After the dust settled from a scintillating trio of Eurobasket 2009 games played yesterday, two questions remained: 1) Should we now pencil Turkey in for the finals or merely the final four? And 2) which is the bigger train wreck right now, Spain or Lithuania?
Today’s slate of games looks to be a fairly predictable set: Two games feature the only bona fide contenders not named Team Turkey remaining, while the 3.45pm game has fairly hot Germany taking on FYR Macedonia, not so much a train wreck as an engine that never left the station.
And so the Sunday edition of fearless Eurobasket predictions runs as follows.
FYR Macedonia v. Germany. FYR Macedonia has done about as well as could be expected in this tournament, taking out personal nemesis Israel in the first round. The big boys have not been kind to FYR Macedonia, however; this team was creamed by Greece and France, while Team Croatia only needed to exert some willpower to overcome the underdogs. FYR Macedonia last qualified for the Eurobasket tournament in 1999; hopefully, they’ll return before 2019 but this bid is probably over today. BiE fearless prediction: Dirk Bauermann’s slick Team Germany takes care of business and starts thinking final eight.
Greece v. Russia. Team Russia has been fantastic on defense, reducing opposition scoring to the tune of 68 points per game and is fresh off a Croatia clampdown which had the previously sharpshooting Checkerboards looking at a score of just 59 based on a pathetic 35.4 percent success rate from the floor. Of course, no one has held Team Greece to under 76 points yet in this tournament and this machine ain’t shutting down today. BiE fearless prediction: Greece in a blowout.
France v. Croatia. The last time Croatia had to bounce back from an apparently demoralizing defeat – the never-in-doubt 76-68 loss to Greece in game two – the team emerged to play their most focused, clean ball against FYR Macedonia the following day. Today the rest is longer, but the situation is the same: Can Team Croatia mentally rebound after nothing at all worked against Russia on Friday?
Maybe, but it’s going to take the proverbial 110% effort plus maybe a miracle to stop France right now. Defensively, the team has given up less than 60 points a game. Thanks to the greater-than-sum-of-parts combination of Rony Turiaf, Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw, Les Bleus are also tops in Eurobasket in defensive rebounds and total rebounds. While in other statistical categories, France’s performance has been moderate (and they’re dead last in free-throw shooting percentage at 55.9%? Ugly.), the team has been a model of team play and consistency.
BiE fearless prediction: France wins, but Croatia keeps the score close ‘cause they always do.