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Feb
4

Enough with the arbitrary rankings argument

Yesterday we found out that Finland would be playing in the 2014 World Cup of Basketball. Some people were upset because of Angry Birds but plenty thought Finland’s FIBA ranking meant they were undeserving. Emmet Ryan has a problem with these arguments, especially the latter.

We’ve got a pretty intelligent readership. You guys understand concepts like ELO rankings, used for chess, and how they are based on pretty heavy amounts of data. International basketball doesn’t use an ELO system and even if they did, they wouldn’t have the data to back it up. In simple terms, there really aren’t a lot of games played internationally. We live in a what have you done for me lately world not by choice but by necessity. The rankings don’t recognise said need. These rankings place China, losing quarter finalists in AsiaBasket, at 12th in the world. Turkey who, since finishing second at the 2010 World Cup (which they hosted) are 7th despite being utter turkeys in international play in the years since. Great Britain, a team for whom this writer has a heavy bias in their favour, sit 22nd by virtue of automatically qualifying for the 2012 Olympics having never got past the first stage of EuroBasket.

Yet yesterday we saw some good basketball writers lean on Finland’s ranking of 39th in the world as a reason to leave them out, ignoring their superior performances to Turkey in the last two EuroBaskets. Now don’t get me wrong, having a wild card system is a joke in and of itself but we’ll get to that in a second. If you exclude the Finns, you simply have to drop Turkey because they have been objectively worse for the last three years.

Were merit the deciding factor, I’d have sent Italy and Canada to Spain but even there we need to apply a giant caveat. The selections of those two teams is based only on what they did in 2013 on the court. Were there no wild cards, the complexion of the qualifying system would have unquestionably be different. Italy and Canada delivered their performances in full knowledge of the off-court route of qualification.

Now about that off-court route. Let’s assume nobody here likes the idea of basically buying your way into a world championship. Ideally we don’t see that option. That however was the situation and it immediately weighted the playing field on off-court criteria in favour of certain nations. TV rights and audiences make larger nations more appealing to FIBA. What the Finns did was no different in terms of its objective and basketball value to Greece, Turkey, Russia, or anyone else. The only difference was they hustled hard and found a way to make up for their deficiencies in conventional resources. If they couldn’t deliver TV, they could deliver something. The Angry Birds are that something. You may find it a novelty but as the most popular mobile download in the world. it’s a big place to put some ads.

The rankings suck, off-court factors mattering suck, Finland sure as hell don’t suck. They play fun ball and they made what should have been a dull wild card process interesting. Good for the Susijengi.

We’ll have an interview with one of Finland’s bid team up next week, I have to hold it for a piece I’m working on for my day job.

Feb
7

Brazil, Finland, Greece, and Turkey get FIBA World Cup wild cards

Trust FIBA to announce it early. The four wild cards for the 2014 FIBA World Cup of Basketball are in and three European teams have booked their tickets to Spain.

The wild cards are in and we came oh so close with our picks. The 11th hour surprise was China withdrawing from the application process which suddenly made three European wild cards a legitimate possibility. This morning FIBA confirmed what had been suspected overnight. Here are your four wild cards:

Brazil – Pretty much the biggest lock from the outset, although we had China on the same level, and the Olympic hosts have their ticket to the dance in Spain.

Finland – As, fearlessly, predicted by BiE the Wolf Pack are in thanks to a MASSIVE assist from Rovio. The Angry Birds developers offered FIBA a mountain of free advertising space if they accepted the Finns. Throw in 40,000 Finns living in Spain and this offer went from no-hope to in the bag.

Greece – We had them on the outside looking in despite what was reported as a particularly strong bid. The withdrawal of China took a lot of pressure off their battle and now Spanoulis is going to Spain.

Turkey – We’ve had Turkey in from day one, on the grounds of a strong bid and the sheer amount of sponsorship money Turkish companies put into basketball. The runners-up in the last championships will get to play in Spain.

Do you agree with FIBA’s wild card picks? Tell us what you think in the comments.

Jan
1

Fearless FIBA World Cup Wildcard predictions

Tomorrow is the day we find out who the four wild card participants will be in the 2014 FIBA World Cup. BiE’s editor, Emmet Ryan, makes his call on who he thinks will get the tickets to Spain.

First off, I hate the wild card system. Merit should win out but the system is what it is. With that in mind I’m making these picks based on who I think WILL get in not who SHOULD get in. Without further ado, your four FIBA World Cup wild cards will be…

China – FIBA would love to give them a bloody nose but they can’t. They just can’t. They aren’t strong, they could well be the worst team in Spain, yet there is no doubt they get the ticket.

Brazil – They did an awful job at the Tournament of the Americas but the weakness of their roster in Venezuela strongly implied they knew they’d be in Spain either way due to their hosting the next Olympics and being a big market. They’re in.

