The 2021 WNBA season is going on, but in every odd numbered year, national teams play in continental tournaments. Of FIBA’s four continental regions, Europe is the most competitive continent and the best teams from top to bottom. Women’s EuroBasket 2021 starts tomorrow, June 17 and will run until June 27.
What is at stake in Women’s EuroBasket?
Sixteen teams will play for six berths in the 2022 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in Australia. In addition, since the Olympics will be in July, this tournament is also a preview of things to come this summer. This year’s tournament will be held in France and Spain.
Who are the teams?
As you probably know, Washington Mystics forward Emma Meesseman will play for Belgium in this tournament. In addition, Mystics signee Klara Lundquist will play for Sweden. Here are the groups:
- Group A: No. 11 Belarus, No. 24 Slovakia, No. 3 Spain, No. 20 Sweden
- Group B: No. 13 Greece, No. 14 Italy, No. 22 Montenegro, No. 8 Serbia
- Group C: No. 6 Belgium, No. 34 Bosnia and Herzegovina, No. 30 Slovenia, No. 7 Turkey
- Group D: No. 31 Croatia, No. 16 Czech Republic, No. 4 France, No. 12 Russia
Who are some other WNBA players or players with WNBA experience in EuroBasket?
The list isn’t exhaustive, but here are some players with WNBA experience by country. Some have played for the Mystics besides Meesseman too!:
- Belarus: Alex Bentley (most recently played for the Dream in 2019 though she was signed by the Aces in 2020 and was released)
- Belgium: Emma Meesseman (Mystics), Julie Allemand (Fever). Kim Mestdagh was on the Mystics’ 2019 team as well.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina: Jonquel Jones (Sun)
- France: Gabby Williams (Sky). Marine Johannes and Sandrine Gruda have also played in the WNBA.
- Italy: Cecilia Zandalasini (played for the Lynx in 2017-18)
- Montenegro: Markeisha Gatling (played for the Sky, Storm and Dream from 2014-16)
- Russia: Maria Vadeeva (Sparks)
- Serbia: Ana Dabovic (played for the Sparks), Jelena Brooks (played for the Mystics in 2014)
- Spain: Astou Ndour (Sky)
- Sweden: Klara Lundquist (Mystics, but never played in the WNBA yet)
- Turkey: Quanitra Hollingsworth (played on the Mystics in 2013 and spent some time with the Lynx before then)
What are Belgium’s and Sweden’s schedules and how can I watch?
All games can be seen in the United States on FIBA’s YouTube channel. Within European countries, there could be blackout restrictions.
Here’s Belgium’s schedule:
- Thursday, June 17 at 9 a.m. ET vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Friday, June 18 at 9 a.m. ET vs. Slovenia
- Sunday, June 20 at 9 a.m. ET vs. Turkey
And here’s Sweden’s:
- Thursday, June 17 at 6 a.m. ET vs. Slovakia
- Friday, June 18 at 3 p.m. ET vs. Spain
- Sunday, June 20 at 9 a.m. ET vs. Belarus
Which game will be toughest for Belgium?
You may not believe me based on the FIBA rankings, but tomorrow’s game against Bosnia and Herzegovina will be the toughest for Belgium. It will pit Meesseman against Jones, who is a WNBA MVP candidate and recently naturalized for the Bosnians.
While the convenient American narrative is that Jones is the best individual player in the tournament, Meesseman is an All-Star in her own right, the 2019 WNBA Finals MVP and she generally steps up her game for international play.
If Meesseman decides to return to the WNBA this season, whether for the Mystics (or another team because she’s an unrestricted free agent), this could be a preview of what’s to come after the Olympics.
Which game will be toughest for Sweden?
The Friday game against Spain will be their toughest. Spain is a host country and one of the perennial powers in women’s basketball.
How far will Belgium and Sweden go?
I’ll start with Sweden first. Los Angeles Sparks Amanda Zahui B. is NOT on the EuroBasket roster, which is great for L.A. but bad for Sweden, who made the quarterfinals in the 2019 tournament. They have a shot to make the qualification for the quarterfinals, but it will be difficult to make that round again.
As for Belgium, they are a medal favorite. Meesseman, Allemand and Mestdagh are the big names for the Cats. But they have depth and young talent, including Billie Massey who was on Belgium’s U18 European Championship gold medal team in 2017, is now on the senior roster.
It won’t be easy for them to win the Women’s EuroBasket Gold Medal against France or Spain. But it’s possible since they have also won international tournament games against both teams in the last four years with their core players. I feel that the Belgians and the French are the best two teams in the tournament, and you can make your pick as to who takes home la médaille d’or / de gouden medaille on June 27 based on what Stéphanie LaHaye and Olivia Barbe of Swish Swish have below.