|27 March 2014|
|George Dikeoulakos considers former club Fenerbahce and Final Eight hosts UMMC to be "one or two levels higher than the rest"|
George Dikeoulakos has already delivered a major birthday gift for Nadezhda Orenburg and now he is out to provide even more treats for the Final Eight newcomers.
The Greek coach has insisted the booking of a historic maiden appearance at the showpiece event could hardly have been better timed.
He explained, "For us, it is a present for our birthday, since this season sees Nadezhda celebrating 20 years of existence.
"Everybody from the club, the city and the fans want to celebrate by making it the best season ever and by going as far as possible in EuroLeague Women and the Russian Championship.
"A few months ago, we were scared that it could be the worst season ever.
"But, we have managed to fix it and as I said, we have grabbed the best present by qualifying to the Final Eight for the first time in the history of the club."
Now with his fourth club in the competition and having led Fenerbahce to the semi-finals during 2012, the wily play-caller remains open-minded as to what will be thrown his way when the action tips off at the DIVS Arena.
"I anticipate everything," said Dikeoulakos.
"I also believe that with the exception of UMMC and Fenerbahce who look one or two levels higher than the rest, any one of the other six teams can beat each other and find themselves in the semi-finals.
"My experience says that the system doesn't allow big surprises and yet we must still expect a couple of ‘unexpected' results.
He added, "For sure, the teams who have a deeper roster have advantage."
|Dewanna Bonner has been Nadezhda's key player ever since joining the club in 2012|
Schedule: UMMC Ekaterinburg (07/04), ZVVZ USK Prague (08/04), Tango Bourges (09/04)
Headline writer: Dewanna Bonner leads the team in points, rebounds and steals. Her phenomenal near triple-double of 29 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists in the play-offs against Wisla underlines the fact she is capable of putting the team on her back and taking over games.
‘X-Factors': Zoi Dimitrakou can be a difference maker with her energy and aggression. When she plays well, it makes a big difference to the team, but that means keeping turnovers to a minimum and contributing offensively - including from the perimeter. The other big factor will be the recent integration to the team of Latvian guard, Elina Babkina and how effective she is in helping to make up for the absent Natalia Zhedik who has just departed on maternity leave.
Unsung hero: Natalia Anoikina has rarely grabbed the limelight, but the 9.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game from the center have been a cornerstone of the team's success. She also has the best shot percentage of any leading player on the roster.
Number crunching: Nadezhda are the only team at the Final Eight with no statistical extremities, good or bad. All the other seven teams are either the best and/or worst at one facet of the game in the stats charts. The stat which matters most is that they are the in-form team in Group B, having won eight of their last nine games.
In just eight words: Must deal with losing perimeter threat of Zhedik.