A guide to the EuroLeague Women 2018 Final Four
Following the WNBA Draft 2018, the next big event on the women’s basketball calendar is the EuroLeague Women Final Four. This year’s edition will be held in Sopron, Hungary, a city of just 61,000 tucked into the far Northwest corner of Hungary, right along the Austrian border. And it just so happens that Sopron Basket, the city’s premier women’s basketball squad, has made a surprise run to the Final Four.
With all of the excitement just a few days away, let’s take a look at everything you need to know about this thrilling event.
Semi-finals are on Friday, April 20
- Semi-final #1: Dynamo Kursk vs. UMMC Ekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET
- Semi-final #2: Sopron Basket vs. Yakin Dogu Universitesi, 2 p.m ET
Third-place and title games are on Sunday, April 22
- Third-place game: Loser of SF1 vs. Loser of SF2, 11 a.m. ET
- Title game: Winner of SF1 vs. Winner of SF2, 2 p.m. ET
Where: Sopron, Hungary
How to watch: Youtube.com/FIBA
OK, wait, what exactly is EuroLeague Women?
Glad you asked. If you’re familiar with the Champions League in soccer, EuroLeague Women is the women’s basketball equivalent. Each year, the top teams from all the domestic leagues across Europe get together to play a concurrent league (or tournament or competition or whatever you want to call it). It starts with a group stage, then moves on to the playoffs, which end with the Final Four.
Are WNBA players involved?
Absolutely. You will find WNBA players in the lineups of most top teams in Europe. (As well as Asia and Australia.) The teams competing in this year’s Final Four are no different. Here’s a quick rundown of all the WNBA talent participating this weekend.
Dynamo Kursk (Russia)
- Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks
- Maria Vadeeva, Los Angeles Sparks (2018 1st round pick)
- Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta Dream
- Epiphanny Prince, New York Liberty
UMMC Ekaterinburg (Russia)
- Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury
- Sancho Lyttle, Phoenix Mercury
- Raisa Musina, Phoenix Mercury (2018 2nd round pick)
- Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx
- Emma Meesseman, Washington Mystics (Meesseman will be sitting out the 2018 WNBA season)
- Jamierra Faulkner, Chicago Sky
- Kristi Toliver, Washington Mystics
Sopron Basket (Hungary)
- Yvonne Turner, Phoenix Mercury
- Alaina Coates, Chicago Sky
- Aleksandra Crvendakic, Seattle Storm
Yakin Dogu Universitesi (Turkey)
- Courtney Vandersloot, Chicago Sky
- Kayla McBride, Las Vegas Aces
- Jantel Lavender, Los Angeles Sparks
Who should I cheer for?
Now, this is a great question. It’s always more enjoyable to watch a sporting event when you have a rooting interest. Assuming that you don’t already support a European side, here’s a few quick ways to decide who to back in the Final Four.
The easiest way to make that decision is to follow your favorite WNBA team’s players. If you’re an Atlanta Dream fan, then go for Angel McCoughtry’s Dynamo Kursk, or perhaps if you back the Aces, you can follow Kayla McBride to YDU.
But what if your WNBA team has players on multiple teams in the Final Four? Or if you don’t have a favorite WNBA team at all? Well here’s a quick guide.
Dynamo Kursk and UMMC Ekaterinburg: For the sake of brevity, we’ll just lump these two powerhouses together. Basically, choosing either of these sides is like jumping into the NBA and cheering for the Warriors. Kursk are the defending champs and haven’t lost a EuroLeague game since the 2015–16 campaign. Meanwhile, Ekaterinburg, who won it all in 2016, went out and added Maya Moore to their roster for the playoffs this season. Look, everyone has to make their own decisions regarding morality, but supporting one of these teams is taking the easy way out.
Sopron Basket: This is your classic underdog story. Sopron have only one previous Final Four appearance — back in 2009 — in the club’s history, and are not blessed with a bottomless checkbook, nor a roster full of stars. Yet that hasn’t mattered this season. Led by dynamite head coach, Roberto Iniguez, veteran point guard Yvonne Turner, and a pair of Serbians, Jelena Milovanovic and Aleksandra Crvendakic, Sopron have made an unforgettable run to the Final Four. And if the story couldn’t get any better, they were long ago chosen as the hosts for this year’s event. If you want to back an underdog with a great story, look no further.
Yakin Dogu Universitesi: YDU made history this season by making the Final Four in their first ever EuroLeague campaign. But this is no cinderella run. YDU are legit. They completed a treble last season, winning the Turkish league, the Turkish Cup and the EuroCup (the second-tier version of EuroLeague). And they have true WNBA stars on the roster in Courtney Vandersloot, Kayla McBride and Jantel Lavender. If you’re interested in supporting a high-scoring, efficient side, and want to “get in” early on a potential dynasty in the making, here’s your team.
Who are some players to follow closely?
If you are new to women’s basketball and the list of WNBA players above doesn’t mean much to you, or if you’d rather just follow players instead of teams, here are a few players from each team to pay attention to.
- Angel McCoughtry: The Atlanta Dream star sat out the 2017 WNBA season to rest, so most fans haven’t seen her in a while. But she’s one of the best scorers in the world, and can put up points in a hurry.
- Maria Vadeeva: The young Russian was just selected №11 overall in the 2018 WNBA Draft by the Sparks. This will be a good chance for Sparks fans — and WNBA fans in general — to get a look at the skilled center.
- Maya Moore: This doesn’t need much explanation. Moore is the best women’s basketball player on the planet right now.
- Brittney Griner: Again, this doesn’t need much explaining. Griner is one of the two or three best bigs in the world, and can take over a game defensively.
- Alba Torrens: Torrens might not be familiar to many American fans, but the Spanish star is probably the best player who doesn’t play in the WNBA.
- Yvonne Turner: The veteran point guard burst onto the scene during last season’s WNBA playoffs as a 31-year-old rookie. She’s kept the momentum going and has had a strong season going overseas.
- Alaina Coates: The №2 pick in the 2017 WNBA Draft, Coates had to sit out the entire season due to a foot injury. This will be a good chance for Chicago Sky fans to see her in action.
Yakin Dogu Universitesi:
- Courtney Vandersloot: She quietly became the best point guard in the WNBA last season, and has been dominant overseas, where she leads EuroLeague in assists.
- Kayla McBride: The sharpshooter has flown under the radar in the WNBA the past few seasons because of how bad the Stars — now Aces — have been, but she can really fill it up.
Which team has the best mascot?
Another very important question. Let’s break it down, from worst to first.
YDU: They are apparently nicknamed the “Angels” but all attempts to find an actual physical mascot have been unsuccessful.
UMMC Ekaterinburg: The Russian side is represented by a fox. It’s not bad, but it’s pretty basic stuff.
Dynamo Kursk: So, Kursk’s mascot is some type of bird. It could be a blue jay maybe? It’s not exactly clear. But regardless of the exact species, it’s important to know that Kursk’s mascot is a sexy bird. Look at this guy, just absolutely ripped.
Sopron Basket: OK, the number one mascot here is easily Sopron’s bumblebee? Pretty sure it’s a bumblebee. Either way, it’s easily the funniest mascot because it looks like it’s off exactly three (3) weeds at all times.
Alright that pretty much covers everything you need to know. Here’s to a fun weekend of basketball.