With the EuroCup Women season about to begin we break down and analyse all eight groups. First up are Groups A to D.
Group A - BLMA, Chevakata, CSM Satu Mare & SISU
|Ana Lelas and BLMA are back in the EuroCup Women after a solid season in the EuroLeague Women, making them one of the favourites in the competition|
One of the teams installed as a frontrunner to land the title this season are Basket Lattes Montpellier Agglomeration. The French team are still unbeaten domestically, performed well in the EuroLeague Women last season and have superb players with a great blend of experience and youth - even just in the context of the French players.
They have Olympic silver medallists Edwige Lawson and Emilie Gomis, rising and maturing stars such as Ana Cata-Chitiga and an U18 European Championship Women gold medal winner in Lidija Turcinovic. Throw in the presence of another Olympian in the shape of the irrepressible Croatian forward Ana Lelas and the pending return to action of Kristen Mann, and they are a team with the capacity to take the title.
The other favourites are BC Chevakata Vologda who have a Belarus national team stand-out in Katsiaryna Snytsina as well as last year's leading rebounder Yuliya Kiseleva. With the addition of Glory Johnson and Jasmine Thomas, they will be expected to progress.
Destined to miss out are Romanian side CSM Satu Mare and Danish club SISU Basketball Gentofte. The former in particular will be hopeful they can cause an upset, especially with the free-scoring Serbian Dara Kovacevic returning to the tournament after a two-year absence, Romanian national team player Annemarie Parau on board and their American duo Khadijah Whittington and Shanika Freeman.
SISU Basketball are one of the minnows of the competition in terms of pedigree, but at least managed to get a victory at the sixth and final attempt during last year's rookie campaign. It might be much more difficult this year despite the Gentofte club drafting in two players from the United States in Nathalie Reshard and Marie Malone, who are expected to lead the Danish players on the team.
Group B - Hainaut Basket, Ted Ankara, Olimpia Grodno & Lotto Young Cats
|Amanda Houts and Hainaut Basket will try to brush aside a rough start in the French league and get back on track with added EuroCup Women experience|
This Group looks relatively open- or at least on current form. Most people would have made French club Hainaut Basket favourites but they have had a worrying start domestically with four losses in their first five games. Still, EuroCup Women gives them something fresh to focus on and may help them discover a winning formula.
Stefanie Murphy and returning point guard Amanda Houts are the reference players right now as the club tries to limit the impact of French national team player Clemence Beikes being side-lined with an injury.
Optimum TED Ankara made the post-season last year before being dumped out in the Eighth-Finals by MBK Ruzomberok. They could again get out of the first phase with the offensive production of Ana Dabovic who averaged over 20 points per game two seasons ago when with Dynamo-GUVD. With a solid if unspectacular core of Turkish players though, success won't be guaranteed.
Both Belorussian club Olimpia Grodno and Belgian side Lotto Young Cats will rely on rising talent to get wins. The former will pin their hopes on Maryia Filonchyk whilst FIBA Europe Young Player Of The Year Emma Meesseman flying the nest means Lotto Young Cats have an almost immeasurable void to fill.
They do have other players who can pick up the slack including a host of senior national team players such as forward duo Jana Raman and Sofie Hendrickx whilst In terms of even younger players, Julie Vanloo, Antonia Delaere and Emmanuela Mayombo in particular are where the key to success will lie.
Group C - Tarbes GB, Mersin, Spartak Noginsk & Belfius Namur
It was a painful season for Tarbes Gespe Bigorre last year in the Euroleague Women when they failed to harvest a solitary win from 12 games. But, they may enjoy a more fruitful time in the EuroCup Women and emerge unscathed from Group C - even if their 1-4 record in the French League is cause for concern. Paoline Salagnac will be the player to make Tarbes tick along with Angelica Robinson.
Mersin Büyüksehir Belediye will strongly fancy their chances to top the group since they can once again utilise the immense scoring power of recently crowned WNBA champion Shavonte Zellous, who will not be available in the first outing against Tarbes due to the long play-off run in the WNBA. At the other end of the spectrum, be sure to follow the progress of Merve Aydin, a teenage guard with incredible court smarts who won a first ever women's youth medal for Turkey at the U20 European Championship Women in Debrecen - despite being younger than most of her team-mates.
Spartak Noginsk and Belfius Namur won't be expected to advance although this looks more the case with the Russian club who looks threadbare in quality and are favourites to finish bottom of the standings in the Russian league. The Belgian club meanwhile can at least boast the likes of Mali national team centre Djenebou Sissoko who will make a belated debut in European club competition.
|Anastasia Shilova posted great numbers for a young player in the Dynamo GUVD jersey last season and is expected to be a leader this year|
Group D - TSV Wasserburg, Nantes Reze, Dynamo-GUVD & BBC SKW
Much has been made of the return to the competition by the ambitious TSV 1880 Wasserburg and they certainly have the capacity to surprise and even progress in Group D. Head coach Bastian Wernthaler has tried to temper expectations by labelling his team as underdogs, but they should be quietly confident with German national team star Anne Breitreiner back on board.
Nantes Reze are probably favourites after four wins from their first five games in the French League. They have Latvian veteran Gunta Basko-Melnbarde, former French national team player Marielle Amant and playmaker Caroline Aubert. They have however had to cope with the disappointment of losing Belarus forward Tatyana Troina who has been ruled out for the season due to injury.
Dynamo-GUVD Novosibirsk can't be discounted with the return of the very productive Tatiana Petrushina and Anastasiya Shilova, a young duo who helped propel the Novosibirsk club into the play-offs last year. Natalia Myasoedova will probably still be the main driving force having averaged a double-double last season although the club has also drafted in American playmaker Yvonne Turner and forward Sidney Spencer.
Finally, fans of women's youth basketball everywhere will be looking forward to seeing 1995 born Belgian sensation Hind Ben Abdelkader back in the competition having switched from Dexia Namur to BBC Sint-Katelijne-Waver. She is also joined at her new club by another rising star in the shape of 1996 born centre Kyra Linskens.