fibeurope.com women's basketball specialist Paul Nilsen takes a look back on a compelling EuroCup Women regular season.
|Elisabeth Egnell has been a key player for Norrköping, averaging 16.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game|
DOLPHINS DRAMA A PERFECT END
After the incredibly emotional and at times indescribably draining highs and lows of EuroBasket Women with the Swedish national team, head coach Lars Johansson was at it again in EuroCup Women. He must have aged about 20 years during this current calendar year, but unlike in France, it was a case of mission accomplished as Norrköping Dolphins made it to the Eighth-Finals.
Elisabeth Egnell is always an ‘X-Factor' player in any game and she came up with a marvellous display and 28 points to put the Dolphins through and fly the flag both for this year‘s debutantes and also encapsulating the excitement and unpredictability which has woven its way through this fabulous first phase.
Additionally, it was essential that the momentum continued for women's basketball in Sweden after EuroBasket Women and the Dolphins have managed to do this in what is turning out to be Swedish style - aka suspense and the shredding of nerves at every turn.
REPRIEVE FOR PEAC-PECS
Another debutante PEAC-Pecs, also had their emotions thrown into the equivalent of a EuroCup Women washing and drying machine. After the agony of a final quarter collapse at home to Villeneuve d'Ascq in their last game, it looked like they had thrown away a glorious opportunity to progress. But within an hour or two, the despair was replaced by joy as they squeezed into the last 16 as one of the best two third-placed teams.
Credit must go to Zeljko Djokic and his players because they have been phenomenal defensively and the best in the tournament in fact, giving up a meagre 57 points per game - even taking into account the 27 points they gave up in the last 10 minutes of their last game.
Of course had they not progressed because of one bad quarter when their trademark defence went AWOL, it would have been harsh, but nevertheless a reflection of life in elite level women's competitions when you get punished for switching off. Still, congratulations are due and especially for such a young team.
| Tina Charles and Dynamo Moscow are looking good to go far in the competition|
FAVOURITES STILL FLYING
It's difficult to look outside of three teams for the title having assessed the regular season. Both Dynamo Moscow and Istanbul Universitesi were pitched into the same group, beat everyone else and won their respective home games against each other. They look very powerful indeed and it would be a major surprise to me if one of these two didn't make the Final of the competition.
Certainly the reigning champions successfully defending their trophy is not out of the question with talent like Tina Charles, Lindsay Whalen, Ana Dabovic, Nadezhda Grishaeva and Tatiana Vidmer on hand. Istanbul Universitesi meanwhile just have such a confidence and solid all-round team-play about them. They have huge talent too, but do they have the staying power? Time will tell, but it's great to see experienced Turkish duo Nilay Kartaltepe and Tugba Palazoglu being so influential.
The other big favourite is Dynamo Kursk who are also dripping with talent and seem to have turned the corner under the watchful eye of Bo Overton, after a shambolic start in the Russian Premier League. On paper, I think they are maybe even the most talented team and certainly the best they have ever had, which bodes well.
PRIDE FOR WALLONIA
A third debutante Wallonia Basket were just edged out of a place in the Eighth-Finals and should take pride from their first-ever season in the competition. Importantly they won all three of their home games and treated their fans to a win against Tarbes Gespe Bigorre to sign off in style. They also had one of the standout players in Celeste Trahan who had 21.8 points and 12 rebounds per game, achieved brilliantly with the best shooting percentage in the tournament.
MBK RUZOMBEROK DIGGING DEEP
Wallonia were pipped by MBK Ruzomberok and I have to say the Slovakian side showed great heart, because they lost their marquee player Nadia Parker to injury and then also lost two of their first three games. It looked bleak, but Stefanie Murphy dug them out of a potential hole to great effect.
KHOMENCHUK BACK ON-SONG
Ukrainian center Aleksandra Khomenchuk was a tower of strength for Horizont Minsk, helping them top the group and I thought she was excellent throughout the regular season. She is leading the way in blocks with three per game, has finished superbly around the basket and been a rebounding machine as usual. Like the rest of the Ukraine team, I am not sure she showed her best at EuroBasket Women 2013 and it's good to see her being dominant again.
DELISHA NOT DONE JUST YET
Delisha Milton-Jones is a EuroLeague Women legend and her performances in EuroCup Women this season have shown why. She has given a poke in the eye to her detractors who suggested the veteran couldn't contribute effectively any more, by racking up 21.8 points per game and a very respectable shooting percentage too.
You can follow Paul @basketmedia365 for women's basketball tweets.