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Jul
2

Twenty years ago today: The Road to Barcelona

All right, so it wasn’t exactly twenty years ago today per se, but the current Argentina-Spain-US tournament playing these days brought to mind some of the warmup games in 1992 – at that time, all the Dream Teams kept us enthralled as we imagined the upcoming clashes in Barcelona.

So today another chapter in BallinEurope’s series looking back at ‘92 runs below – just a couple of quickies on qualifying games before the tournament. And Charles Barkley.

• The Dream Team’s first appearance had them opening the Tournament of the Americas in Portland, an Olympic qualifying round (giggle), against Cuba. Team USA ultimately went 6-0 in the tourney, rolling over opponents by an average score of 121-70; it all began with a 136-57 victory over Cuba which ultimately elicited the old Cuban adage “You can’t cover the sun with your finger” from head coach Miguel Calderon Gomez.

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Jul
0

Highlights: 90 seconds from the Olympic qualifiers

Here’s a quickie for you, then: Approximately 90 seconds’ worth of official highlight clip from the 2012 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, starring Bo McCalebb, Vassilis Spanoulis, Ike Diogu and a whole bunch of others…

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Jul
51

Vlado Ilievski: FIBA partly to blame for FYR Macedonia defeat

How do you say “sour grapes” in Macedonian? In looking for reasons for his side’s loss to Team Dominican Republic in Olympic qualifiers, Vlado Ilievski sounded off on FIBA organization itself.

Teams from South America had more time for preparation,” Ilievski is quoted in FYR Macedonia-based Dnevnik. “They played in continental championships and were [in sync]. We had players whose seasons ended on June 15. I was injured and I was with the team for just 10 days. How can you prepare in such a short time? This is no excuse for losing, but at least we tried. We had a chance to become the first team from Macedonia to play in the Olympics and so we are disappointed. If we’d won, we would have had two more chances, but life goes on. Thanks to this generation [of players], the world knows about Macedonia…”

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Jul
7

God, please give us victories!

In advancing to the 2012 Olympic Games, Team Lithuania has written itself into the record books. BallinEurope’s Lithuanian agent Y. wants you to understand just how important this achievement is to the people of that basketball-adoring country…

“God, please give us victories. Some people don’t understand: This is all we have left. Basketball is the only thing that is keeping Lithuania together. The cheering, the singing, the same colors, all of this is what reminds me of who we are. We are a union, a family and some stupid Lithuanians make me forget that all the time. But when I look at our amazing team, who put their last efforts into winning, I cannot be happier. So God, please give us victories, all we want is to stay a country.” –L. Hasai in “And you? Are you aware of what this means for Lithuania?” the video celebrating the 2010 edition of the Lithuanian national team

Go and ask anyone who understands. It was a question of life or death for Lithuanian basketball last week in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Venezuela.

As soon-to-become four-time Olympian Šarūnas Jasikevičius drove past Puerto Rico’s Daniel Santiago with 31 seconds to go in the quarterfinal matchup, the country’s entire basketball chronicle flashed in the minds of every green-and-white fan. Lithuania, down one, was perhaps one failed possession away from losing an opportunity to reach London 2012.

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Jul
61

Upset in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament today: What are the chances?

Right, so BallinEurope has already publicly logged Official Fearless Predictions™ for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament knockout stage in bracket format. Europe’s four representatives – group winners all – take on some decent African and North American competition, but nevertheless the bookies like an all-Europe final four in Venezuela.

Indeed, there’s a high probability that none of these favorites will be eliminated today. In Groups B and D produced a fair number of underdog victories in round-robin play: Venezuela over Nigeria, Nigeria over Lithuania, New Zealand over Angola, and (BiE maintains) Angola over FYR Macedonia. In contrast, the quite-predictable 2008 version of this tourney included zero upsets in round-robin play and really only one that might be called at least moderately surprise: Puerto Rico over Slovenia.

So which European teams should be worried about the upset today/tonight (tomorrow morning CET)? From least to most? BiE would say the list looks like this…

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Jul
10

Fearless Predictions™: BallinEurope’s Olympic Qualifiers bracket

More on today’s FIBA Olympic Qualifying Round games will be posted momentarily, but in the meantime, the following is BallinEurope’s bracket for the tournament – and let’s call the picks Official BiE Fearless Predictions™. Yeah, BiE’s got all four European sides getting through…

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Jul
0

Bo shakes and bakes like Hakeem the Dream

The play of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament thus far? Well, call BallinEurope biased, but check out Bo McCalebb’s crazy moves in utterly flummoxing New Zealand big man Rob Loe in FYR Macedonia’s 84-62 win over the Tall Blacks. And since FIBA is comparing Bo’s moves to those of Hakeem Olajuwon’s “Dream Shake,” a video of this maneuver’s variations by the master is included for comparison’s sake.