Turkey – At no point have I flip-flopped on Turkey but to me this is a straight up fight of financial might between Turkey and Greece for the third slot. The Greeks have narrowed it, for most of the time I had Turkey well in front, but I think Turkey gets the ticket.

Finland – Yes, Finland. Their population is similar to Ireland’s, their performance at EuroBasket was good but not ‘there’s no way you can deny them a wild card’ good, and they don’t have the straight up cash money of Greece or Turkey. What they have is 40,000 Finns living in Spain and, far more importantly, the sheer muscle of Rovio. The Angry Birds game developers have promised FIBA a whole lot of mobile advertising space for a tournament that could do with every ounce of advertising exposure it can get. The Angry Birds are the game-changer here. Prior to this week, I didn’t give Finland a prayer. Now I say they take the flight.

Who do you think gets a wild card? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Sep
5

EuroBasket Power Rankings: And then there were eight

Where once there was 12 now stand 8. The quarter finals are set so it’s time to update our Power Rankings.

There are some radical changes but I still expect plenty of you will be upset. Take aim in the comments.

1. Croatia (4-1). It was really tough to decide between first and second here. Three straight wins in the second round, including that unreal 2OT win over Greece on Monday, were just enough for them to get top slot. 

2. Serbia (4-1). So that ranking of 9 was harsh. Serbia still clearly have a lot of work to do but their win over France was particularly impressive.

3. Slovenia (3-2). The home team is really getting the crowd involved in their games. Their win over Italy exposed some of the latter’s failings. Following that up with a heart-stopper over Greece was enough to take third here. We’re not counting what was clearly a nothing game against Finland against them.
Continue Reading…

Sep
19

FIBA Facing World Cup Wild Card Dilemma

Greece’s double-overtime loss to Croatia compounded a problem that has been growing for FIBA since the continental tournament season began. Who gets the four wildcards?

Who says you can’t get too much of a good thing? FIBA has four World Cup wildcard slots to award and plenty of willing suitors. Whatever happens, somebody is going to be upset. The headache for FIBA began at the FIBA Asia Championship where China, went out in the quarter finals to Chinese Taipei. That made on of the big draws in world basketball and immediate front runner for a wildcard spot.

Fast forward a few weeks to the FIBA AfroBasket and two of last year’s Olympic participants, Nigeria and Tunisia, failed to secure a bid for the World Cup. As it stood there was actually a reasonable chance that one of these sides would get a wildcard. There just needed to be no major upsets in the Tournament of the Americas or EuroBasket.

Yeah about that. Brazil went 0-4 in Venezuela, leaving the 2016 Olympic hosts in need of a wildcard to make the World Cup. Canada, with a NBA stacked roster, almost did FIBA a solid. The Maple Leaf nation looked on course to secure an automatic spot but lost its last two games to come fifth, one place short of an automatic ticket to Spain next year. So far so crazy but it took EuroBasket to turn this into a full-on migraine.

The first round saw Germany, Russia, and Turkey, all fall. Turkey hosted the last World Cup and Turkish companies, Beko and Turkish Airlines most notably, provide major sponsorship to the sport in Europe. Russia is Russia and Germany’s Bundesliga has brass across the world excited by its development. Things were pretty bad as they stood before Monday. Then Greece lost in double overtime to Croatia, ending their involvement in EuroBasket. With that defeat, the Greeks joined the list of teams FIBA would like in the World Cup that failed to qualify automatically. Let’s go through these teams in the order they fell to see their shot at earning a reprieve.
Continue Reading…

Sep
2

Eurobasket: Slovenia and Croatia progress, Spain win

We know half of the teams through from Group F after a wild Saturday. Two Balkan teams locked up their places in the quarter-finals with wins today while Spain cruised to their first win in the second phase.

Damn that crowd makes a difference. Slovenia and Greece delivered one of the ugliest first quarters of offence we’ve seen all tournament but the home team was perfect from the line to move into a 13 point lead after the first frame. That lead grew to 26 points before the inevitable Greek fight-back. Greece knocked 20 off the lead to make it a two possession game inside the final two minutes. Slovenia dug deep yet again, with the Dragic brothers combining for 39 points, 10 boards, and 6 rebounds en route to a 73-65 victory. It was a nervous finish but the win puts the home team top of the group and safely through to the last eight.
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Sep
0

Open Thread: Eurobasket Group F gets under way

The second day of action in stage two sees the Group F teams take centre stage. Here’s the docket for today and our picks.

Finland (1-1) vs. Croatia (1-1) – 14.30

Greece (0-2) vs. Spain (1-1) – 17.45

Slovenia (1-1) vs. Italy (2-0) – 21.00

The bookies favour Croatia (-4.5), Spain (-6.5), and Slovenia (-3.5). BiE’s power rankings stirred some controversy as we rated all six Group F teams in our top eight of the tournament so far. Two of these teams however aren’t going to be hanging around. In terms of need, Slovenia knows an early start is big so I’m going with the home team to win. Spain’s number looks about right and I like them too. Finland and Croatia looks made to go down to the wire. I’m picking Croatia but to win by less than the bookies say.

