We talked about the Belgium women’s national basketball team trying to get into EuroBasket for the first time since 2007. There’s a good chance they’ll make it because Emma Meesseman is their centerpiece, and they have played very competitively. These next two games will impact the Mystics’ season, and that’s why we’re covering the games.
That said, the qualifiers involve a lot of countries, and some have interesting stories to tell. So let’s take a quick peek at what’s in store for Belgium’s potential competition next year. But first, let’s go through an explainer on how the qualifiers work for everyone, not just Belgium.
How do the EuroBasket Women Qualifiers Work?
33 FIBA Europe teams are placed into nine groups. Six groups have four teams while three groups have three teams.
The nine winners of each group makes EuroBasket Women 2017 in the Czech Republic. So in Belgium’s case, if they win both games against Belarus and Poland, they win the group and they’re in.
The remaining six teams are second place finishers in each group. However, the record of each second place team is normalized so that their record will not take into account their record against the last place team in the group. That will make things a bit interesting through the end of the week. If Belgium splits their remaining games, their record will be compared against all the other second place winners before we know for sure whether they get in.
Who’s in besides the Czech Republic who’s hosting the tournament?
One team: Spain. Spain beat second place Sweden twice in Group I play to clinch the #1 seed earlier in qualifiers. They only have third place Finland left so the Spanish can coast if they feel like it.
What time are the Qualifiers for Saturday?
15 games are on Saturday, November 19 in Matchday 5 of the Qualifiers. I’ll focus my efforts on one game which is the most interesting for each group and why.
The first games start at 9 a.m. ET (or 3 p.m. Central European Time). The last games begin at 2:45 p.m. ET (or 8:30 p.m. ET Central European Time). So if you’re into national teams clashing against each other, this will be a treat for you.
Can I watch the games online?
All of the games are on FIBA, I believe for free. The master page is here.
Alright, let’s get to the groups and a game to watch in each one of them.
Game to Watch: Slovenia vs. Lithuania, 12 p.m. ET
Where: the Gimnazija Celje-Center in Celje, Slovenia
Like Belgium, unranked Slovenia controls their destiny in this three-team group. Lithuania looks like they’re headed home until EuroBasket Women 2019 unfortunately.
If Slovenia can beat Lithuania at home on Saturday, they will clinch the group and get to their first-ever EuroBasket appearance. If not, it will set up a match against Latvia next Wednesday on the road. The Slovenians blew out the Latvians on February 20 at home, so this could be a revenge game opportunity, not unlike what Poland has on their hands with Belgium on the same day.
Game to Watch: France vs. Netherlands, 12:30 p.m. ET
Where: Le Colisée in Chalon-sur-Saône, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, France
France won the Olympic Silver Medal in 2012 and participated in the 2016 Olympics. They hope to seal the group with a win against a young Dutch Orange Angels team that has been up-and-coming in Europe like the Belgian Cats, who are the Angels’ arch rivals since both countries share the same history and language.
The Netherlands have a lot of young talent and will be at full strength with Miami (FL) Hurricanes sophomore guards Laura Cornelius and Emesa Hof traveling to Europe for these games according to the Nederlandse Basketballbond during the early part of the college season (link in Dutch). Since they’re missing class (and some NCAA games) early for these matches, you can bet the Dutch are pulling all the stops for Saturday.
You may think the Belgians’ 10-year absence was long. It is. But for the Dutch, they didn’t make it since 1989!
Though I admire the Angels’ enthusiasm in this Twitter video (in Dutch) to get people to watch their against Estonia on Wednesday in Amsterdam,
De #OrangeAngels hebben een videoboodschap voor jou! #StandAndDeliver #LetsGoAngels Tickets NED - EST: https://t.co/OggOIHcEKE pic.twitter.com/f6yHqEnPjz— NBB (@BasketballBond) November 18, 2016
I doubt they can pull it off against France on the road. The French blew them out on their home floor in Amsterdam last November, 76-52 and I don’t think adding a couple college basketball players will change things that much.
But if they do beat the French tomorrow, and if Estonia somehow beats traditional European power Croatia, then the Orange Angels’ chance of making their first EuroBasket in 28 years look very bright indeed.
Game to Watch: Italy vs. Great Britain, 2:45 p.m. ET
Where: Palatagliate in Lucca, Tuscany, Italy
The Italians are 4-0 and control their destiny. But they aren’t head and shoulders above the British and Montenegrins. The British are led by Johannah Leedham who plays for French and EuroLeague team CJM Bourges Basket.
You may know that Mike Thibault’s a guy who likes to draft international talent. Well... he drafted Leedham in 2010 in the third round when he was with the Connecticut Sun, but she didn’t sign a deal until 2013 when he was with the Mystics. Unfortunately, Leedham was waived in training camp, but that was with another coaching regime.
I’ll root for the British since she is part of the Thibault international draftee tree if you will.
Game to Watch: Ukraine vs. Germany, 10 a.m. ET
Where: SK Kraian in Odessa, Ukraine
The Ukrainians are on a short track to win this division with a win over Germany. But their reward? A date with the 2016 Olympic bronze medal winners next Wednesday. Yikes!
The Ukrainians are led by Alina Igaupova and just naturalized American and Mersin BK (Turkey) guard D’Andra Moss, who played college basketball at VCU from 2006-2010. She never played in the WNBA.
Game to watch: Hungary vs. Iceland, 2 p.m. ET
Where: Lauber Dezsö Sport Hall, Pécs, Hungary
Chicago Sky guard Allie Quigley scored 27 points to lead Hungary to a 65-64 win over arch rival Slovakia previously in the qualifiers, so it will be interesting to see if she plays this game to close the deal on Iceland.
Game to Watch: Greece vs. Bulgaria, 9 a.m. ET
Where: Tasos Kampouris Hall in Chalkida, Euboea, Greece
Russia has New York Liberty guard Epiphanny Prince, but this is the more competitive of the two matches in the group.
Remember Zoi Dimitrakou, who played a couple games for the Mystics before getting released? During the summer, it looked like she was retiring, but she had a change of heart and signed with Olympiacos in Athens.
Anyway, she’ll play a major role to get the Greeks qualified. This is effectively a must win for them because their last match is against Russia ... on the road.
The preview for Belgium vs. Belarus is here. Save your Luikse Wafels or Gaufres de Liège and Gulden Draak (if you’re of age) for 2 p.m. ET.
But don’t drink and eat it all ... because the Wizards play later that evening!
Game to watch: Romania vs. Israel, 2 p.m. ET
Where: Sala Polivalental Cluj-Napoca in Cluj, Romania
Ernie Grunfeld will root for his birthplace with this matchup as he takes a break from the stress of evaluating Wizards personnel. I don’t blame him.
But I’m taking a closer look at Israeli and Seattle Storm forward Alysha Clark who leads them in scoring (19 ppg) and rebounding (6.5 rpg). Former Maryland Terrapins star and 2006 national champion Shay Doron leads them in assists (6.0) and averages 16 points a game herself. They also upset Turkey earlier in group play and only have the Bosnians in their way after this match.
Game to Watch: Finland vs. Spain, 12 p.m.
Where: Töölön Kisahalli in Helsinki, Finland
This is the game to watch because it’s the only one. It’s likely a lame duck contest since the Finnish are effectively eliminated and the Spanish have clinched the group already by already beating Sweden handily twice.