Hungarian coach Laszlo Ratgeber knows what it takes to win a EuroLeague Women title and he also knows about the white-hot intensity of coaching in Istanbul. Consequently he can't wait for next week's action as we get him to give us his thoughts about what lies in wait:
|A rivalry like no other - Former Fenerbahce coach Ratgeber cannot wait to see Penny Taylor and Co. go head to head with Galatasaray in Group A|
Hello EuroLeague Women fans!
Like everybody else, I am looking forward to the EuroLeague Women Final Eight, especialy because I will be watching the games in Istanbul in the company of my family.
It's always good to follow the most important women's games of the season live, and of course it will be great to return to Istanbul again.
The question is always the same each year: who is going to win the EuroLeague Women title?
For me, nothing has changed since the beginning of the season and I feel the same teams are still the favourites.
Of course we will perhaps miss USK Prague and also Perfumerias Avenida, but the teams who eliminated them, in both Beretta-Famila Schio and Wisla Can Pack, are really tough teams too!
From Group A, my favourites for making the finals is the winner of the duel between Fenerbahce S.K. and Galatasaray Medical Park, whoever that is.
In saying this, I assure you I am far from underestimating Rivas Ecopolis and Beretta-Famila Schio.
GROUP A - A RIVALRY LIKE NO OTHER
Anything I write about the clash between Fenerbahce and Galatasaray might sound boring and inadequate compared to reality.
Nevertheless, I could write entire books about it! Last season, I was part of ten such derby games and we (Fenerbahce) won seven out of ten!
I could also write about the difficulty of winning a game in front of 12,000 fanatic onlookers. It's difficult, but certainly possible.
Last year, we won three games at the Abdi Ipekci Arena with Fenerbahce and this year, Fener was also able to win there again.
I could write about the first game, when a bottle of 'ayran' (Turkish yoghurt) landed on my suit.
Ever since then, ayran has been my favourite drink. I can hardly wait to taste it again! It is a drink of so high quality that I have not been able to remove it from my suit ever since!
|Galatasaray lack depth, says Ratgeber, but have world-class players in their ranks like a certain Diana Taurasi |
I could say that Fenerbahce is the favourite, still unbeaten in the EuroLeague Women and having beaten Galatasaray twice in the regular season of the Turkish League and at the Abdi Ipekci Arena.
Let us not forget about the fact that since it is a European event there will be Fenerbahce fans in the arena, too.
Fener has also been playing together longer, they have Penny Taylor who is one of the best players in the world (among the three best for sure) and a player that can beat any team all by herself, but still remains very much a team player who is able to play any of the five positions.
Then you have Ivana Matovic and Nevriye Yilmaz, the best center combination in Europe which have been playing together for ages.
There's the Turkish core group, the heart of the team working better than the corresponding core at Galatasaray, at least statistically.
There's also Angel McCoughtry who is able to perform anything on the basketball court at anytime, while the bench is also deeper than that of Galatasaray.
Despite all this, we could also say that Galatasaray is the favourite as they have Diana Taurasi, arguably the best player in the world.
Taurasi can beat any team single-handedly anytime, she can form a team chemistry in a matter of days that enables any team to beat anyone.
Then there is the home court, the home backboard and the home fans all predicting their team to emerge victorious.
Fenerbahce has not played a real powerhouse yet in this season's EuroLeague Women, while Galata has already confronted UMMC Ekaterinburg and Ros Casares.
We also shouldn't forget they have a 2-2 record against Fenerbahce this year but Galatasaray have won two trophies - the Turkish Cup and the Supercup.
These factors favour Galatasaray, of course.
I had the chance to watch their last game, the Cup Final. It was a hard and strange game but I wish the EuroLeague Women Final could have been such a game.
CLASH OF TITANS IN GROUP B
|Sandrine Gruda and UMMC Ekaterinburg are in an extremely tough Group B, but if they get out of there unscratched this could very well be their year|
Taking a look at Group B, there are worthy teams here, probably watching the other group with envy, since winning one really tough game could be enough to qualify from there.
Poor Wisla Can-Pack. Much as I value them, however good they are, no matter how much I like them and even though I like their systematic team-building process during the past few years, they simply cannot make it to the Final from this group - not over the bodies of Ros Casares and the two Russian giants.
Everybody sees the winner of the game between UMMC Ekaterinburg and Ros Casares as the team making it to the Final.
Ekat are the eternal loser at this stage but maybe now it's their turn. Or maybe Ros Casares - maybe it's finally their turn? These two teams both have amazing tall players.
UMMC has Candace Parker, Sandrine Gruda, Maria Stepanova, Yelena Leuchanka or Olga Arteshina, while Valencia has Ann Wauters, Lauren Jackson, Sancho Lyttle and Isabelle Yacoubou or Jana Vesela. Usually there are three of these players always on the court for each team.
I know these players personally and I have kept a close watch on them. Believe me, as many as two of them would make any team a championship contender!
And now for the backcourt. In my opinion, the smartest move from the part of Ekat was the signing of Sue Bird.
She is the queen of point guards, the one who can really make others better. Along with a host of shooting guards and small forwards that could average 20 points on any other team. But, it's the same thing with the Spanish team also.
And now you have the task of forming a team from these many individuals. This is of course, the art of coaching. I can hardly wait for this game. And I don't have to wait very long since it's going to be on the very first day. Amazing! And yet any team who wins this game will still be far from winning it all.
Finally let us talk about my other former team, Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje. The last five years - five finals! The one who underestimates them commits a huge mistake.
With four WNBA stars in Seimone Augustus, Candice Dupree, Sonja Petrovic and Becky Hammon - who can bet on beating them? And with all that young talent playing alongside them!
All in all, I can suggest to everyone doing what I will do: Go to the Final Eight in order to enjoy the beauty of women's basketball since I am sure there will be some very good games.
And should I be wrong (which incidentally is impossible), there's always the city of Istanbul to enjoy - the best city in the world!
But this is not the time or place to talk about that because we have the EuroLeague Women Final Eight to focus on!