if BLMA win against MBA). If Riga win, that’d mean MBA is eliminated no matter what they do from this point on.
- MBA vs. Venezia (Feb. 20) and BLMA vs Venezia (Feb. 22): By the end of these two games only one of MBA and BLMA will still remain in position to qualify for the QF even if both win. That’s because there will only be one game remaining but a two-point gap between both teams, rendering MBA’s efforts futile. To simplify things: MBA needs to win and BLMA needs to lose for the fight to stay alive.
- UMMC vs. MBA (Feb. 23) and Riga vs. KSC (Feb. 23): MBA needs to keep winning every game they play (they lost to UMMC by 21 points in their first-leg game…). Nothing MBA does matters if Riga wins its game against 0-13 KSC (which, you guessed it, is more than probable). Riga has the head-to-head advantage over MBA, so winning this game (or the one against Praha earlier, for that matter) removes MBA from the run entirely.
- BLMA vs. Avenida: BLMA would qualify if Riga losses both of their re-scheduled games before playing this match, assuming they can defeat MBA on Feb. 17. If BLMA does not defeat MBA and the latter has 20 points before the start of this game, then BLMA (if they also had lost to Venezia) would need the win to qualify as the no. 4. Avenida needs to finish above Praha in points as Praha has the head-to-head advantage. A win by Avenida guarantees them the no. 2 seed.
Okay, now that’s a real mess that probably broke your brain. There are a ton of possible combinations, but boiling it down to the simplest of things, I’d say that MBA will have it nearly impossible (need to win out and hope for a BLMA collapse), Riga is a coin-flip though they don’t have control of their destiny (one cupcake and one hell of a game remaining), and BLMA should be the favorite to qualify as they only need one win in their three remaining games to seal their qualification.
Ooffffff… I’m glad I’m over with all of those calculations and machinations and projections. Time to have some statistics fun from the EuroLeague games taking place earlier this week!
Golden nuggets from EuroLeague Week 14
- I guess Week 14 will be remembered as the WNBA-Import Week of the Season. As many as 11 of the top 12 players in Efficiency happen to play in the WNBA with only one (Teja Oblak) not having a USA-related background.
- All 12 players posted marks above 20 in Efficiency yesterday, with a two-way tie at the top between Jonquel Jones (28 points, 11 rebounds) and Alyssa Thomas (17 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, one steal), both with a 30-EFF figure.
- Elizabeth Williams celebrated her recent free-agent deal with the Washington Mystics by getting into the week’s top-3 with an Efficiency of 28 to the tune of a 21 points, 15 rebounds, to go with two assists and three steals. Williams played all 40 minutes for Fenerbahçe in the Turkish side’s no. 1 seed-clinching game this week.
- All players with double-digit rebounding numbers this week (eight in total) also dropped double-digit points, including 28 by Jonquel Jones.
- On top of those eight double-doubles, Teja Oblak put up 10 dimes while pairing them with double-digit scoring numbers (20 points). Pelin Bilgic and Pinelopi Pavlopoulou reached 10 assists, but fell scoring eight and nine points respectively.
- Shoutout to the pair of Astou Ndour and Kayla Thornton, both doing it for Venezia overseas and having a phenomenal week. Both finished with an Efficiency of 26: Ndour stuffed the line with 22 points, five rebounds, three steals, two blocks, and one assist while Thornton was good for 18 points, nine rebounds, two dimes and one theft against Praha.
- At the other end of the spectrum was Kahleah Copper, who didn’t help Avenida that much in her 22 minutes of playing time, posting a minus-22 plus/minus with 11 points, three rebounds, one block, and one assists for an Efficiency of 8 against UMMC.
- Both Natasha Howard and Morgan Bertsch finished with three shots blocked each, thus leading the W14 slate on that front. Howard was also named ELW MVP for the month of January, making a late push for the regular season award.
- Kennedy Burke was the smartest in the class with six (!) steals to her name this week. Nobody stole more than three possessions in the “final” week of regular-season play with all of Ndour, Gabby Williams, Elizabeth Williams, Eva Lisec, and Yvonne Anderson tied at that three-steal figure.
- With Galatasaray out of QF-contention, Kelsey Plum kept on doing what she does best: hoisting shots and getting buckets. It’s been only four ELW games for Plum in Istanbul but she has at least 15 FGA in each, scoring an average of 15.8 points.
- I still have Tina Krajisnik ranked in the top-5 without hesitation, but Galatasaray’s truly disappointing season will most probably kill her chances at the trophy.
- Speaking of potential MVP candidates, Alyssa Thomas has been sublime, same as Brionna Jones (both playing for USK Praha) but they have only appeared in 10 and 11 games through the season compared to Howard’s 14 games played. Praha still has an important game remaining in its schedule, but the two-or-three games-played difference will still be there at the end.
- Jonquel Jones case is similar to those of Brionna and Alyssa Thomas. Incredible performance so far, but on a smaller sample of games (10 played, one remaining).
- Fenerbahçe locked into the no. 1 seed, but with all of Kayla McBride, Elizabeth Williams, and Alina Iagupova having marvelous campaigns it’s quite hard to see any of them soaring past the other ones to get the MVP title. Simply put, they’ll eat from each other’s pie and will ultimately all fall short of the needed votes to get the award. Also: shoutout Satou Sabally for her ridiculous eight-game season with the Turkish club!