There's plenty to look forward to when the last eight teams in the EuroCup Women take to the floor and not least, a repeat of last year's Final.
|Temeka Johnson leads the EuroCup Women in assists, confidently running Dynamo Kursk's offense|
The locals in Kayseri will be hoping their hometown favourites can replicate the result from last season when they managed to ride out 69-55 winners against Kursk in the first leg of the Final. Whilst that didn't ultimately prove enough to clinch the precious silverware on offer, another similar result would be most welcome ahead of the second leg in Russia.
It will of course be tough for the Turkish club since Dynamo Kursk have proven themselves to be a powerful unit again this season and have some in-form players, including Epiphanny Prince, whose lowest score so far this season is 16 points. She brings plenty of scoring power to the table and indeed the entire Kursk roster is packed with real offensive firepower and so Kayseri will have to play exceptional defence if they want to progress.
The addition of Greek national team small forward Zoi Dimitrakou from Bourges Basket has given Kayseri a real boost and she has played particularly well of late, but much will depend on the match-up between Spanish playmaker Nuria Martinez and her counterpart Temeka Johnson. Martinez has work to do in slowing down her rival who leads the competition in assists with 6.6 per game.
These two former EuroLeague Women clubs have each enjoyed impressive domestic seasons and on paper, this looks arguably the most mouth-watering quarter-final. Dynamo Moscow are former winners of this competition and will be full of confidence since they are both riding high in the Russian League and recently grabbed the bronze medal at the Cup Final Four.
BLMA meanwhile are leading the French League after an electric first few months of the season, although will be relieved they dodged a bullet in the eighth-finals when they were pushed hard by Adana Botas.
This is a game which could be tight, although BLMA must ensure they match their opponents on the glass, since Dynamo Moscow have really done a great job on the boards all season long. In fact, they have an astonishing seven players on the roster who average five rebounds or more per game which is why they lead the competition in this category.
Still, BLMA have plenty to offer too and they should be pumped up for the game having lost their only game so far on their last trip to Russia against fellow quarter-finalist Chevakata, whilst they come into the contest off the back of only their second defeat of the season in the French League when they crashed to another fellow EuroCup Women quarter-finalist Hainaut Basket.
Geraldine Robert has been outstanding for the French side all year and shooting an amazing 69.4% from the field, so she will again be pivotal to their chances of progressing.
|Glory Johnson is enjoying an impressive debut season in the EuroCup Women|
Hainaut Basket may be locked in a relegation battle in the French League after a disastrous domestic campaign, but boosted by that exceptional success against leaders BLMA last weekend, they will head to Vologda with some real confidence. They can also take heart from their defensive capabilities which have seen them manage to stay pretty much in every game and grind out enough victories to get this far.
However, there have been a couple of key changes in the Hainaut camp since their eighth-final success, with two of their top three scorers in the shape of Stefanie Murphy and Vera Perostiyska departing and being replaced by Ifunanya Ibekwe and veteran Petra Stampalija.
Chevakata can reflect on their near miracle performance last time out when they came back from the dead against Antakya to again reach the quarter-finals. Central to that success was Glory Johnson and the player with a monumental season double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds per game will be the focal point for the hosts.
Nantes Reze are hoping to take the first step towards history when they play in Slovakia against MBK Ruzomberok. For having also qualified for the last eight of the competition a couple of years ago during their rookie season in the competition, they have never reached the semi-finals, something which if achieved, would represent their best ever European campaign.
In order to accomplish this mission, head coach Emmanual Coeuret must come up with a strategy to limit the impact of stand-out star Sequioa Holmes who is averaging 18.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, ensure his players successfully handle the severe ball pressure applied by Ruzomberok and the players also compete physically with their opponents.
"Ruzomberok are very physical. They play on energy," explained Coeuret. "I think it may be a match made for Bernie Ngoyisa.
"I see no equivalent in France for their tactical organisation and it will be a quarter-final of totally opposing styles."
He added: "There is no pressure on us. It's only a bonus that it could be historic for the club."
The first legs will be played on 16 and 17 January with the second leg games to be played on 23 and 24 January.