More than one follower of this year’s EuroBasket tournament – BallinEurope included – has noted the, let’s say, less than challenging schedule given to a few of the competition’s powerhouses.
Spain, France and possibly Russia (depending on how one feels about Georgia) have faced grievously overmatched competition in the first three games. The timetable has been particularly favorable to the defending champions, who drew a first three of Poland, playing without their only bona fide superstars in Marcin Gortat and Maciej Lampe; Portugal, the last team to qualify for the tournament; and still-developing Great Britain, who some have rather undiplomatically remarked belongs in FIBA Europe’s B Division. Forced to play on three consecutive days, the world no. 2 team couldn’t have asked for more favorability.
Conspiracy? Well, maybe, but according to Spain head coach Sergio Scariolo, the specific competition in pool play may be irrelevant. Speaking after the team’s practice last night, Scariolo, upon asked if his side was playing at 100% explained that, “It’s very difficult to [put a number on it]. Our plan is not to play 100% in the qualification round. Our goal is to play 100% in quarterfinals.”
With no serious lapses suffered to this point, Spain has looked quite good through three, but Scariolo insists that his team is merely “getting better step by step.”
Is this a Jacksonian head game? Perhaps, though Scariolo did apply a bit of modesty as well, stating that tonight’s opponent Lithuania – really the first true test for this edition of Team Spain – is “athletic, organized, very good at every position, [and] are playing with extra energy.”
The coach went on to say that “We are all well aware of the toughness of the tomorrow game. No question we will be playing one of the best teams here and even more that they are always supported by fantastic crowd.”
“We have to be extremely, extremely good tomorrow,” said Scariolo.