Fantasy Basketball

FIBA EuroLeague Women: Praha, Avenida to play for Group A No. 2 seed

There are just a few weeks remaining in the 2021-22 EuroLeague Women regular season and with the playoffs just over a month away (Feb. 23) clubs still in postseason contention will be spending the remaining time either fighting to qualify or jockeying for the highest possible postseason seeding.

Perfumerias Avenida (8-2) and ZVVZ USK Praha (8-3) are not only two of the strongest teams in the international circuit — they’re also neck-and-neck in the Group A standings, with just a half game separating them. While UMMC Ekaterinburg (11-0) technically hasn’t clinched the top overall seed in Group A just yet, it seems inevitable that the Russian superteam will finish atop the standings, making Wednesday’s game between Avenida and Praha even more crucial.

Incidentally, both Avenida and Praha have given Ekaterinburg a run for its money in their respective matchups earlier in the season, with Praha falling on a last-second buzzer-beater in Week 4 and Avenida narrowly dropping a big-time shootout in Week 7. Praha wasn’t able to muster the same effort last week, however, finding itself on the rare losing end of a double-digit result without Alyssa Thomas in the lineup.

Avenida, meanwhile, is coming off a massive 110-69 victory over Umana Reyer. Kahleah Copper continued her stellar international play, leading the way with 29 points, while Katie Lou Samuelson chipped in a season-high 23. As a club, Avenida shot 18-for-30 (60 percent) on 3-pointers, and is now averaging 81.2 points per game, good for third in EuroLeague Women.

Speaking of American imports, the revolving door that is Galatasaray (4-6) continues moving, though one would hope the Turkish club will be able to hang on to its latest signing. Kelsey Plum was recently brought aboard after Riquna Williams left the team. It may be too late for Galatasaray to sneak into the EuroLeague Women playoffs, but a fifth- or sixth-place finish would at least yield a EuroCup Women playoff berth, thus barring a complete disaster for the storied club.

Plum’s potential debut, the Avenida vs. Praha clash and all other EuroLeague Women games will be streamed live and for free on the official EuroLeague Women YouTube channel. Unfortunately, several of the week’s games had to be postponed due to COVID-19-related circumstances:

All other games scheduled for this week will be played as scheduled. Let’s preview the rest of the action.

Wednesday, January 19

Sopron Basket (6-4) vs. Dynamo Kursk (6-4)

When: 11 a.m. ET

Where: Sport Concert Complex, Kursk

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Gabby Williams, Shey Peddy, Briann January, Bernadett Határ (Sopron Basket); Arike Ogunbowale, Natasha Howard, Epiphanny Prince, Eva Lisec (Dynamo Kursk)

Matchup details: There are currently four teams in Group B with 6-4 records, and Sopron and Kursk are two of them, making this a compelling matchup as both will be fighting for postseason seeding. If the EuroLeague Women playoffs started today, Kursk wouldn’t qualify according to the competition’s tiebreaker rules, so the Russian club has some work to do. Sopron won the first of the season’s meetings between these two teams, thanks largely in part to a 30-9 first quarter. Kursk simply can’t afford to start cold again.

BLMA (5-5) vs. TTT Riga (5-6)

When: 12 p.m. ET

Where: Rimi Olympic Centre, Riga

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Olivia Epoupa, Haley Peters, Sydney Wallace (BLMA); Daugilė Šarauskaitė, Ieva Pulvere (TTT Riga)

Matchup details: With the top three postseason seeds in Group A all but decided, both BLMA and Riga are fighting for their playoff lives, currently ranked fifth and fourth in the group, respectively. BLMA took advantage of poor Riga offense (29.8 percent shooting) back in Week 5, but has struggled to stay above .500 since then; Riga, meanwhile, has sneakily patched together, winning two games in a row to keep its postseason hopes alive. Riga ranks dead last in the competition in scoring (58.8 points per game), so if BLMA gets the pace of the game to its liking, the Latvian club could be in trouble.

Basket Landes (3-7) vs. VBW Arka Gdynia (2-8)

When: 12 p.m. ET

Where: Gdynia Arena, Gdynia

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Sophie Cunningham, Marianna Tolo, Regan Magarity, Marine Fauthoux (Basket Landes); Megan Gustafson, Morgan Bertsch, Alice Kunek (VBW Arka Gdynia)

Matchup details: Landes ranks among the season’s biggest disappointments, having lost five games in a row dating back to early November. Its last win was against Gdynia, which has been even less impressive during the course of the EuroLeague Women regular season. That’s not to imply that there won’t be talent to watch for in this one; Gustafson and Bertsch are one of the top frontcourt duos in the competition, and they’ll be going against its second-leading rebounder (9.6 per game) in Magarity.

Spar Girona (6-4) vs. Galatasaray (4-6)

When: 12 p.m. ET

Where: Şehit Mustafa Özel Spor Kompleksi, Istanbul

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Kennedy Burke, Michaela Onyenwere, Rebekah Gardner, Laia Palau (Spar Girona); Kaela Davis, Kelsey Plum, Tina Krajišnik, Anete Šteinberga (Galatasaray)

Matchup details: Neither Girona nor Galatasaray has played since the competition’s holiday break, which started in late December. Galatasaray, in particular, needs this win badly; though the EuroLeague Women playoffs are just about out of reach by now, an appearance in the EuroCup Women playoffs would at least give the Turkish club, which has lost four in a row, something to look forward to. Girona, meanwhile, has been a pleasant surprise; while not dominant (+7 cumulative point differential), its prospects for making the EuroLeague Women playoffs look good and will look even better if it can win this game. If Plum is ready to go for her new team, that will add even more fuel to the fire.

ZVVZ USK Praha (8-3) vs. Perfumerias Avenida (8-2)

When: 2:30 p.m. ET

Where: Pabellón Municipal Würzburg, Salamanca

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Alyssa Thomas, Brionna Jones, Maria Conde (ZVVZ USK Praha); Kahleah Copper, Katie Lou Samuelson, Karlie Samuelson, Bella Alarie, Emese Hof, Silvia Dominguez, Maite Cazorla (Perfumerias Avenida)

Matchup details: Praha’s recent loss to Ekaterinburg broke a lengthy streak of blowout victories, which included an 80-55 drubbing of Avenida back in Week 5. Of course, with Copper in the fold, Avenida is considerably more dangerous than it was back then and if Thomas is still on the bench for Praha it would further swing things in Avenida’s favor. If that’s the case, look for Conde (17.5 points per game) to pick up the scoring slack for Praha.

Saturday, January 22

VBW Arka Gdynia (2-8) vs. Beretta Famila Schio (6-4)

When: 1:30 p.m. ET

Where: Palazzetto Livio Romare, Schio

How to watch: FIBA YouTube live stream

Notable players: Megan Gustafson, Morgan Bertsch, Alice Kunek (VBW Arka Gdynia); Diamond DeShields, Charli Collier, Sandrine Gruda, Kitija Laksa, Kim Mestdagh (Beretta Famila Schio)

Matchup details: This game was originally scheduled to be played last week, but COVID-19-related disruptions forced it to be postponed. Schio has won four of its past five games, its most recent victory coming over Sopron by the slimmest of margins. That was back on Dec. 21. Gdynia, meanwhile, will have had just days since its previous EuroLeague Women game, travel included. It’s not a favorable spot for the Polish club, to say the least.

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