Yes, there was the NCAA Final Four last weekend, and there will be the Euroleague Final Four the first weekend of May. But this weekend will also be a major event in European Basketball: the Euroleague Women Final Four.
This weekend, the four best European club teams will meet in the Czech city of Brno to play their Final Four. This is probably the best competition in Women’s basketball in the whole world as the Euroleague level is probably higher than the WNBA. At least salary-wise it is way more interesting for the girls to play in Europe.
The four teams that are qualified are UMMC Ekaterinburg and Spartak Moscow Region from Russia, the hosts Gambrinus Brno and Bourges Basket from France. While the teams have assembled a collection of stars with players from all around the world, the level of play will probably be enormous. Just take the biggest stars from the WNBA and you will find them in Brno this weekend.
Starting off with the huge favorites, Spartak Moscow region has put together an incredible talent pool with Diana Taurasi, Lauren Jackson, Sue Bird and Tina Thompson. Additionally, Tatiana Shchegoleva is among the best forwards in the world, you can easily imagine what type of team we have here.
UMMC Ekaterinburg features the polish shooting machine Agnieszka Bibrzycka and the French tower Sandrine Gruda in a team that is rounded up by some big names like Penny Taylor or Kristi Harrower from Australia and Asjha Jones and Deanna Nolan. And I did not even speak about their home grown talent from Russia: Natalia Vodopyanova, Oxana Rakhmatulina or Svetlana Abrosimova.
For the hometown favorites of Gambrinus Brno, they will have the support of the Rosnicka Arena to push the team mates of Tamika Whitmore to the Final. The history is speaking in their favor since the host has won the Final Four the last three years (Samara in 2005, Brno in 2006, and Spartak in 2007). The American Center will find some scoring help from Mali-born forward Hamchetou Maiga or the local talents Hana Machova, Jana Vesela and of course Eva Viteckova.
Finally, the surprise of this Final Four may be the presence of Bourges who made the quarter final victory over the favorites from CSKA Moscow (undefeated in the regular season). With a young and talented team, Pierre Vincent who coached before the U18 Men from France has made the impossible possible especially because of the huge play by Céline Dumerc in the quarter finals. She will find some scoring help in Belinda Snell and will hope on the experience of Cathy Melain or Sonja Kireta. The team also features two very young talents in Sonja Petrovic and Enden Miyeme who will use this event to totally make themselves a name in the European Women Basketball scene.
Agenda (all times in CET)
Semi-Finals (11th April 2008)
15h00: UMMC Ekaterinbourg – Spartak Moscow Region
18h00: Gambrinus Brno – Bourges Basket
Final (13th April 2008)