With the 2010 FIBA World Championship picture now coming into focus, BallinEurope can take a look ahead, determining some who will, some who might and some who could reach the “Eight Finals” after tonight’s games.
Though technically only Canada has been mathematically eliminated altogether, the fat lady is definitely warming up in the wings of Angola, Jordan, Tunisia, Iran, Cote d’Ivoire and Lebanon. Thanks to loss to Puerto Rico last night, China, too, can be exterminated from further contention in 2010 tonight as well. Indeed, if all goes as planned, we’ll know the 16 qualifiers for the knockout stage after tonight’s games.
Of course, the excitement of games five comes in the battles for placement. Things are totally up for grabs in Group B after Team USA with Brazil, Slovenia and Croatia in the mix for spots 2-4; the three-way dogfight among Argentina, Serbia and Australia in Group A will make things interesting until the final buzzer tomorrow night; Group C has a similar triple towers setup with an European war among Serbia, Turkey and Russia with two games to go.
And then there’s Group D. Clearly the most intriguing bunch from the start of the tournament, this one has been dominated – yes, dominated – by those two other “B teams” in this tournament: France and Lithuania.
One supposes that in a year when so many big names declared themselves out, the tightly-knit squads of unknowns possess advantages in the “intangibles” areas that make the difference. All philosophy aside, France and Lithuania are advancing while Spain fights to stay alive to surely wonder what in Naismith’s name is going on…
Tonight’s schedule of 12 games plus advancement scenarios, official BiE Fearless Predictions™ and video clips (yes!) follow the break.
China vs. Russia. Russia has recovered enough after a lousy training period to potentially even swipe the no. 2 spot in Group C. (In a completely relevant side story, David Blatt gave notice before certain firing yesterday; BiE pegged this three weeks ago.) A win here would guarantee Team Russia at least the third seed for the knockout round. China faces a longshot chance of advancing, thanks to the Puerto Rico loss yesterday: They get Turkey after Russia needing a split while Puerto Rico drops both remaining games against Turkey and Cote d’Ivoire. BiE fearless prediction™: It’s see ya, China, as Russia holds ‘em to well under 76 points, their low thus far in the tournament.
Canada vs. New Zealand. Sadly, Team Canada as the gear up for the Tall Blacks, but they’ll need wins here and against Spain while both New Zealand and Lebanon lose out. New Zealand is assisted in its quest to advance by yesterday’s shooting clinic against Lebanon to the extent that it’s now possible for the Kiwis to back in the knockout stage with two more losses and a 1-4 overall record (only to face Turkey, presumably, in the tournament stage). BiE fearless prediction™: Canada finally gets the much-deserved win to delay the New Zealand party just a bit longer.
Serbia vs. Australia. That September 2 game against Argentina will remain critical to shaping the rest of the tournament, but who knew Oz might still be in the competition to grab the two spot in Group A. A win by either team here probably means the #2 spot since Australia faces Angola tomorrow, but Australia has little chance at no. 1, as they’ve lost to Argentina. Serbia can win out to win the top seed; with a loss to Australia and a win against Argentina, Serbia would also finish #1 in Group A, with Oz dropping to third. BiE fearless prediction™: Nothing should stop the full-strength Greece in an easy win.
Croatia vs. Tunisia. Tunisia is effectively out of the tournament, barring complete collapse by Croatia. Croatia pretty much has the no. 4 spot locked up and a win against hapless Tunisia would guarantee it. BiE fearless prediction™: Croatia, in the biggest blowout of the evening.
Cote d’Ivoire vs. Greece. Like the other three bottom-feeders in group play, Cote d’Ivorie needs a miracle finish, plus a complete collapse (in this case, Puerto Rico) to advance. Greece clinches at least third place in Group C with a win and would take the no. 2 spot by beating Russia on the final day. BiE fearless prediction™: Greece … wait a second, did I already use the “biggest blowout” line?
Lebanon vs. Spain. Lebanon’s run is over early, it would seem. Wins against Spain and Lithuania *might* get them a spot in the knockouts, but come on. Spain is in with a win and out only if they lose both games. By the way, how do you say “WTF” in Spanish? BiE fearless prediction™: Spain, Spain and more Spain. (They can’t possibly blow this one, can they?)
Germany vs. Angola. What’s the best way for the young Germans to rebuild their confidence after the utterly deflating throttling given them by New Zealand? How about a day off and then a game against Angola, followed by Jordan? Germany is in with a win here and only Serbia losing both games could get Team Deutschland up to no. 3 in Group A – and out of a date with Team USA in the tournament round. Angola can only advance by winning this one and then against Australia. BiE fearless prediction™: Germany wins despite a shaky start.
Iran vs. USA. Classic bottom-feeder scenario for Iran: win against either USA or Slovenia while Croatia drops both. In other words, “buh bye.” Team USA’s magic number is one to take the top seed in the group. BiE fearless prediction™: Are you kidding? USA in a laugher.
Turkey vs. Puerto Rico. After the win against Greece, Turkey is rounding into great form just in time. A win here clinches the home team official alpha dog status in Group C. Puerto Rico can lose this game and still advance by taking out Cote d’Ivoire tomorrow. BiE fearless prediction™: Turkey joins USA among the no. 1s and does it quickly.
Argentina vs. Jordan. Argentina can clinch at least the no. 2 spot with a win, but all the final seeding in Group A will apparently depend on that final Argentina-Serbia game tomorrow. Jordan faces a steep hill with Germany after this, plus two wins and a lot of favorable losses to advance. BiE fearless prediction™: Argentina eliminates Jordan.
Brazil vs. Slovenia. Nice battle of the big teams here. Assuming Team USA wraps this group up, this game will be for no. 2. With a loss, Slovenia would need to beat Iran tomorrow for the third seed. If Brazil loses and Croatia wins, the Brazil-Croatia game would determine the third and fourth spots in the Group B. BiE fearless prediction™: It’s Brazil in a game that goes down to the final shot.
Lithuania vs. France. In the marquee matchup of the night, either team can clinch this group and most likely draw Puerto Rico in the final game of knockouts – while *Team Spain fights for third,* a bizarre scenario few expected a month or so ago. France could theoretically still be knocked out of the tourney with back-to-back losses and two New Zealand wins, while Lithuania advances regardless. BiE fearless prediction™: Lithuania cannot maintain the momentum as France wins and clinches, with Lithuania awaiting either Greece or Russia.
Finally, for European basketball devotees and/or Team Spain detractors, here’s Team Lithuania finishing off los hombres last night: