Now that noted astrophysicist Stephen Hawking has announced God’s non-existence in our universe through mathematics, maybe he can start working on explaining the FIBA tie-breaking procedure.
No, no, don’t start on BiE; it’s as easy as dialing up Wikipedia to find the steps in determining seeding for tournament play: Placement is determined based on, in order, game results between tied teams; scoring average between games of the tied teams; scoring average for all games of tied teams; drawing of lots.
Nice and neat it may be, but empirically this definition falls short. Seriously somebody should explain to BiE how/why France ends up in the fourth seed in Group D (and with the unfortunate fate of drawing home Turkey in round one) when they clearly whupped Spain’s butts early? How/why does Team China, a team that’s seemingly won one game in all of 2010, advance over Puerto Rico who not only beat China in the preliminaries but also outscored and surrendered fewer points than either of the other two squads involved in the tiebreaker?
Ah, whatever. Here’s the way BallinEurope might have seeded the tournament, based firstly on record and thereafter on momentum – after five games, at least we’ve got that objective criteria.
1. USA, 5-0. Is there any doubt that Kevin Durant will, at some point in his career, be called The Best Player in the World? That outrageous amounts of big guys aren’t necessarily life-or-death in an international tournament? That Kevin Love, thanks to his hard work and exposure, will be the most popular Minnesota Timberwolf next season? That we should finally stop calling these guys “The B-deem Team”? Answers: No, maybe a little yet, absolutely not, and yes please.
2. Turkey, 5-0. Here’s the Turkey we all expected coming into the tournament: The huge frontcourt handling the boards, Hedo Turkoglu facilitating rather than ball-hogging in averaging four assists per game (tops on the team while scoring only the fourth-most points), and riding the home-court advantage against those who might compete. In FIBA’s bracket, BiE’s already got Team Turkey penciled in for the final four.
3. Lithuania, 5-0. The most frustrating team in this tournament is also among its most successful. Though five games, it seems The Green Army plays nothing but nail-biters. Sometimes the key to success is the bench (excepting game four against France when scoring was hardly necessary, the Magnificent Seven accounted from off the bench for 45% of Team Lithuania’s total points), sometimes it’s sole marquee name Linas Kleiza (as in the 27-point eight-rebound barrage against New Zealand). The individual heroes may change nightly along with the game plan, a comeback may be required or perhaps a bit lead is barely held onto, but Lithuania has done one thing in this tournament: win.
4. Serbia, 4-1. The good news for Serbia is of course the win over Argentina last night to overcome both a double-digit deficit early in the first quarter and a monstrous 32-point, seven-board performance by Luis Scola. The bad news is they have to play again today after exhausting resources. How young and energetic is Team Serbia? We’ll find out in hours…
5. Slovenia, 4-1. Again coming in underrated, again coming in without miffed superstars, Goran “The Dragon” Dragic have proved themselves the class of the second-tier in handling the disparate games of Croatia and Brazil in Group B play. With an upset win over Turkey in the elite eight round and it’ll déjà vu to Eurobasket 2009 all over again.
6. Argentina, 4-1. Flying under the radar jammed with talk of USA and Spain, Argentina did enough to win the first two, cruised through the next two and hit the Serbian wall. While excelling in the open court, much has been made about the problems Team Argentina has had with the pick-and-roll, an Achilles’ heel that is certainly this team’s potential downfall in round one against the P’n’R obsessers of Brazil.
7. Spain, 3-2. Is it the coaching? BiE tends to think so. Is it the lack of clutch performers? Perhaps the absence of Pau Gasol hurt more than pundits guessed. Nothing is certain – except that Espana has experienced quite the bumpy road to 3-2 – until Saturday; Spain has had a tendency to rouse themselves to deliver punishment in time for the elimination rounds and first foe Greece is looking ripe for the pummeling right about now.
8. Brazil, 3-2. These guys should perhaps be ranked a little higher due to their impressive showing against Team USA and by dint of the fact that their first-round game is well winnable, but after just two games with the full roster (impressive though the shellacking of Croatia was) BiE’s not quite ready to rally ‘round the Brazilian flag again.
9. Russia, 4-1. Somewhere along the way David Blatt finally convinced his guys to use their advantages in big beefy brawn and lockdown defense to end up an impressive 4-1. Even if they do often resemble the Eastern Hemisphere version of the Pat Riley Knicks.
10. France, 3-2. What a difference two games makes, eh? Once on the cusp of top seed in the group (which presumably would have matched them against China in round one of the tourney), France went on to amass a 24-11 first quarter lead against Lithuania … and it all went south from there. It’s France against Turkey on Sunday and, uh, hey, how about that Spain game, huh?
11. Greece, 3-2. The ESPN Daily Dime chat room burned with venom at Greece’s lackluster play last night and BiE can’t really say he blames the fans. As the FIBA announcer put it, “Greece has not played well all week.” Talent alone is keeping them this high.
12. Australia, 3-2. A fascinating team comprised of a blend of NBA players, Euroleaguers, ACB ballers and the occasional NBL star, the Boomers have created a fantastic synthesis of post play and open-court romping. The three bigs David Andersen, Aleks Maric and Matt Nielsen are enough to give any team this side of Brazil matchup problems underneath, but PG Patrick Mills leads Oz in scoring at 14 points per game based on the freedom to toss the three when the middle’s full up with bodies.
13. New Zealand, 3-2. After butt-kickings administered by Lithuania and Spain, the Tall Blacks were still able to sneak into a third seed by taking care of business in the final three games. This team’s prime strength is also it’s weakness, however, as sharpshooting Kirk Penney is taking well over one-third of his team’s shots. While Penney has handled double-teams well enough, Team Russia will surely be content to let him go bombs away while dominating underneath in tournament game one.
14. Croatia, 2-3. The skills are there, but the lack of depth Croatian fans expected at tournament’s beginning have come into evidence after the Slovenia and Brazil games. Taking out the Tunisia game in which subs got extensive minutes, the Croatian bench has performed like the Bizarro Lithuania, with just 46% of its teams points. Remove backup PG Marko Popovic from the equation and Croatia’s bottom six are producing just 18 points a game combined. Hopefully, the roster will be a bit fuller for Eurobasket 2011…
15. Angola, 2-3. Stirring OT win against Germany aside, the draw of Team USA in the tournament means BiE’s gonna go to Barkley’s line again.
16. China, 1-4. Turkey 87, China 40? And China advances based on *that*? Don’t get BiE started…