The pre-season script continues to be torn up in EuroLeague Women as some unfancied teams flourish whilst some favourites are left floundering.
Amanda Lassiter is leading the EuroLeague Women in blocked shots
MAGNIFICENT USO MONDEVILLE
I didn't hold out much hope for USO Mondeville when I penned the previews ahead of the new season, explaining they might struggle to keep their heads above water. But, they have made me eat my words and are virtually walking on water instead of drowning as some expected. Yes, they are sitting pretty at 2-0 in the toughest group of the first round.
Their defence has been impeccable, helped by a tournament-high six blocks per game. Half of those are due to veteran forward Amanda Lassiter who is enjoying herself in a big way during her rookie EuroLeague Women season. They have also finished clinically around the hoop and just done the simple things really well.
Maximum credit must go to Herve Coudray for preparing his team and he has reminded us of why he was the French Coach Of The Season last year and also why he has such a good reputation within the game.
I said this season would be a learning curve for USO Mondeville, but there are no better learning outcomes than developing a winning habit. With just two weeks gone, they have as many wins as most had expected them to deliver.
Oui, c'est magnifique!
Iceland may not be the biggest name in women's basketball, but it's great to see the continued development of one of their finest exports - namely Helena Sverrisdottir. Now in her second season at Good Angels Kosice, she chose a good time to post the best performance of her career in the tournament, with an excellent contribution to help her team grind out a narrow win at Arras.
I like what Kosice did in retaining her and some other players from last season and after a solid if unspectacular first campaign, the next task for the versatile swingman is to find some consistency.
In a wider sense, I always like to see players fly the flag at the elite level for the smaller basketball nations out there.
BIG GUNS DRAW BLANKS
As I shamefully look at my terrible position in the beautifully addictive FIBA Europe Predictor Game, I console myself that USK Prague and Wisla Can-Pack are 0-6 for the season. It's a truly mind-blowing statistic and one which few people could have seen coming.
The former now embarks on four successive road games which you sense they must negotiate with a 3-1 record, whilst Wisla has the unenviable next two games of Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje at home and Rivas Ecopolis away.
Tina Charles announced her arrival with a real fanfare with that monstrous double-double for Wisla although ironically, it was a player Jose Hernandez used to coach in Salamanca in the form of Nicole Ohlde whose double-double meant more as Brno took the win.
I must also say an interesting element of the Wisla and Brno game was the candid comments afterwards from both Veronika Vlkova who made the big-shot to win the game in overtime, and her head coach Jan Bobrovsky.
The pair were quite scathing (perhaps sub-conciously) about Wisla and their use of Charles. Bobrovsky said, "We won thanks to an all-round performance," and continued, "We were surprised that Charles made 32 points. She is a player of great calibre. But the other four players are watching how she plays."
Vlkova added, "Krakow played the whole game through Charles. She played by herself. In the last quarter, we helped together to defend Charles. The rest of the Polish team was not able to get into the game."
Strong stuff indeed although to balance this, Wisla should have put the game to bed during the last seconds of regulation, and had they done so, Charles' name and numbers would have been the headline. It's a fine line.
The main point is that both winless USK Prague and Wisla Can-Pack are living and breathing proof of what a beautifully unrelenting and tough competition EuroLeague Women actually is.
Romane Bernies played for the French U20 team last summer and is currently enjoying big minutes in the EuroLeague Women
Whilst UE Sopron couldn't quite outlast Schio, they did at least give a EuroLeague Women debut to 1995 born guard Vivien Böröndy - a name to keep an eye on for the future. The same can be said of Karolina Puss of CCC Polkowice who also stepped out briefly to make her debut in the competition having just recently celebrated her 18th birthday.
French playmaker Romane Bernies is one player to have made the most of some extra court time so far this season. The teenager has scored 13 points across the first three games for Bourges, and is probably one of the most blessed young players anywhere in world basketball. There must be few things better than being able to hone your skills and learn from one of the best in Celine Dumerc.
Finally, having mentioned the work of USO Mondeville earlier, it would be remiss of me not to highlight the contribution of Aminata Konate during her first two games in the tournament. She has not missed a single shot, making a triple, a free-throw and three shots inside.
I haven't checked, but right now, I suspect she is the only EuroLeague Women player with a perfect shooting record and certainly the only one perfect who has played a healthy 14 minutes per game!