First of all, thanks to the guy who put my post on the homepage. I am stunned. Like, really stunned. Thanks again. And thanks to everybody that read it. I am really grateful. So much I sound comical.
Back to business: here comes Group B of the Eurobasket 2011, with intriguing match-ups and much more interest than Group A, everything after the jump.Group B, feat.
Serbia: Last time around, Serbia beat Spain in pool play, which I enjoyed a lot. Really. Before that they got into a skirmish of sorts with Greece, during a friendly game, which I didn't like as much. Serbia indeed has a nice mixture of youth and experience, being led by the brilliant (but temperamental and inconsistent) Milos Teodosic, featuring three legitimate 7-footers (including Nenad Krstic) that can defend the 5 and a loaded backcourt. In short, it's a fairly complete team, which can show flashes of brilliance (clutch coaching by Dusan Ivkovic). The talent level isn't Spain-like, but Serbia still is one of the best european teams - playing a guard-centric brand of basketball with a lot of pick'n'rolls.
Italy: Marco Belinelli is an NBA SG (read: SF duties). Danilo Gallinari is listed as a SF, plays the PF in Italy
(since he has no trace of a jump shot). Andrea Bargnani is considered a soft PF/C. In other words, Italy has a gaping hole in the middle (no Rox here...) in the PG position. Which means, every team with a moderately good point guard or with a strong backcourt will probably devastate them. They have been successful in friendly competition, but the team is in no condition to beat Serbia and France, and it will be a close call with the others. If the Italians really outclass an opponent they will totally win, and they'll even get close calls if their 3s are falling. But they are no contender, at least in my opinion.
The Frenchmen: a roster more star-studded than ever before. Joakim Noah finally deigned to don the tricolóre, Parker is still hanging on, Batum, Pietrus and Diaw are joining in, and some lesser known (but experienced enough) european players such as Nando De Colo or Mickael Gelabale complete the roster. As imposing as it may seem, it remains to be seen how it fares in real action (and not against England and Bosnia-Herzegobina, no offense here). There is a sentiment of disappointment in France about how the national team has missed the last two Olympics, a team that - mind you - had achieved a silver medal in Sydney, 2000, and pretty much nothing ever since, and Tony Parker has been actively recruiting (heck, he even convinced Noah to tag along). Might prove interesting.
Latvia: Latvia has a roster entirely comprised of home-grown talent. All players compete for latvian teams, have little or no international experience with their clubs, but are constantly participating in the Eurobasket tournaments, even boasting a 1st and a 2nd place (in 1935 and '39 respectively). They got their pretty share of giant killing to do in order to advance (hint: highly unlikely). They won't surrender easily though, that they won't.
Germany: apart from Dirk Nowitzki, who will be playing his 10000st game of the year pretty soon, there's Chris Kaman, youth talent Tibor Pleiss and Europe veterans Hamann, Schaffartzik and Schultze, as well as last summer (now disgruntled) sensation Jan-Hendrik Jagla. Apart from a certain lack of creativity on offense and a certain lack of talent (sure, Nowitzki is great and Kaman maybe. The others? Not so much.), this is the best Germany will have to show for the next 15-20 years, barring the sudden birth of interest for the sport of basketball in Germany (hint: as probable as Latvia advancing) or the birth of a second Nowitzki. They will still make it out of the group, probably.
Israel: Omri Casspi won't be participating, a heavy blow for the israeli squad. The other recognizable names on the team are Yotam Halperin and Lior Eliyahu. The former is a shooting SG, a hero for Maccabi Tel Aviv and great 6th man for Olympiacos BC, the latter a SF/PF whose draft rights are owned by the Rockets and Euroleague/ACB experience. When it's all said and done, Israel is really thin, and after the opponent team turns these two off, there's practically no danger. They can still give their opponents the fits though.
Prediction: All in all, I do not dare to voice exact predictions in this group. I get the feeling that Serbia will advance, since they have superior team chemistry, overall talent level and coaching in comparison to the other teams. If France get their act together they are a clear favorite for another spot (even though they're getting the injury bug lately). For the remaining spot, I guess (or hope) Germany will outclass Italy. Italy is a dark horse, Israel may steal some games, Latvia doesn't have much of a hope.
My reasoning is like this:
- France owns Italy because they have Tony Parker and can keep up in the paint.
- Serbia owns everybody, because they're versatile enough to adapt in D and experienced enough to be patient when running their offensive sets. They also play a long time together.
- Israel vs Italy is really exciting, evolves into an EA Sports NBA shootout between Halperin and Belinelli-Bargnani-Gallinari. Winner is decided by coin flip.
- Germany against France is a question of whether Dirk runs out of steam. He's damn good in the post, but Germany was not a team as of the Bamberg tournament (mid-August).
- Israel shouldn't be able to defeat Germany or France.
- Why is Israel participating in a european tournament? Never quite understood that.