|Tina Charles going past Isabelle Yacoubou in the first round game between Nadezhda and Beretta Famila Schio|
By Paul Nilsen
While Group D is a done deal in terms of who is making it to the knockout phase of the tournament, there are few games in the last two rounds of action which better underline the importance of positioning.
Beretta-Famila Schio are a team who were hyped up during the summer but have arguably not quite lived up to their billing with some scrappy and often ugly wins, while Nadezhda are the dark horses on a real roll having endured a tough initiation back in the elite at the start of the campaign.
Both clubs have the potential to do well during the next phase of the competition and Final Four is certainly no dream for this duo but a realistic proposition. However, their respective chances of following in the footsteps of MKB EuroLeasing and Wisla Can Pack who have bagged spots at Final Four alongside the bona-fide powerhouses of the competition could well rest on their final positions in the group.
With just two games to play and no one team dominating Group D, this match-up is critical. A win for Schio and they are well set for at least a third place finish while a road win would take Nadezhda onto the same 5 and 4 record as their hosts with a game to play and as everyone knows, there can be a world of difference between meeting the second rather than the first team in another group.
Equally intriguing is that this contest takes place between two of the best three rebounding teams in EuroLeague Women and consequently it will be a ferocious battle on the glass.
Nadezhda are the best shot blockers in the tournament and won't pressure the ball around the perimeter as much as Schio whose strength lies in the backcourt. This could be one of the most hard-nosed games of the season to date and will be a real test for both teams and an interesting gauge of their true potential.
Previous Meeting - Nadezhda won 56-54 in Orenburg to get their first win of the season at the fourth attempt.
The Form - Beretta-Famila Schio are in third place in the group with a 5 and 4 record while in the Italian league they are the current leaders having lost just once in 11 games. Nadezhda meanwhile have won their last three games including a road win at Ros Casares and are 4 and 4 in fourth spot. Domestically they lie in joint second spot with Sparta&K MR Vidnoje on 9-2 behind leaders UMMC Ekaterinburg.
Perimeter & Penetration - One of the most familiar faces in World Basketball pulls the strings in the Nadezhda backcourt in the form of Becky Hammon who has been showing her class with a superb 4.6 assists per game. While essentially a forward, the perimeter play of Shameka Christon has been impressive and she is stepping outside regularly and knocking them down which is a factor that will have to be watched by the home team. Olga Ovcharenko and Elena Berseneva will also be a threat. For Schio, Liron Cohen who experienced Final Four last season is beginning to find a groove and she remains both the main playmaker and main danger from outside. Elisabetta Moro and Chiara Pastore provide support while the same can be said of the experienced Raffaella Masciadri although she has not been as productive as she might have liked so far this year. Maja Erkic meanwhile is a flexible guard/forward who has found decent minutes this year and is a key member of the Schio team.
In The Paint - A superb battle on the boards lies in wait and there is likely to be as physical a battle in this one as you will see all season long. Nadezhda arrive with the exciting young talent of rookie Tina Charles who has already racked up six double-doubles and proven herself as an absolute powerhouse. Operating alongside her is another promising and exciting young player in 23 year old Anastasiya Verameyenka. The Belarus player is the best shot-blocker in the competition with a stunning 30 blocks and has been terrific although she has been quiet in the last couple of games. Throw in the capable services of Liudmila Sapova and the frontcourt of the visitors is as strong as you will find in the tournament. Schio meanwhile also have a big frontcourt with more experience and depth. French center Isabelle Yacoubou-Dehoui has been rock solid all year and arguably the best player on the team while fellow five spot player Janel McCarville has yet to find top gear but is a Final Four winner who might just explode when we get to the business end of the season. The magic of Laura Macchi is always a threat although she too, like compatriot Masciadri hasn't produced her best form to date offensively but has been solid defensively while Jenifer Nadalin offers further options.
The Hot Hands - Liron Cohen is warming up nicely for Schio. Having failed to reach double figures during her first three games this season, she has averaged over 15 points per game during the last four weeks in 25 minutes of action. Tina Charles meanwhile has just been sensational in just about every game all season long and she looks like she is a special talent who could potentially dominate for years to come.
The ‘X Factors' - Schio can't afford to allow Nadezhda to add to their interior threat by shooting the ball well from outside as well. The hosts will have to lock down the three-point threat since the Russian side are a decent three-point shooting team. In contrast, Nadezhda can't keep throwing the ball away as the stakes get higher. They are still the second worst team for looking after the ball in the tournament.
Rising Star Watch - While not our usual sub-21 year old which ordinarily we would highlight, it is worth remembering Tina Charles only turned 22 last month and she is already establishing herself as one of the new breed of EuroLeague Women stars coming through right now!
Did You Know? - Schio held Nadezhda to just four points in the final quarter of the first meeting!
What They Say
Nadezhda forward Liudmila Sapova: "This season Nadezhda have a great team , but we started no so good with just 1 win and 4 losses in EuroLeague Women. Maybe it was because we didn't have enough team-work at these moments or maybe it was for some other reasons. We both thought and spoke a lot about it with team meetings and worked out how we could improve our play. After that, we managed to win our next 3 games and we are hoping to continue this tendency in Italy. During the first game against Schio, we had been leading for the whole game but in the last quarter we almost fell down (it's happened with us often this season) and Schio had a chance to win but in the end, we won! We don't show our plans to the game before the game and you will see every thing when we tip-off. I just want to mention J-Mac as we used to play together with CSKA few years ago!"
Beretta-Famila Schio center Janell McCarville: "This is a very important game for us with Group D being so close and with only 2 games left. We cannot afford to drop one to a team that is right on our heels or since we have already lost to in Orenburg. We know their players are great and we know their ability. We just need to go out and play our game and try our best to limit their options and force them into difficult situations. They have a great post duo in Tina Charles and Anastasiya Verameyenka - I mean talk about twin towers in the paint! Add the guard play of Becky Hammon and Shameka Christon along with other solid Russians and by no means is this game a walk in the park!"