EuroLeague Women Final Four Preview

It started with 24 teams then eight were eliminated after a double-round classification phase in each of the four groups. The 16 teams slugged it out in the playoffs and now it’s down to four teams. Four squads who are all eager to bag this year’s EuroLeague Women Championship crown.

The stage is set for the four remaining teams, who will battle it out for the right to advance to the penultimate stage of the tournament.

Spanish squads Ros Casares and Halcon Avenida square off in the first semifinals match, and Russian powerhouses Sparta&K MR Vidnoje and UMMC Ekaterinburg will face each other in the other semi-final pairing on April 8 in Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Sparta&K MR Vidnoje VS UMMC Ekaterinburg

Before the start of the playoffs all eyes were on UMMC Ekaterinburg, who were tagged as one of the favorites to win the title this year, while almost no one expected that Sparta&K MR Vidnoje would go deep into the playoffs after their inconsistent performances during the classification phase.

As expected UMMC Ekaterinburg cruised their way into the Final Four easily, sweeping Rivas Ecopolis in the first round that was followed by a demolition job of Cras Basket Taranto in the quarterfinals.

Sparta&K MR Vidnoje, on the other hand, had to escape with a thrilling 69-63 victory in the deciding Game Three of their first round series against Beretta-Famila Schio. After successfully overcoming the first hurdle, up next for them was a huge mountain to climb, facing the undefeated Fenerbahce in the Quarterfinals.

Fenerbahce was the clear-cut favorite, but the Russian squad pulled off a huge upset and it was not your typical upset because Sparta&K made themselves look as if they were the favorites before the series started.

The Pokey Chatman-coached squad swept Fenerbahce in a commanding fashion and if they could sustain the momentum they got from their win against the Turkish powerhouse, then UMMC Ekaterinburg will have a tough time defeating Sparta.

However, aside from their home-court advantage that could not be a huge factor since their opponent is also a Russian club, UMMC Ekaterinburg could rely on their advantage, talent-wise.

If Candace Parker gets into his old groove, Sandrine Gruda continues to shine, Cappie Pondexter dominates, and their deep bench that includes Crystal Langhorne, Maria Stepanova, and Olga Arteshina contributes well, UMMC would easily handle the Sue Bird-led Sparta&K squad.

Although UMMC Ekaterinburg is the heavy favorite, Sparta&K MR Vidnoje is still capable of pulling off a gigantic upset just like how they did when they eliminated the top-seeded Fenerbahce.

Ros Casares VS Halcon Avenida

After both team fared very well in the classification phase and displayed tremendous poise in the playoffs, the battle between the two Spanish powerhouse squads is too close to call.

However, Halcon Avenida will have a slight psychological advantage, having beaten Ros Casares in all of their three meetings this season and all victories are in a convincing fashion.

Halcon Avenida will absolutely lean on their size advantage especially now that Ros Casares lost Portuguese forward Sonia Reis, who sustained a serious knee injury that required a season-ending surgery, and WNBA star Rebekkah Brunson is also being bothered by injuries this year.

Without enough big players to defend inside, Halcon Avenida’s Sancho Lyttle and Erika DeSouza will be simply too much for them, giving Avenida a clear advantage inside the paint. Lyttle is averaging 13.9 points and 9.4 rebounds a game, while DeSouza is averaging 13.4 points and 7.7 boards this season.

However, Ros Casares vowed not to go down without a fight and for them, their three defeats against Halcon Avenida is pointless because they believe that the EuroLeague Women Final Four is a different story.

“The Final Four, it's completely different,” said Ros Casares’ Cindy Lima. “We're strong and don't have these ups and downs like in the Spanish league. I don't have any doubt that it's going to be a completely different story in the EuroLeague.”

Roster-wise Halcon Avenida has a slight advantage that was very evident in their first three meetings this season, but Halcon shouldn’t let their guards down because Ros Casares will be very eager to avenge their defeats, Their desire to erase their three previous defeats will give Ros Casares the needed sense of urgency so it will not be surprising if this series goes down to a deciding game.

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