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Jul
17

2012 Olympic Qualifying Tournament Preview: Greece

Just one more day (or so, CET) until the heartily-named 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Men tips off in Venezuela. BallinEurope continues with previews of the four European qualifiers with an assessment of Greece, a.k.a. Olympiacos and a bunch of other guys.

Roster: Vassilis Spanoulis, Georgios Printezis, Kostas Papanikolaou, Kostas Sloukas, Evangelos Mantzaris (Olympiacos); Ioannis Bourousis, Antonis Fotsis (Olimpia Milano); Nikos Zisis (Montepaschi Siena); Nick Calathes, Kostas Kaimakoglou, Ian Vougioukas (Panathinaikos); Dimitrios Mavroeidis, Kostas Vasileiadis (Gescrap Bilbao Basket); and Michael Bramos (Gran Canaria); head coach Ilias Zouros (Anadolu Efes)

Notable no shows: Dimitris Diamantidis of Panathinaikos retired from national team play, returning that all-important starting point guard role to Vassilis Spanoulis – not a bad trade off this year … also out are Kostas Koufos (Denver Nuggets) and Sofoklis Schortsanitis (Maccabi Tel Aviv) due to injury.

How they got here: In Eurobasket 2011, a hot start saw Team Greece winning five of the first six games, only to drop three of the final five with losses to Russia, France and Lithuania in the placement game. In the penultimate match, however, Hellas put together its best game of the tournament in topping Serbia, 87-77, to earn a spot in these qualifiers.

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Jun
10

2012 Olympic Qualifying Tournament Preview: FYR Macedonia

Bo knows ... he just knows, OK?

The 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Men tips off in Venezuela on Monday. Until then, BallinEurope takes a look at the four European squads competing in turn. Today, an assessment of those Eurobasket 2011 darlings, FYR Macedonia.

Roster: Pero Antic (Olympiacos); Gjorgi Chekovski, Todor Gechevski (MZT Skopje); Vlado Ilievski (Lokomotiv Kuban); Aleksandar Kostoski (Kumanovo); Bo McCalebb (Montepaschi Siena); Kiril Nikolovski, Marko Simonovski, Darko Sokolov (Feni Indistrija); Vojdan Pavlov (?); Predrag Samardziski (Lietuvos Rytas); Damjan Stojanovski (Lukoil Akademik); coach Marjan Lazovski (Torus Skopje)
Notable no shows: Though the name players from the Macedonian Miracle at Eurobasket 2011 – Pero Antic, Vlado Ilievski and of course Bo McCalebb – have not yet played with the team in friendlies, they will apparently be competing in the qualifying tournament.

How they got here: By way of the Macedonian Miracle, of course! *The* dark horse, the surprise, the transcendence of fundamental European-style ‘ball, the whatever-adjective-you-wish-to-apply of Eurobasket 2011, Team FYR Macedonia stunned viewers with their fourth-place finish (and two near-wins against ultimate third-placers Russia). Not even BiE (ahem), whose Fearless Prediction™ had them advancing out of Group C, reckoned the Lions would romp so far into the tournament.

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Jun
5

Lithuania “struggles” in 77-68 loss to Russia: Kaun nets 21; Valanciunas gets 12, eight boards

Valanciunas was pretty good, though...

For lack of YouTube clips and FIBA posts, BallinEurope directs you to Lithuania Basketball for a brief writeup on the Russia-Lietuva friendly in Houston last night. The general gist: Despite taking a 37-35 lead into halftime, Team Lithuania struggled enough in the third quarter to take a 77-68 loss.

In fact, “struggle” appears to be the clear verb for the Lithuanians early on. Lithuania Basketball characterized the home team as “struggling quite badly this summer…” Thus far, they’re 1-3 with losses to fellow Olympic qualifying round teams Greece and FYR Macedonia plus a win against Team Britain in addition to this result.

Players of note included Sasha Kaun (21 points), Andrei Kirilenko (15 points, eight rebounds), Timofey Mozgov (10 points) and Sergey Monya (10 points) for Russia; Jonas Valanciunas (12 points, eight rebounds), Linas Kleiza (12 points), Jonas Maciulis (11 points) and Rimantas Kaukenas (11 points) for Lithuania.

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