Barring no delayed games the regular season will conclude on February 9. Last possible finals date has been set to May 4.
Not much has changed in the composition of the league – the same twelve teams from last season will continue to play in it. DSK Basketball and Pardubice secured their places in the top league after defeating the best of second league in playoffs last spring.
In 2012/13 the post season will be tweaked – if last season, after the end of regular season teams were divided in the top six and bottom six where the bottom six teams still could fight for playoff spots, then this year the teams will be divided in three groups. Top two will play for playoff seeding while the bottom one will play to avoid playing for staying in ZBL.
If not much changed in the league composition, you can’t say the same about teams, some of whom have seen major roster changes.
Defending champions ZVVZ USK Praha, who had a perfect domestic campaign in 2011/12, have made major roster moves, hiring six new foreigners and letting the old ones leave. Czech NT center Petra Kulichova also left the team for Good Angels Kosice. Departed foreigners for Prague are Lindsay Whalen (Galatasaray), DeLisha Milton-Jones (Tarsus), Frida Eldebrink (Bourges), Elin Eldebrink (CUS Cagliari), Anna Montanana (Istanbul Universitesi) and Viktoria Mircheva (Nantes). If some of the changes were team’s decision to move on – Milton-Jones and Montanana were considered injury prone, Whalen was not signed to sign an American post player, Mircheva was just a temporary signing – then others were players choices – the Eldebrink twins. Instead the team has signed American post players Kia Vaughn and Rebbekah Brunson who will be pre-occupied with WNBA playoffs for at least a week, three players with Montenegro passport – Jelena Dubljevic, Jelena Skerovic and Anna de Forge – as well as French point guard Anael Lardy. In respect of Czech domestic league that shouldn’t mean changes in their status. USK will still be the odds-on favorite to win it all once again.
This year they might be challenged more by their main domestic opponents – Frisco IMOS Brno. Brno this season has brought back their local legend Hana Horakova who is expected to once again lead the team after spending most of the last two seasons watching games from benches in Turkey and Russia. They also signed American center Nicole Ohlde, who having retired from WNBA, is able to join her team much earlier than the typical WNBA player. Ohlde will be helped down low by two other new signings – Slovak center Anna Jurcenkova and Czech power forward/center Edita Sujanova. From last year’s team leaders only Jasmine Thomas has left the team, while the likes of Romana Hejdova, Tereza Peckova, Farhiya Abdi and Alena Hanusova are set to return. From VALOSUN Brno they have also signed local guard Veronika Vlkova who last season averaged 18 points per game in the Czech league. While the team should be able to compete for victories against USK, it doesn’t appear likely they will be able to win three of five games with this roster in the finals.
Third placed VS Praha has lost one of it’s leaders, Katerina Bartonova, but were able to keep the rest of them – Petra Reisingerova, Aliaksandra Tarasava and Evelien Callens – while also signing American forward Marshae Dotson, who averaged a 20&10 for VSE Praha and Czech PG Lenka Bartakova.
VS Praha will have a fight on their hands as Kara Trutnov appears to be improved this season. That’s mainly because of the signings of two American players – El Sara Greer and Ambrosia Anderson. They will have to replace two leaders the team lost during offseason – Darina Misurova moved to Sokol Hradec, while Hana Snajdrova has decided to end her basketball career. As Misurova was heading to Sokol Hradec, Andrea Ovsikova joined Trutnov from Sokol Hradec.
Also in contention for third place should be Sokol Hradec Kralove. Outside of that exchange of players with Trutnov, the last season’s fifth placed team has brought back everyone else, so you can expect Michala Hartigova and Michaela Stara lead the team once again to finish in the top half of the standings, not far from the third place among the best of the rest.
Just like last season Slovanka MB will start the season with no foreigners (they signed Mellisa D’Amico in February during last season). Only other notable departure for Slovanka will be Katerina Novotna who accounted for 7.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game last season. Look for the trio of Lenka Sipova, Hana Nezdarilova and Linda Tesarikova to lead the team on most nights.
Of all the teams it’s BK Lokomativa Karlovy Vary that has had the biggest roster overhaul during the offseason. It’s easier to name the returning players because there are only two – Sarka Kucerova (team’s leading scorer last season) and Jana Houdkova. Everyone else is gone. Joining the team will be three new foreigners – American guard Kira Carter, Serbian guard Jovana Milovanovic and Latvian wing Baiba Eglite. None of the Czech player signings have been particularly impactful as none of them have excelled in their previous teams.
As was mentioned earlier VALOSUN Brno lost their top player Veronika Vlkova to Frisco Brno. To compensate for the loss, the team has signed two American players from the start of the season – guard Ashleigh Fontenette and center Amber Sprague. Though it’s unlikely that those two signings will propel the team in the top half of the standings.
There don’t appear any major, if any at all, changes at Strakonice so expect them to be fighting to avoid playing for staying in ZBL.
Outside of fourty year old Eva Horakova vast majority of VSE Praha players are born in 1990 or later. If three foreigners couldn’t help this team last season to climb from the cellar, one foreigner and a player almost twice as old as most of the team are unlikely to change much in their fortunes this season.
DSK will attempt to avoid playing for staying in ZBL by signing American center Melissa D’Amico, who averaged 11 points and 7 rebounds for Slovanka last season, and Bulgarian center Alexandra Delcheva, who despite being 202 cm tall averaged just 8.5 points and 7.3 rebounds in the Bulgarian league.
And finally Pardubice have lost their top scorer Renata Brezinova in the offseason. It’s hard to imagine them not being in the lower part of the standings at the end of the season, but then that’s the Czech league – predictable from top to bottom.
As always you can catch most if not all of the Czech ZBL games live over at tvcom.cz.