| ||Dominique Faurie has covered women's basketball all over Europe and will write regularly for FIBAEurope.com during the EuroLeague season. |
Last week, we talked about the important numbers ahead of the Final Four. Now, let's talk about words, and no I don't mean words like tapas or sangria.
We have to learn from history, and so I went to the archives, but we also have to live in the present, and that's why I asked 10 players who played in EuroLeague Women this season if they think that the Russian club who qualifies for the Final will win. Here's what they had to say, as all of them are expecting a big weekend for basketball.
Home court is no doubt a real bonus. In the last 10 years, five time the organizing team has won: Spartak in 2007, Brno in 2006, Samara in 2005, Brno in 2002 and Ruzomberok in 2000.
17 players who played this season with the four finalists were last season on a roster in Brno for the Final Four, and they all play for the two Russian giants (eight from Spartak and nine from Ekateriburg). Taurasi, Jackson, Bird, Shchegoleva, Miller, Karpunina, Osipova, Anderson for Spartak. Bibrzycka, Gruda, Jones, Taylor, Nolan, Abrosimova, Leuchanka, Rakhmatulina and Vodopianova for Ekaterinburg. Notice that both coaches have changed with Ratgeber now leading Spartak and Vetra on the sidelines for Ekaterinburg.
Spartak will try to win a third consecutive title in Salamanca. It's a feat that has not been accomplished since Vicenze before many of the players now competeing were even born (four straight victories between 1985 and 1988). The real specialist is Riga nabbed 12 victories between 1964 and 1975. Many clubs failed on their third attempt after two tittles: Ruzomberok in 2001, Bourges in 1999, Como in 1996 and Valencia in 1994.
We asked some EuroLeague Women players if the winner of the semi-final between Spartak and Ekaterinburg is sure to be the champion. They all said yes. Amaya Valdemoro and Lisa Aguilar of Ros Casares, Milica Dabovic of Besiktas, Liene Jansone of Brno, Aurime Rinkeviciute and Gintare Petronyte of Vilnius, Sheana Mosch of Montpellier, Evanthia Maltsi of Prague and Edwige Lawson and Alexandra Gorbunova of CSKA Moscow all agreed that one way or the other the Russians will rule the roost in Salamanca.
While everyone agrees a Russian club will win there is less of a consensus on which team it will be. Some sit on the fence and don't want to make a prediction. The results for our 10 player panel are split down the middle at 3-3, with four who won't commit. You want my opinion? SpartakatEkaterinburg, a new club will win the trophy.
Evanthia Maltsi breaks it down this way: "This year Ekaterinburg have a way deeper roster than Spartak. UMMC is the most complete team in the competition and if we just remember that they won the Russian cup against Spartak, that tells a lot!" Even if the rules regarding the number of foreign players are different in National competitions and EuroLeague Women. "On the other hand," says Maltsi "I think that Spartak has better chemistry as a team and they want to take revenge for the Russian Cup and defend their EuroLeage Women title as well ! I really don't know who it's gonna be, but if I had to choose I would say Spartak."
Edwige Lawson, a former winner with Valenciennes and Samara, knows the two teams. She met them in Russia with CSKA Moscow. For her, the key is the inside play: "Both teams are very, very good. Spartak hasn't been playing its best basketball lately and that might not be good for Ekaterinburg because they might be motivated to get their form back. In my opinion, if Lauren Jackson plays well then Spartak will win. But if Ekaterinburg's post players dominate, they will win it."
Sheana Mosch like Spartak but understands it's a fine line: "Spartak is a complete team, with great players at every position. So it's difficult to beat a team that well equipped. But if one team isn't ready and doesn't play well (no matter who it is) it could be the end of their season."
And let's finish with Elisa Aguilar. The point-guard of Valencia knows Spartak well, losing in three exciting games in the Quarter-Finals to Fowles and Co. She's also the only one who has beaten Ekaterinburg this season in EuroLeague Women. "It will be the normal result if Spartak or Ekaterinburg win the Final Four," Elisa says "They have more players and their budgets are double or even more than Sopron and Perfumerias Avenidas. Also, they are used to playing and winning the Final Four so they are used to the pressure."
And all the Spanish player are of course familiar with Salamanca and now feel more like fans than rivals: "I think Perfumerias Avenidas are going to make the final, and beating them in their gym is going to be very difficult because their fans are very loud and take their team to the next level. In one game anything can happen. I wish the best luck to Avenidas!!!
The best wish, and final word, is for Evanthia Maltsi :
"Lets have basketball win in any case"
Dominique Faurie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org