The Euroleague Women’s “Eighth-final playoffs” conclude tonight with three best-of-three series looking to be settled. Teams already set to play in EL Women quarterfinals include Spartak Moscow region, Fenerbahce Ulker, UMMC Ekaterinburg, Good Angels Kosice, and Ros Casares.
The winner of tonight’s Halcon Avenida-Bourges Basket match will see Ros Casares in the next round; surely to be considered a favorite to take the entire competition, Ros Casares has outscored opponents by an average 16 points in 15 Euroleague Women games played thus far. A quarterfinal pairing of Ros Casares against Halcon Avenida seems like a dream matchup of star teams – except that the Salamanca side has been stumbling as of late.
Despite a roster featuring Team Spain sensations Marta Xargay and Alba Torrens together with all-around threat Sancho Lyttle (averaging 17.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 2.4 steals per in 12 Euroleague Women games), Halcon Avenida finds its backs against the wall despite a recent five-game win streak in which Salamanca thrice outscored opponents by 18 or more. The last of that opposition was Bourges, who pulled off the gritty home win over the heavy favorites last Friday.
Despite the French ladies’ win five days ago, though, the 2009 Euroleague Women Final Four hosts of Salamanca are favored by 10 at the sportsbook; that sounds about right.
The Wisla Can-Pack vs. Mizo Pécs is your classic tale-of-two-teams match featuring squads whose paths have basically been diametrically opposed in this Euroleague Women campaign. Pécs went into 2009-10 as one of the favorites to take this competition and instead stumbled out of the box to start the campaign 0-3 (including two losses at home and one away to Wisla); the team recovered enough for a couple of 90-plus point performances to close out pool play but chased that heat with a 80-53 crushing by the Can-Pack in the first game of the best-of-three round.
By contrast, Wisla started 2009-10 not even a member of the Euroleague Women competition, and only by dint of CSKA Moscow’s financial troubles was the Polish side granted a bid. Since entering the field, Wisla has done nothing but kick ass and take names, jumping out to an 8-0 start and becoming the first team to qualify for this round.
Of course, one of Wisla’s two losses in its 10-2 season thus far was to Pécs last week, and no team appears to have found an answer yet for Dalma Ivanyi. After taking the Euroleague Women Player of the Week award for her 24-11-10 against Wisla, will she be considered for league MVP? Not only is she second in EL Women in assists at 6.3 and sixth in steals at 2.4, she’s also fifth in defensive rebounding at 6.1 per game – as a point guard.
Finally, there’s Rivas Ecópolis vs. Frisco Sika Brno, the winner of which takes on the Wisla-Pécs survivor. It’s been an up-and-down season for Brno, whose 6-4 record in pool play was enough to advance the team into the tournament round. Though FIBA reportage may see this playoff as Dewanna Bonner vs. the World, Brno might be better serviced by getting Taj McWilliams going: The team is 5-2 when the Texan center goes for 10 points or more and her 2-of-10 showing certainly made the difference in last Friday’s losing effort.
For Ecópolis, it’s still about re-finding that momentum. In the team’s first Euroleague Women stint, Rivas jumped out to a 7-0 start before dropping three consecutive pool-play games in which they averaged just 62 points per. Friday’s four-loss streak-snapping win was paradoxically indicative of Rivas’ recent woes: While the 41.3% two-point shooting represented an improvement over recent performance, a closer look shows a mere 30.3% mark if red-hot Crystal Langhorne’s 9-of-15 is removed from consideration. And losing the battle of the boards 47-36 again won’t advance Rivas Ecópolis past Brno, either.
The FIBA Euroleague Women quarterfinals begin on February 23.