In brief: Two years after winning gold, Team Moscow – i mean, Team Russia – brings the “new look” team of the tournament. These young guys will be relying on solid fundamental play and the stifling D for which the country’s international teams have come to be known in the 2000s.
Missing pieces: Team Russia stalwarts Andrei Kirilenko and J.R. Holden primarily, but also literally half the team that took it all at Eurobasket 2007.
The roster: Sergey Bykov (Dynamo Moscow), Vitaly Fridzon (Khimki Moscow region), Sasha Kaun (CSKA Moscow), Viktor Khryapa (CSKA Moscow), Nikita Kurbanov (CSKA Moscow), Kelly McCarty (Khimki Moscow region), Sergey Monya (Dynamo Moscow), Timofey Mozgov (Khimki Moscow region), Anton Ponkrashov (CSKA Moscow), Alexey Shved, Dmitry Sokolov (CSKA Moscow), Igor Vyaltchev, Andrey Vorontsevich (CSKA Moscow).
BiE take: Blessed with some potentially favorable matchups in pool play – you gotta like the Russians against either Germany or Latvia in theory – should get Russia into the second round. On the other hand, this team will lose in any shootout, and a couple of freakish hot hands could bounce this team in three games.
In brief: Can any team leave so many seemingly vital pieces at home (or at NBA training facilities, as the case may be) and still field such a viable team? Gone are the international superstars playing ball in the US, in are assassins from the Euroleague and ACB. Team Serbia will be employing a fast-paced, run-and-gun, shoot-first-questions-later offense for this tournament which should be quite a thrill to watch.
Missing pieces: In addition to final cuts Dusan Kecman and Zoran Erceg, Peja Stojakovic, Marko Jaric, Aleksandar Pavlovic, Vladimir Radmanovic, Igor Rakocevic, Milos Vujanic and Darko Milicic are on the “will not play” list. Maybe if Team Serbia performs well in Eurobasket 2009, the squad should organize a pickup game with these guys.
The roster: Nemanja Bjelica (KK Crvena Zvezda), Nenad Krstic (Oklahoma City Thunder), Milan Macvan (KK Hemofarm), Stefan Markovic (KK Hemofarm), Ivan Paunic (Base Oostende), Kosta Perovic (Valencia), Bojan Popovic (Lietuvos Rytas), Miroslav Raduljica (Unicaja), Milos Teodosic (Olympiacos), Milenko Tepic (Panathinaikos), Uros Tripkovic (DKV Joventut), Novica Velickovic (Real Madrid).
BiE take: Serbia will be the surprise of this tournament and will only be eliminated in the final eight in a nail-biter; Tripkovic emerges as one of Eurobasket’s studs and makes the all-tournament team.
In brief: Hmm. Despite all the talent on this team, one can’t help but wonder if something rotten is lying behind the surface. Beno Udrih’s injury will do this team no good in this tournament; combine this with Sasha Vujacic’s recent testimony about Team Slovenia staff and, well, a conspiracist like myself fills in some blanks. If Slovenia crashes and burns in this tournament, expect a house-clearing, allegation-flying, debate-flowing year or two within this national program.
Missing pieces: Udrih, Vujacic.
The roster: Primoz Brezec (Philadelphia 76ers); Goran Dragic (Phoenix Suns); Jurica Golemac (Lottomatica Roma); Goran Jagodnik (Hemofarm Vrsac); Jaka Klobucar (Union Olimpija); Jaka Lakovic (FC Barcelona); Domen Lorbek (last season with Benetton Treviso); Erazem Lorbek (FC Barcelona); Bostjan Nachbar (Efes Pilsen); Uros Slokar (Fortitudo Bologna); Matjaz Smodis (CSKA Moscow); Samo Udrih (CB Estudiantes).
BiE take: Slovenia crashes and burns in this tournament, followed by a house-clearing, allegation-flying, debate-flowing year or two within this national program.
In brief: Scary from top to bottom and at all positions: Rubio. Fernandez. Navarro. Felipe Reyes. The Gasol brothers. Spain are the favorites and boy, they look gooooooooood to win the Eurobasket tourney for the first time ever.
But what about chemistry? Sergio Scariolo is Spain’s third coach in three years and whoa, did this team look out of sorts in the recent friendly-game demolition by Lithuania.
Missing pieces: Banged up Jose Manuel Calderon; also, 11-time Team Spain member Carlos Jimenez announced his retirement from international play after the Beijing Olympics.
The roster: Carlos Cabezas (Khimki Moscow region); Victor Claver (Valencia); Rudy Fernandez (Portland Trail Blazers); Jorge Garbajosa (Real Madrid); Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies); Pau Gasol (Los Angeles Lakers); Raul Lopez (Khimki Moscow region); Sergio Llull (Real Madrid); Alex Mumbru (CB Bilbao Berri); Ricky Rubio (FC Barcelona); Juan Carlos Navarro (FC Barcelona); Felipe Reyes (Real Madrid).
BiE take: Sheer talent will take this team far – maybe even all the way – but here’s to thinking the road to the finals won’t be easy. In the La Porra game, i’m taking Serbia over Spain on Monday, for example. Meanwhile, FC Barcelona fans slowly become insufferable as they salivate en masse to the stylings of their new 1-2 combo of Rubio and Navarro.
In brief: In August at the “Game On” friendly tournament in London’s O2 arena, Turkey took care of business against Israel and Great Britain. In hosting the Efes Pilsen World Cup later that month, Turkey suffered disappointing losses to Germany and Croatia. In other words, this squad plays to take care of business against the lower-tier but still looks a cut below the elite.
Missing pieces: A *big* one in Mehmet Okur. Also out are Kerem Gonlum and Cevher Ozer.
The roster: Ender Arslan (Efes Pilsen SK); Omer Asik (Fenerbahçe Ülker); Engin Atsur (Besiktas Cola Turka); Semih Erden (Fenerbahçe Ülker); Sinan Guler (Efes Pilsen SK); Baris Hersek (Bandirma Banvit); Ersan Ilyasova (Milwaukee Bucks); Omer Onan (Fenerbahçe Ülker); Oguz Savas (Fenerbahçe Ülker); Kerem Tunceri (Efes Pilsen SK); Hidayet Turkoglu (Toronto Raptors); Bekir Yarangume (Turk Telekom BK).
BiE take: A relatively weak group is this team’s saving grace in the short run, but forget the Turkish miracle of the 2006 FIBA Worlds. These guys won’t last beyond the second round. Oh, and you may want to cover your eyes during that Lithuania game Monday night.
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