Give us your picks in the comments.

Jun
9

On Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, Giannakopoulos and the Greek League mess

The history books will forever record Panathinaikos as having won game three of the 2012-13 Greek League championship series over Olympiacos by a score of 76-72 to complete a three-game sweep. The reality, as is sadly so often the case in Greens-Reds match, was more complicated.

With just under a minute and a half remaining, an Olympiacos turnover gave Panathinaikos the ball. At this point, Reds fans unleashed their fury on the Greens’ bench for a scene well-known to those familiar with Greek basketball.

Game three therefore ended with refs calling the match with 87 seconds remaining; a request from the officials to clear the building went unheeded.

While some Olympiacos players admitted in defeat that “We did not play good basketball” (18-of-79 three-point shooting in the three games is one statistic fortifying that opinion) or that perhaps they’d been mentally/physically/emotionally exhausted by the Euroleague Final Four victories, but one cannot deny the assessment that “anything can happen in 87 seconds,” particularly when the side down by four points have proven to be Europe’s comeback kids these past two seasons.

The Red Planet report portrays a team “disrespected” by Greek League referees and, by extension, by league officials. Again, hard to deny, considering reports that Reds players were subject to the Wada Test some 15 times since last year’s playoffs – and with not a single positive result.

Said Kostas Papanikolaou in the post-game presser, as reported by Eurohoops: …we are deeply hurt by the rumors [...] that doping had to do with our Euroleague win. This is something that we didn’t deserve and it affected us.” Olympiacos coach Georgios Bartzokas bitterly stated that “A journalist, who is a joke, started a rumor and the Greek state changes its anti-doping policy. That says a lot about Greece. Nobody around Europe mentioned anything like that about us…”

Continue Reading…

Jun
11

Eurobasket 2013: Which NBA players are in, which are out?

Because it’s never too early to start looking ahead to Eurobasket 2013 – wait a minute, there’s only 11 weeks left until tipoff? Definitely not too early, then, to take a look at the formative rosters for the big Continental tournament.

While only a few national teams (Croatia and Lithuania among them) have released preliminary rosters at this point and a few major leagues still playing (Spain, Greece, Germany, Italy, etc.), we can at least deduce which NBA players will or won’t be playing. After all, the rosters of 93.3% of NBA teams have finished their 2012-13 season – and the Miami Heat have no Europeans!

Below is a rundown of each team and the status of their potential NBA players. A few high-profile draft choices and rights-owned guys expected to jump over soon are also peppered in, along with links to appropriate sources. If you find/hear of anything relevant to the list, please comment below.
And we’ll do this group by group…

Group A
Belgium –
no current NBA players

France – Kevin Seraphin (Washington Wizards) is out for ’13 but hints he’ll be back in the future.

Ten days ago, based on a L’Equipe report, website Catch-and-Shoot described Joakim Noah (Chicago Bulls)’ Eurobasket status as *très incertain*, and after another punishing NBA season seems unlikely.

No official word on Nicolas Batum (Portland), though the Trail Blazers reportedly be “watching Batum’s injury” this offseason. Perhaps some discouragement is forthcoming…?

France-based media outlet Figaro reported back in May that Ian Mahinmi (Indiana Pacers) and Ronny Turiaf (Los Angeles Clippers) would play; this may have been speculation based on prior results, but Turiaf’s presence on Les Blues for this tournament has been on coach Collet’s mind for a while.

Continue Reading…

Apr
11

Michael Bramos on Greek Cup incident: “If it happens, it happens…”

(Michael Bramos image courtesy Panathinaikos)You’d think that the, um, enthusiasm at times of Greek basketball fans – you know, stuff like this. And this. And this. And … you get the idea – would be daunting for players otherwise pretty much unaccustomed to such behavior. And if the prospect of flares hurtling down like rain isn’t scary enough, you’d figure actually being knifed might turn a player off entirely to basketball in Greece.

Michael Bramos, however, ain’t going nowhere.

In February, Bramos was playing in his first Greek Cup final, another clash between the country’s Red and Green superpowers. That game, as is all too infrequently the case in Panathinaikos-Olympiacos, was marred by violence which delayed the game for an hour. In the midst of the chaos, Bramos was hit by a thrown jackknife.

So when interviewed by David Hein for the latest “Taking the Charge” podcast, what did Bramos have to say about the incident and Greek fandom in general? “If it happens, it happens … and that’s just the way Greece is.” (For more insight from Bramos, click on the previous link to hear the full interview.)

Prospective import players to Greece, this is your model: Just concentrate on the game and shrug off those knife attacks. It is what it is.

Continue Reading…