While counting down the days ’til Eurobasket 2009 tips off, BallinEurope.com will take a brief look at the field of 16 teams in brief. Enough said — onto today’s capsules!
In brief: The word is “plucky.” With Team Bulgaria’s one bonafide superstar, Ibrahim Jaaber, out, all the pluck in the world won’t get this undermanned team a win in a tough group.
Missing pieces: Jaaber
Expanded roster: Dimitar Angelov (Lukoil Academic Sofia); Bozhidar Avramov (Pamesa Valencia); Tencho Banev (Lukoil Academic Sofia); Vassil Evtimov (Khimik OPZ Yuzny); Stefan Georgiev (BC Levski Sofia); Zlatin Georgiev (BC Levski Sofia); Aleksandar Georgiev; Deyan Ivanov (Premiata Montegranaro); Kaloyan Ivanov (Vive Menorca); Chavdar Kostov (Lukoil Academic Sofia); Ivan Lilov; Boyko Mladenov (BC Levski Sofia); Hristo Nikolov; Andre Owens (Crvena Zvezda Belgrade); Earl Rowland (Telekom Baskets Bonn); Stanislav Slaveykov (BC Levski Sofia); Todor Stoykov (Lukoil Academic Sofia); Asen Velikov; Filip Videnov (CB Granada).
BiE take: Bulgaria hasn’t been a threat in this tournament since the 1970s (and haven’t won a game in Eurobasket since ’89); with a FIBA ranking of no. 55, they’re just happy to be here.
In brief: The checkerboards are stacked, healthy and coming off a dominant run in the recent Efes Pilsen World Cup tournament. This is one sweet roster, with names like Nikola Prkácin, Zoran Planinic, Marko Popovic, Davor Kus, Roko Ukic, Marko Banic, Nikola Vujcic, Mario Kasun playing incredibly well together and each making contributions to this well-balanced squad.
Missing pieces: None significant.
The roster: Zoran Planinic (CSKA Moscow); Marko Popovic (Unics Kazan); Roko-Leni Ukic (Milwaukee Bucks); Davor Kus (Cibona Zagreb); Marin Rozic (Cibona Zagreb); Marko Tomas (Real Madrid); Nikola Prkacin (Cibona Zagreb); Krešimir Loncar (Unics Kazan); Marko Banic (I.Bilbao Basket); Sandro Nicevic (Benetton Treviso); Nikola Vujcic (Olimpiacos); Mario Kasun (Efes Pilsen); Ante Tomic (KK Zagreb); Mario Stojic (Vive Menorca); and Damir Rancic (KK Zadar).
BiE take: Croatia should go far – perhaps into the final four – and these guys might well be the biggest threat to Greek supremacy in this entire half of the bracket with some nice matchup advantages.
In brief: After messing around a bit in the Additional Qualifying Round with losses to upstarts Finland and Belgium along the way, Team France reestablished dominance in destroying Belgium in the AQR final, 92-54. A slight inconsistency of roster and fairly significant inconsistency in performance make Les Blues the heart-attack team of this tournament.
Missing pieces: Despite the dings and mileage accumulated by Tony Parker and Nicholas Batum recently, Team France goes into this thing at full strength. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
The roster: Nicholas Batum (Portland Trailblazers), Yannick Bokolo (BCM Gravelines), Nando De Colo (Valencia), Boris Diaw (Charlotte Bobcats), Antoine Diot (Le Mans Sarthe), Aymeric Jeanneau (ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne), Alain Koffi (Joventut Badalona), Ian Mahinmi (Austin Toros/San Antonio Spurs), Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs), Florent Pietrus (Valencia), Ali Traore (ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne), Rony Turiaf (Golden State Warriors).
BiE take: France is considered the favorite to take Group B, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see La Republique take a “surprise” loss in pool play and finish second. These guys could get bounced in the first knockout game or be a final four contender; we’ll hedge no bets here.
In brief: The downside of Dirk Nowitski’s pro career, a top league in which foreigners are dominant, and a completely rebuilt national team roster – It all signals the end of a Golden Era in German basketball, right? Well, not if coach Dirk Bauermann has anything to say about it; Team Germany looked pretty good in the World Cup, particularly in the championship game against host Turkey.
Missing pieces: Herr Nowitski, of course. And coach Bauermann passed on Chris Kaman this time out, too.
The roster: Robin Benzing (Ratiopharm Ulm), Patrick Femerling (Alba Berlin), Demond Greene (Brose Baskets), Elias Harris (Gonzaga University), Yassin Idbihi (New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig), Jan Jagla (Joventut Badalona), Tibor Pleiss (Köln 99ers), Heiko Schaffartzik (New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig), Sven Schultze (Olympia Larissa), Lucca Staiger (Iowa State University), Konrad Wysocki (Deutsche Bank Skyliners).
BiE take: Deutschland is the big question mark of the tournament, but a win over Russia or France – completely possible, if these guys can hum along as they did in the Ankara tourney – could spur them on to final 16 play and put these newbies on the map.
In brief: Of all competitors, fledgling Great Britain has the most to lose and/or gain in Eurobasket 2009, with the International Olympic Committee having waived the traditional automatic qualification for the host team in the 2012 Olympics has been waived in Britannia’s case. The team must put up or shut up in at least one major international competition before then.
Missing pieces: Everyone viable, i.e. Ben Gordon and Luol Deng. To make matters worse, Pops Mensah-Bonsu was not at 100% health for friendly matches in July and August.
The roster: Kieron Achara (Angelico Bella), Robert Archibald (Unicaja), Andrew Betts (Aris Thessaloniki), Flinder Boyd (Beirasar Rosalia), Daniel Clark (Estudiantes), Germanyne Forbes (BBC Nyon), Joel Freeland (Unicaja), Nick George (Gravelines Dunkerque), Jarrett Hart (Keravnos), Mike Lenzly (Harem Scafati), Pops Mensah-Bonsu (Toronto Raptors), Nate Reinking (Dexia Mons-Hainaut), Justin Robinson (Rider University), Andrew Sullivan (CSK VVS Samara).
BiE take: BallinEurope.com sponsor Paddy Power is currently offering 1/3 odds on Great Britain to lose all its Eurobasket games. That’s a safe bet.
Tomorrow: Briefs on Greece, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, and Poland
— written by Os Davis