Gearing up for the 2011 Eurobasket: Group C Preview

Check out the previews for Group A and Group B if you haven't already!

Group Overview:
Group C is probably the weakest group in all of the Eurobasket. The traditional kings of the group, Greece, have suffered some key injuries to their team, opening up the group for some former Yugoslav republics that have yet to taste Eurobasket glory since independence. It's really anyone's group, and I could easily see a fresh-faced Greece, a post-dominant Montenegro, a high-scoring Macedonia, or a balanced Croatia taking the crown. Finland and Bosnia probably aren't good enough to win more than a game against themselves, but it will be interesting to see how they both take to their first ever Eurobasket.

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#6. Bosnia and Herzegovina

FIBA World Ranking: Tied for 47th

 

Qualified Via: FIBA Europe Decision*

 

Performance at the 2008 Olympics: Did Not Qualify

 

Performance at the 2009 Eurobasket: Did Not Qualify

 

Performance at the 2010 Worlds: Did Not Qualify

 

Thunder Connection? None.

 

NBA Players? None.

 

The Shakedown: Bosnia is a team that probably wishes they could go back to playing as Yugoslavia. Since splitting off from the country in 1992, the team has not found success on any level, though they have participated in the Eurobasket before. There is basketball interest in the country, as the team has a few players from premier Euroleague teams. But they aren't especially talented in any area, and they aren't especially deep. As a result, they get trampled by most reasonably good teams in Europe. Of course, they have just added Mirza Teletovic, who can function as a go to guy on their team. But Teletovic alone can't bring this team out of the cellar, and I just don't see them as having much of a shot to get out of the group at all.

 

Video: Friendlies: GreeceItaly.

 

Non-NBA Players to Watch For: Henry Domercant, a former Eastern Illinois player and volume shooter who now plays for Spartak St. Petersburg. Mirza Teletovic, and excellent shooter for Caja Laboral in his first stint with the Bosnian national team. Nemanja Gordic, a point guard with nice mid-range touch. He plays for Virtus Roma. Nihad Dedovic, a developing shooting guard out of Lottomatica Roma.

 

Hopes of a Gold Medal: About the same hope you have of swimming across the Baltic Sea.

 

Below: The Top 5 of Group C!

 

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#5. Finland

FIBA World Ranking: Tied for 75th

 

Qualified Via: Additional Qualifying Round**

 

Performance at the 2008 Olympics: Did Not Qualify

 

Performance at the 2009 Eurobasket: Did Not Qualify

 

Performance at the 2010 Worlds: Did Not Qualify

 

Thunder Connection? None.

 

NBA Players? None.

 

The Shakedown: The only Nordic country to qualify, Finland isn't exactly fresh on your mind when you think of basketball. In fact, the only basketball-related thing any NBA fan could identify going on there was Scottie Pippen trying to make a comeback in the country a couple of years ago. Regardless, they do have a basketball team which qualified for the Eurobasket by soundly defeating Hungary and Portugal in the additional qualifying round. The team is better than you think, as they feature Petteri Koponen and Teemi Rannikko, both of whom are top-level Euroleague guards. Unfortunately, their post play isn't as good, featuring a few old guys and domestic players. They'll get killed by teams that have any good post play at all, and their guards aren't really talented enough to make up for it. However, they are riding a bit of momentum, so I can see them finishing above Bosnia, who don't have a clear go-to post guy after the departure of Ratko Varda.

 

Video: 2011 Eurobasket Qualifiers: HungaryPortugal

 

Non-NBA Players to Watch For: Petteri Koponen, who was drafted 30th by the 76ers in 2007. His rights are currently held by the Dallas Mavericks, and he is by far Finland's best player, scoring in double digits and averaging over 5 assists in the prelims. Teemu Rannikko, another scoring guard who combines well with Koponen and plays for Cimberio Varese. Hanno Mottola, an aging post player from Torpan Pojat who is the emotional leader of the team. Sasu Salin, an emerging young guard who would have a breakout performance in this tournament. He plays for Union Olimpija Ljubljana. Shawn Huff, a former Valaparaiso guard and the team's best defender. He plays for Forli.

