EuroLeague Action Heating Up
Of the 23 teams currently competing in womenís EuroLeague action this season, eight feature 2011-12 USA Basketball Womenís National Team players and with five weeks remaining in the preliminary round, some teams are still fighting for second round spots, while others have them virtually locked up.
Unlike the years when Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi teamed up in Moscow to lead Spartak to four consecutive EuroLeague titles (2007-10), teams this season are more evenly balanced and itís anyoneís guess as to who will advance as this seasonís champion. The early season favorites, the stacked and much-hyped Ros Casares Valencia, have two losses on its record, but will be getting Maya Moore after the holidays. With a 8-1 mark, Galatasaray Medical Park, featuring the tandem of Tina Charles and Taurasi, has one of the best records in the league. Gala trails only Fenerbache, also based in Istanbul, which is undefeated at 7-0 in Group B.
So, with five games left and only the top four in each of the three first-round groups assured of advancing to the next round, how are the USA National Team players and their European squads faring?
As mentioned above, Charles and Taurasi have Gala sitting atop Group A with an 8-1slate, its only loss coming at the hands of Ros Casares in Istanbul. However, it was a strong statement by Ros as the visitors had an easy time after jumping out to a quick 22-13 start and rolling to a 76-46 win. In that game Taurasi was her teamís only double-digit scorer with 14 points. Unless Gala gets upset by UMMC Ekaterinburg next week, the final game in this round will likely determine the top team out of Group A as Gala travels to Valencia on Feb. 1 to try and even the score against Ros.
|For more information on the USA National Team members in EuroLeague action, click each player for their EuroLeague statistics.|
Currently Ros has no USA National Team member on its roster, but have signed Moore and will be bolstered by her post-holiday arrival.
Currently sitting in third place in Group A with a very strong probability of advancing is UMMC Ekaterinburg, which owns a 6-3 record thanks in part to Candace Parker and Cappie Pondexter. However, Bourges Basket (4-5), in need of a few more wins to keep its playoff hopes alive, dug deep and upset Ekat this week, 79-74. The Russian clubís previous losses were to the two teams ahead of it in the standings, Gala (84-65) and Ros (60-52), both of which were away games. Ekat hasnít lost at home this season and has rematches with both clubs on the horizon, Gala next week and Ros on Jan. 25.
The final team in Group A that counts a USA National Team member among its ranks is the 5-4 ZVVZ USK Prague, which fell to Gala this week, 75-67. However, much like Ros, Prague is still awaiting the arrival of Lindsay Whalen. It should be noted that two-time Olympic gold medalist DeLisha Milton-Jones is leading the Prague side in points and rebounds, averaging 15.6 ppg. and 7.6 rpg.
The only teams in Group B with a current USA team player are Fenerbache, which is 7-0 with the help of Angel McCoughtry, and Nadezhda, the club for which Charles played last year and currently lists Rebekkah Brunon on its roster. The Russian side is sitting in second place in the pool with a 5-3 record.
With the exception of Fener and last place Tarbes G.B. (0-7), this pool is wide open for the advancing slots. Two teams own 5-3 records, one is 4-4 and the other two are 3-5. †
Former EuroLeague big dogs Spartak Moscow Region, which went undefeated just two years ago, already have three losses on their record, but sit in second place in the pool with a 6-3 mark. Seimone Augustus and Candice Dupree are Spartakís top two scorers, averaging 16.4 ppg. and 15.0 ppg., respectively, but will need some more help from their supporting cast in the upcoming rounds. Additionally, Asjha Jones and Rivas Ecopolis are sitting in a three-way tie for the third spot in the group with a 5-4 record, while Kia Vaughn and her Cras Basket Taranto outfit are struggling in seventh with a 3-6 mark.