Eurobasket-2009 Group D Preview

turTURKEY

The team consists mostly of the ever so successful qualification round players. The emergence of Hidayet Turkoglu not only as a star but also a leader fills a big void on the team. Turkey many times seems in dire need of direction and now Turkoglu can provide it. Unlike many stars, Turkoglu doesn’t need the ball in his hands, nor does he care that much about personal accolades, making his transition to European basketball ever so much easier. But he never hesitates to take responsibility in clutch situations giving the team a boost.

The team has accepted his mature leadership also. Erasing some earlier NBA vs Europe emotions also. Turkoglu will get the most help from Ersan Ilyasova. He had a stellar season in Barcelona and will be the “twin towers on the wing” with Turkoglu. Both of them being agile, big, active players and having range gives Turkey flexibility few teams have at their arsenal.
Apart from the two stars all players come from the Beko Basketball League and mainly from two Euroleague representatives. The backcourt is dominated by Efes Pilsen players and the frontcourt by Fenerbahce Ulker. Kerem Tunceri with his great basketball mind, uncanny court vision and strong presence and Ender Arslan with his unrivalled speed, better ball-handling and unstoppable penetrating skills are a good tandem. Offering different skill sets on the floor. Same can be said for

Semih Erden and Oguz Savas inside. Playing year-long with each other on their respective teams increased their communication on the floor as well off it. Engin Atsur and Omer As?k are coming from long absences of injury but both are important parts to the team.

Prediction: 4-8 place

Turkish is well builded and as always is one of the main candidates for playoff. They should not have big troubles on the first stage and qualify to 2nd stage because of win over Bulgaria. If they will find a way to win Lithuania which usually wins against very hard this team is going to enter playoffs where all will depend on their mentality which is not usually their strong points especially at the end of the tournament. Lack of motivation may also hurt them if they will fail in quarterfinals. So I expect them to be in Top-8.

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BULGARIA

Bulgaria has always been gifted with capable outside scorers. Back during EuroBasket 2005, Todor Stoykov, one the most famous Bulgarian players, and Filip Videnov combined for an outstanding 41 points per game. After recovering from an eye injury, Videnov will be able to play this summer. A blessing for Bulgaria, considering how crucial his imput has been during the Qualifying Round (he went 5/6 from three-point land against Italy, helping his team to a 81-80 upset).

But Bulgaria has other reasons to believe. Despite a brutal group that includes hosts Poland, Turkey and Lithania, this team will count on the developpement of the Ivanov twins. After terrorizing the competition during youth tournaments, they’ll have to prove that they can have an impact at the top European level, but they have the abilities to be factors. Bulgaria should be able to more versatile than ever, offensively.

Prediction: 13-16

Gershon is a good coach but this time he has big players with too much emotions and too less individual class to pretend here for something seriuos. It will be hard for them to win a game in first stage so their only chance is to fight for 13-16 place with teams they can beat.

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LITHUANIA

After falling one step short of another Olympic podium spot last summer in Beijing, Lithuania, even without a lot of its star players, will remain one of the favourites in the gold medal race. Siskauskas, Kaukenas, Jasikevicius and Macijauskas might not be there, but the talent is still there, at every position…

But the most amazing thing about this Lithuanian national team is probably that without its 2.18 mNBA Eastern Conference finalist, its all-around forward (Siskauskas), its “winner in chief” (Jasikevicius) and its two all around guards (Macijauskas and Kaukenas), the greens still are one of the favourites to win this EuroBasket 2009. Why? Just because, to replace them at the 2 and 3 positions, Butautas can still count on Simas Jasaitis (9.3 ppg with Badalona in the Euroleague), another NBA Conference Finalist, Linas Kleiza (9.9 pts and 4.0 rbds with Denver) or even Mindaugas Lukauskis, one of the most underrated players in Europe, are all more than able to bring enough talent, creativity, shooting touch and basketball IQ to make up for the absences. Even Renaldas Seibutis, from Bilbao in the ACB, can compete at the international level. Of course, the outside power of Lithuania has been hurt, but Butaustas can always rely on the great discipline and passing game that has always been the trademark of Lithuania for years.

Under the boards? Well, with the Lavrinovic twins, Robertas Javtokas who came back strong last season with Dynamo Moscow, Euroleague 2007-08 revelation Marijonas Petravicius and a Paulius Jankunas who blossomed this season with Zalgiris, Lithuania doesn’t have to fear anybody in Europe.

Prediction: 3-7 place

They should find a way to enter playoffs but may get Spain as quarterfinals opponent because I see very difficult life for them at second group stage. If they will avoid chance they can win against any team in otherĀ  half of tournament but this team too many weak places to pretend for something seriuos here. All matches for Lithuania will be ready difficult and I hope to see them next year in Turkey.

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POLAND

Poland has additional pressure compared to the previous EuroBasket, as they play in front of their fans, the Poles will try to be more efficient than in 2007. To do so, Muli Katzurin has selected a very competitive team. In addition to the traditional players of the selection like Adam Wojcik and Filip Dylewicz, the Israeli coach will count on the American scoring machine David Logan.

Indeed it would be a real disappointment if the selection leaves the competition with three loss and zero win like they did in Spain in 2007. At the last EuroBasket, they lost against France, Italy and Slovenia, led by Adam Wojcik, Andrzej Pluta and Filip Dylewicz. This year, the fans expect their representation to reach at least the second round. New coach Muli Katzurin has selected a very competitive team to carry out this challenge. Many players who didn’t come two years ago will wear the Polish jersey this time. It’s especially the case of Maciej Lampe and of the NBA Finals runner-up Marcin Gortat of the Orlando Magic. These two young players give a new dimension in the paint. Along with the veteran Adam Wojcik and the experienced Filip Dylewicz, they complete a very nice frontcourt that can compete with anyone. This is very important for a team that was one of the poorest of the last EuroBasket in rebounding.

The backcourt is maybe less impressive but is still solid. Most players are well-known for the fans as they still play in the Polish league. Lukasz Koszarek will still be the starting point guard. He’s a guaranty of consistency as he doesn’t turn the ball over and is a precious playmaker.

Prediction: 9-12 place

Home crowd support should help this team to get into 2nd round but than they will need to jump over their heads to pretend for quarterfinal places. All teams from group C will be supermotivated against them and this will cost them place in quarterfinal. They will fight for 9-12 place with desire but as often happens lack of motivation may play its role, so only 9-12 place is predicted by me for them.

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