 

Hopes of a Gold Medal: Unless they can engineer a post player any time soon, they have no chance of advancing past the first group stage.

 

200px-flag_of_greece

#4. Greece

 

FIBA World Ranking: Tied for 4th

 

Qualified Via: Participation in the 2010 FIBA World Championship

 

Performance at the 2008 Olympics: Eliminated in Quarter-Finals to Lithuania

 

Performance at the 2009 Eurobasket: Bronze Medal (Lost to Spain in Semi-Finals, Defeated Slovenia in Bronze Medal Game) 

 

Performance at the 2010 Worlds: Eliminated in Eighth-Finals Against Spain

 

Thunder Connection? None.

 

NBA Players? Kosta Koufos, Denver Nuggets.

 

The Shakedown: Don't be fooled by their lack of NBA players. Greece is a legitimate deep tournament contender. However, in recent years, Greece hasn't really lived up to the hype. They come into a tournament professing that it's their year, and they either stumble in the group stage, giving them bad seeding and an early exit, or they take a bad fall late in the tournament to a far superior opponent. This year could prove to be the worst year of all for the Greeks, as they're missing Soforkis Schortsanitis, their main post threat, Dimitris Diamantidis, the Euroleague's most valuable player in 2011, and Vassilis Spanoulis, Greece's main scorer and a decent passer. If that didn't provide enough of a problem, Greece is a perimeter oriented team for the most part, and without Schortsanitis, it's doubtful they'll find many points in the post that aren't off of a pick n' roll. Of course, the team is still talented and still features names like Calathes, Koufos, Fotsis, and Papaloukas. But depth and talent can't make up for a team that's missing key players and needs re-tooling. Greece will exit the tournament relatively early.

 

Video: 2010 World Championship: Puerto RicoChinaTurkeyCote d' IvoireRussiaEighth-Finals vs. Spain

 

Non-NBA Players to Watch For: Nick Calathes, the main playmaker for Greece now that Diamantidia and Spanoulis are out. He plays for Panathinaikos. Antonis Fotsis and Ioannis Bourousis, the guys in the post who are threats from any distance. They play for Panathinaikos and Olympiakos, respectively. Theodorous Papaloukas, an old-timer from CSKA Moscow who used to be the best player in Europe.

 

Hopes of a Gold Medal: In any other year, they're a big threat to go deep. But without three of their best players, they'll go down quickly.

 

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#3. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia


FIBA World Ranking: Tied for 47th

 

Qualified Via: Initial Qualifying Round

 

Performance at the 2008 Olympics: Did Not Qualify

 

Performance at the 2009 Eurobasket: Eliminated in Group of 12 (5th of 6, Group E)

 

Performance at the 2010 Worlds: Did Not Qualify

 

Thunder Connection? None.

 

NBA Players? None.

 

The Shakedown: Macedonia is yet another basketball-crazed former Yugoslav republic. They play mostly on par for what you would see in that region, with a lot of perimeter-based big men, pick and rolls, and pick and pops. Unfortunately, this team is not going to transition well to the new smaller lane. They were continually getting destroyed in the lane with the old wider lane, and the new lane only magnifies their problem down low. Of course, the team still has a respectable talent level and could make a run at it. After all, they're home to one of the best scorers in Euroleague basketball, Bo McCalebb. But at some point, they're going to hit a dry spell, and they just can't afford to do that against teams like Montenegro, who will have options inside.

 

Video: Eurobasket 2009: RussiaCroatiaGermanyFrance.

 

Non-NBA Players to Watch For: Bo McCalebb, a former university of New Orleans guard who is one of the Euroleagues best scorers. He is American born and plays for Montepaschi Siena.  Jeremiah Massey, another American born player who played for Kansas State. He currently plays for Lokomotiv Kuban and provides some inside punch. Pero Antic, the best ethnically Macedonian player on the team, who scores, rebounds, and has unusually quick hands for a center. He plays for Spartak St. Petersburg. Predrag Samardziski, a double-double machine who plays for Olin Edirne in Turkey. 

