Saturday, February 6, 2010

What are the Best International Leagues for Women Basketball Players?

At the end of the WNBA season, there is the inevitable dispersal of American players to various European leagues overseas. Some of these leagues, however, are better than other ones. It's much more prestigious to be playing in the French League than the German League. But which leagues have the best talent and which deserve to be called the best in the world?

I decided to go to the website. Every now and then, they create a list of the Top 100 Teams in European women's basketball. They use their own calculations to determine their top 100 teams.

I decided to give each country's teams a certain number of points based on their location on this list.

#`1 - 8 points
#2 - 7 points
#3-4 - 6 points
#5-8 - 5 points
#9-16 - 4 points
#17-32 - 3 points
#33-64 - 2 points
#65-100 - 1 points
not on list - 0 points

Using these point totals, we come up with a country total - we take all teams on the list which belong to a given country, assign each a point total, and sum up the point totals of all teams to get the country point total.

Here are the final results:

Spain 30
Russia 26
France 22
Italy 18
Poland 17
Turkey 14
Hungary 12
Czech Republic 11
Romania 10
Serbia 10
Lithuania 9
Slovakia 9
Belgium 6
Israel 6
Slovenia 6
Ukraine 6
Greece 5
Bulgaria 4
Croatia 2
Germany 2
Bosnia 1
Latvia 1

The next question is: "do the results pass the smell test?" One odd result is that Spain is at the top of the list, and not Russia.

Part of the reason is that the point-scoring system awards not only leagues that have individual strong teams, but leagues that have depth as well. For example, there are very strong teams in the Russian League, but that league doesn't have as many teams as Spain, and even the losing teams in the Spanish League are pretty damned good. Russia has the #1 and #2 teams on the list (Ekaterinburg and Spartak Moscow) but Spain has the #3 through #5 teams (Ros Casares, Perfumerias, Rivas Ecopolis). You could make a good argument that the Liga Femenina is at least as strong as the Russia Superleague A.

The top six teams are exactly what I'd expect: after Spain and Russia come France and Italy, traditional women's basketball powers. Following those teams come two women's leagues that are making a play for international dominance - the one in Poland and the one in Turkey. It seems that just about anyone who is any good plays in one of those top six countries.

After the top six, one comes to countries that might have two or three good teams, usually with one or two WNBA players on the roster. I think of Slovakia, which has Candice Dupree and Angel McCoughtry, along with Erin Lawless. At the bottom of the list are leagues like Greece which are on shaky ground and where you hear the worst stories - teams folding and players not getting paid.

There are some Asian leagues that deserve to be ranked somewhere: the ones in China, South Korea and Japan come to mind, as well as the Australian League where Lauren Jackson is playing. But until a new "Worldbasket" website is created, we'll just have to make due with the given list.

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