As BallinEurope gets ready to hit the road for Lithuania – Panevezys, specifically, where BiE’ll be covering EuroBasket Group A action – there’s just enough time for a shameless plug and Official Fearless Predictions™.
Last week, BiE guested on podcasts with the indomitable Freaknick over at the always fun and insightful Euroleague Adventures. We spent more than enough time going over each of the groups and expounded on various related (and not necessarily so related) topics related to EuroBasket 2011, so links are provided for when you want to kill a little have some time to listen in.
Group A – Perhaps the easiest group to forecast, this bunch has three obvious monsters now that Team Turkey seems to be coming together after some initial identity-searching. In the podcast, we debate whether FIBA is sending a message that the wants of a few dozen business interests in the U.S. outweigh the needs of certain fledgling national basketball programs now forced to perform without their keystone players thanks to multi-million dollar insurance issues. The sole EuroBasket-related question for BiE comes in the Spain-Lithuania match, to wit: Can the homecourt advantage will the hosts to victory and a possible 5-0 mark going into round two? Sure. Official BallinEurope Fearless Prediction™ of order of finish: Lithuania, Spain, Turkey.
Group B – BiE has already taken some flack for suggesting that either Serbia or Italy will not advance out of this group, but France looks great and Germany is no longer a one-man show with the burgeoning Tibor Pleiss and Robin Benzing ready for international prime time. And in the Euroleague Adventures podcast, BiE takes some hits for his already outdated Eurobasket Power Rankings. Official BallinEurope Fearless Prediction™: France, Serbia, Germany.
Ah, what to make of Group C? After the pair of traditional powers heading up this group, who wins the dogfight among Montenegro, Macedonia and Bosnia & Herzegovina? Podcast-wise, listen in for a rant from yours truly regarding the crazy 24-team field in this tournament; seriously, do you realize there were 49 federations under consideration by FIBA for this thing? Do you recall who the last team eliminated was? And seriously, half The Continent gets to play for all the marbles? Or at least pretend to… Official BallinEurope Fearless Prediction™: Greece, Croatia, Macedonia. Why Macedonia? Why not? Bo knows international ball! (Though Freaknick makes a strong case for Montenegro’s advancement.)
Group D – Might Georgia and the currently red hot Zaza Pachulia be the most compelling team in the first round? If you’re seeking upsets in a mostly top-heavy tournament, these might be your guys. Also touched upon in the Euroleague Adventures podcast: The difficult question of naturalization. Where does one draw the line vis-à-vis passports for international play? While few would debate now-retired longtime CSKA Moscow stud J.R. Holden’s dedication to Team Russia, should Serge Ibaka really be playing for Spain when so many prospects could fill the 12th spot? Should Bo McCalebb be representing a country he’s never lived in? And then there’s Chris Kaman, suiting up for coach Dirk Bauermann, who has fought for years to improve the German situation domestically … what’s your take? Official BallinEurope Fearless Prediction™: Russia, Slovenia, Georgia.
Enjoy the tournament, and BiE’ll be reporting from the great basketball state of Lithuania soon!