 

Hopes of a Gold Medal: Their team is decent enough, and given the right year, they could find themselves in the tournament stage. But they just have too many holes, so I doubt they get very far in this tournament.

 

200px-flag_of_montenegro

#2. Montenegro

 

FIBA World Ranking: Tied for 75th

 

Qualified Via: Initial Qualifying Round

 

Performance at the 2008 Olympics: Did Not Qualify

 

Performance at the 2009 Eurobasket: Did Not Qualify

 

Performance at the 2010 Worlds: Did Not Qualify

 

Thunder Connection? None.

 

NBA Players? Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota Timberwolves.

 

The Shakedown: The world's newest country shocked Europe when they qualified for the 2011 Eurobasket before the field was even expanded. Montenegro has been looking to stick a sports title to their name ever since the 2008 Olympic Water Polo loss in the bronze medal game, and they have a somewhat legitimate shot at glory in the 2010 Eurobasket. Their hopes mainly rest on the young shoulders of Nikola Pekovic, who is an excellent inside force, and Vladimir Dragicevic, who does a good job of drawing pressure to the other side of the paint when the going gets rough. These two, coupled with the American-born Omar Cook, combine to make the team one of the best when it comes to the smaller lane implemented into international basketball this year.

 

Video: Eurobasket 2011 Qualifying: Israel

 

Non-NBA Players to Watch For: Omar Cook, a former Trail Blazer who is one of the best assist men in the entire tournament. He plays for Valencia. Vladimir Dragicevic, a post partner for Pekovic who plays for Buducnost. Goran Jeretin, a nice inside scorer and assist man out of Lokomotiv Kuban in Russia.

 

Hopes of a Gold Medal: It largely depends on how well other teams adapt to the smaller lane. Expect them to find success early on, but to struggle in later matches after teams have gelled, caught on, and upped their talent level.

 

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#1. Croatia

 

FIBA World Ranking: 19th

 

Qualified Via: Participation in the 2010 FIBA World Championship

 

Performance at the 2008 Olympics: Eliminated in Quarter-Finals to Lithuania

 

Performance at the 2009 Eurobasket: Bronze Medal (Lost to Spain in Semi-Finals, Defeated Slovenia in Bronze Medal Game) 

 

Performance at the 2010 Worlds: Eliminated in Eighth-Finals Against Spain

 

Thunder Connection? None.

 

NBA Players? None.

 

The Shakedown: Croatia used to be one of the absolute best basketball teams in the world, featuring NBA regulars such as Toni Kukoc, Drazen Petrovic, Dino Radja, and Toni Kukoc. Croatia doesn't have the firepower they once had, but they still pack quite a punch, and could surprise a few people at the 2011 Eurobasket. They have a unique style of play, furiously driving to the basket, but not afraid to dish it for a long or mid-range jumper when necessary. This style suits the new smaller lane well, so they shouldn't have too much of a problem transitioning. All of these factors should combine for a strong run into the tournament this year, especially on the back of a relatively weak group.

 

Video: 2010 World Championship: Group Stage: SloveniaUSABrazilEighth-Final vs. Serbia.

 

Non-NBA Players to Watch For: Roko Ukic, a good assist man and deadly inside scorer from Fenerbahce Ulker. Marko Popovic, a deadly shooter who's always in the right place at the right time. Bojan Bogdanovic, another excellent three point shooter from Fenerbahce Ulker. Marko Tomas, a complete package of a swingman from Real Madrid.

 

Hopes of a Gold Medal: They could make a run at Bronze, but I'd be highly surprised to see them get beyond the Semi-Finals.

 

*This team originally would have not qualified for the Eurobasket, but the tournament was expanded to 24 teams, allowing their qualification based on their standing in the initial qualifying round.

**This team originally would have not qualified for the Eurobasket, but the tournament was expanded to 24 teams, allowing their qualification based on their finish in the additional qualifying round held this August.

 

Who do you think will come out of Group C? Vote in the poll, post a comment!

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