On the eve of Eurobasket 2011 (finally), BallinEurope’s man in the U.K., Sam Chadwick, makes his own version of BiE’s patented Fearless Predictions™ with his own brief take on the tournament contender’s chances. And if you don’t think these prognostications are indeed fearless, just scroll down to the bottom to see who he’s got taking the silver medal – not to mention who he *doesn’t* have emerging from Group B.
1. Spain should top the Group of Death, with a formidable line-up featuring both Gasols, Serge Ibaka, Rudy Fernandez, Juan Carlos Navarro and Ricky Rubio, I don’t think anyone will challenge them for supremacy, though I’m sure team no. 2 will try its luck.
2. Lithuania – Jonas Valanciunas has been playing phenomenally as of late; look for him to continue his good form throughout this tournament. Lithuania will of course have home court advantage and, based on last year’s Under-18 European Championship final, the atmosphere will be electric.
3. Turkey – It pains me not to put Great Britain in at no. 3 but after a 23-point blowout to Latvia on Sunday, I had to put the Turks in the show position, with Enes Kanter, Hedo Turkuglo, Ömer Asik and Ersan Ilyasova plus a good showing at last year’s FIBA Worlds, this team could make some noise.
4. Great Britain – With no true elite point guard, Britain will struggle against pressure defence: The Latvian full-court press suffocated our offence and forced turnovers – and Latvia ain’t that good. We had too many turnovers and limited offence, and our highest scorers finished with eight points. As well as the poor offence, our defence made numerous mistakes with little help being played at all.
5. Portugal should be able to beat Poland and could also potentially beat Great Britain. Look for it to be a close finish between nos. 4 and 5.
6. Poland – Without Marcin Gortat, Poland is in for some trouble. Look for them to finish bottom of Group A and while posing little/no competition against the likes of Lithuania and Spain.
1. France – Tony Parker could potentially lead France to its best-ever finish at Eurobasket, with Joakim Noah, Kevin Seraphin, Nicolas Batum, Mickael Pietrus, Boris Diaw, etc. – a lineup that could put France into the final against the Spanish. France went undefeated at the London Prepares Series against Serbia, Australia, China, Croatia and the hosts.
2. Italy – This is a tough group, as Italy are bringing the big guns this summer, with the likes of Danilo Gallinari, Andrea Bargnani and Marco Belinelli. Italy recently won the Acropolis Tournament in Greece against solid competition. With some players bosting little Eurobasket experience they may struggle against Germany and Serbia, but they definitely have the firepower to reach the second round.
3. Germany – They may be having bonding problems, but Dirk will always come through under pressure; with another decent big man on the squad in Chris Kaman, Germany could surprise us all, much like Dallas did in the NBA Championships.
4. Serbia – A disappointing finish at the London Prepares Series gives me worries about Serbia, as they lost to France and nearly fell to Great Britain without Luol Deng. They have a solid lineup, but I’m not sure if they can beat the Italians and the Germans … only time will tell.
5. Latvia – After demolishing Great Britain by 23 points on Sunday, Latvia may be surprised by the competition in Lithuania, and with an opening game against France this team could get completely blown out. The consolation prize is that they should beat Israel comfortably.
6. Israel – Without Omri Casspi, this team has little hope. Every side should rip them to shreds, enough said.
1. Greece – Despite missing some key players, Greece should still win what is considered one of the weakest groups, although they may struggle in the second round. Montenegro, however, could provide some tough competition.
2. Montenegro – With Nikola Pekovic back in the lineup, Montenegro have a solid squad who will challenge Greece for first place in Group C.
3. Croatia – This is though based on play at the London Prepares Series, Croatia will not contend well in this tournament. They will beat the likes of Bosnia & Herzegovina with ease, but Finland, who were the top qualifier for Eurobasket, could be a surprise and make this group a little bit more competitive.
4. Finland – Fine, they had to qualify to actually get to Lithuania, but Finland are a solid squad; with the likes of Petteri Koponen, Teemu Rannikko and Shawn Huff, they should be able to drain it from long range and again should find it fairly easy to beat Bosnia & Herzegovina.
5. FYR Macedonia – I know little about Macedonia, but I do know that they won’t contend with the Greeks but should be able to handle the Bosnians. If Bo McCalebb is playing, they could potentially beat the Finns.
6. Bosnia & Herzegovina – They are here to be annihilated. That is all.
1. Russia – This was close. The Russians and the Slovenians are close, but I’m giving the edge to AK-47 and the Russians. With Timofey Mozgov playing well at centre, this team could surprise all the people who think they’ve passed their prime.
2. Slovenia should provide some solid competition for the Russians and could steal first in Group D depending on how well they play, as they should easily beat the remainder of the group with no real threat from any of the below teams.
3. Georgia – Zaza Pachulia puts this team in third place; he alone will beat the Belgium national team and Ukraine should also be swept to the side with ease.
4. Bulgaria – Now it gets a little harder. The bottom three teams in Group D are all relatively bad, and Bulgaria should have the strongest of the three.
5. Belgium – With D.J. Mbenga off the squad anything is possible! I’m joking – they still suck.
6. Ukraine – Much like Bosnia, this squad boasts little talent and should be sent home early.
Unlike many others, I am predicting a final of France versus Spain, with Spain winning. I don’t see anyone beating this team, as their front court is just too dominant and with both Marc and Pau, they are basically unstoppable. Adding Ibaka just makes Spain too damn scary for any opposing guards to venture into that lane without getting blocked. The back court is also a scoring machine, with Juan Carlos Navarro and Rudy Fernandez. Last but not least, they have Ricky Rubio, who may have struggled for FC Barcelona this year but should be able to provide Spain with solid PG skills and rack up assists. France’s Tony Parker will be key for France in the final and thus the matchup with Rubio is key, but with no Ronny Turiaf, the French frontcourt will struggle to match up with the Spaniards.
Although Lithuania is the home team, I only see them finishing with a bronze medal, with just not good enough a squad to beat the Spanish or French.
Sam Chadwick is a university student, part-time sportswriter and a coach in the Solent Kestrels organization.