And finally, just minutes after the tournament has already started, I'm writing the final preview, that of Group 4. Without further adieu, jump!
Group 4, consisting of:
Belgium: This team has a relatively low ceiling, especially after losing Axell Hervelle, a competent scorer and rebounder. The team doesn't lack for big bodies, but it will be experience and talent that makes the difference in the paint (Georgia is owning them as I write, 36 of the 51 points of the Georgians came from their frountcourt). I don't see them having much of an impact, although they are a fighting team, that will play determined to the last second.
Georgia: Reliable inside presence, with NBA big man Zaza Pachulia and Euros Shermadini, Boisa and Sanikidze. The problem lies again (as with many european national teams) in the guard spots, where the services of yet another American are employed: Marquez Haynes (who played for the Texas-Arlington Mavericks) is steering the wheel of the Georgian national team, and a lot depends on him.
Slovenia: The second-best team of the group and a dark horse for a run at a medal. Featuring Goran Dragic as main point guard, experience monster Jaka Lakovic, sturdy big men Lorbek and Slokar as well as (once) explosive power forward Smodis, Slovenia had many good runs in international competition, often running out of luck in critical moments (buzzer-beaters in 2009 and 2008 cost them medals). They will make it past pool play safely, the big bet is to get out of the second round.
Bulgaria: In all sincerity, I don't know even one of their players. They have lost players to injury as well. They also field the typical post-soviet frontcourt-laden roster with the american point guard, a lot of role players and some promising young talent. In our case this is Bozhidar Abramov, a point guard who rarely calls upon mid-range play, favoring either drives to the hoop or three-point shots (sound familiar?) for his scoring and has a lot of experience in challenging leagues (he's played in Spain, Italy and Greece).
Russia: the heavy favorite to win the group, and one of the few challengers that might actually prove a match for Spain. Andrei Kirilenko shines as the centerpiece of the team, and he's being on a tear lately (friendly games at least). Russia had a decent squad without him, but they're upgraded to legitimate challenger with a good Kirilenko in their roster. One must not forget the frontcourt: Russia actually only features one player listed at C, and 3 PFs (a rotation 2 deep), but I expect Kirilenko to play the PF every now and then. Russia also has some Russian guards, like Sergey Bykov and Vitali Fridzon, or pass-first Anton Ponkrashov. Russia will make it out of the group; the question is how much Kirilenko will really have to shoulder. If it's too much, Russia will drown against Spain. Else Russia has a shot at winning it all.
Ukraine: No shortage of big bodies here as well, with four players listed at 2,10 m or more. However, if the talent ceiling of this team is Kyrylo Fesenko, Ukraine isn't going anywhere any time soon. They might just make it out of pool play, but they will be cannon fodder in the second round. The team seems to have consistency issues, always playing a good and a terrible half in the latest friendly games. I don't see them doing anything spectacular.
Prediction: I can see Russia and Slovenia going to the next round. With eyes wide shut. Georgia seems to be the next best candidate, and they might even snatch a win from the favorites if they start rolling.
Next: a question in form of a poll. I'd also like some feedback (of any kind) regarding the preview series. Thanks for reading, more thanks for discussing^^
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