The 2009-10 Euroleague Women final four games go down tonight, with Spartak Moscow region facing off against UMMC Ekaterinburg and Ros Casares meeting Wisla Can-Pack. BallinEurope offers a few tidbits and links to prep you for some ladies’ b-ball.
For Wisla Can-Pack, the story is the team itself. To describe this team’s 2009-10 Euroleague campaign as “memorable” would be both disservice and massive understatement. The compressed version goes something like: team joins Euroleague Women at last minute thanks to some schadenfreude gifted by CSKA Moscow; teams goes 8-0, extends mark to 10-2; in semifinals, team gets past pre-season near-favorite MiZo Pécs easily; team then survives 15-point blowout and two nail-biters to overcome Frisco Sika Brno; team finally finds itself facing Final Four hosts.
As a 14.5-point underdog (according to Ball in Europe sponsor Bet 365) in tonight’s game, Wisla nevertheless has got to take great pride in its achievements this season after literally not even knowing they’d compete in The Continent’s top female league with two weeks to go before the season.
Similar might be said of UMMC Ekaterinburg, undoubtedly one of the most successful women’s basketball franchises in the world as of late, i.e. the team’s the thing. By making the final four in 2010, Ekaterinburg has clinched its third consecutive EL Women Final Four.
A third consecutive bronze-medal finish wouldn’t be too surprising for the pride-inducing team, either, as these ladies draw the best women’s team money can buy, a.k.a. Spartak Moscow region. Though Cappie Pondexter contends that the team is “definitely improved when we added Celine Dumerc, Ann Wauters and Candace Parker to the roster,” the UMMCers have more than once looked like Cappie and a cast of thousands this season. Coach Gundars Vetra will reportedly be looking to constant rotation switches in an attempt to keep up with Spartak: a tactic he employed this week in a friendly against Zaragoza.
But boy, does Spartak Moscow look tough. With hee-yooge American names like Diana Taurasi (23.7 points, 5.2 boards, 3.8 assists in 30 minutes per Euroleague games), Sue Bird (9.3 ppg, 3.9 apg in half a season), Janel McCarville (10.6 ppg and 6.1 rpg to go with 4.0 stocks – steals plus blocks, courtesty Bill Simmons – per EL Women game) and Sylvia Fowles (14.9 ppg and 9.0 rpg) driving this squad, the Russian team seems a shoo-in to advance to the finals.
In an even more comfortable situation is home team Ros Casares; the Valencia outfit has played in this tournament for eight consecutive seasons now and has reached the final four just once previously. That was back in 2007, when the team finished second. With homecourt advantage and Spain’s general dominance in European basketball in the men’s and women’s game, the setup has never been more fortuituous, nor the pressure ever greater on Ros Casares.
For a good article on the Ros Casares, please check out player Anna “The X-Factor” Montanana’s piece at the FIBA Europe website. By giving nicknames like “The Creator,” “The Beast,” and “The Black Spider,” Montanana has just made her team about ten times more badass than it was last week.
Spartak Moscow region vs. UMMC Ekaterinburg will be played in Valencia tonight at 6.30pm local time; Ros Casares vs. Wisla Can-Pack tips off at 8.45pm.