Today, we continue Olympic Madness with a preview of Lithuania!
Of course, the 2011 Eurobasket had some terrible official song by some Lithuanian soft rock group. And they played it over and over and over and over, in both English and Lithuanian, until your head wanted to explode. If you went to one game, if there's one thing you'll remember 50 years from now, it would be that terrible song. But the song that was actually popular with the Lithuanian basketball fans was the one above. Sure, it was made by some New York rapper that probably would have never even heard of Lithuania had he not followed basketball, but a lot of Lithuanians totally loved this song. Mostly because the whole thing is just about how ballin' Jonas Valanciunas supposedly is.
The song might not be to everybody's liking, but hey, you can always mute it and admire the highlights. This was Lithuania's most shocking win in recent memory, as they were the second team to beat heavily favored Spain in 2010. It was a down year for Spain, as they were missing Pau Gasol, Sergio Rodriguez, Jose Calderon, and Felipe Reyes that year. But Spain was still the favorite to medal outside of Team USA, and Lithuania managed to beat them and establish dominance in that group, remaining undefeated until the semi-final.
(Incidentally, the mention of Songaila to a Lithuanian fan gets an eye-roll the majority of the time. BiE wonders why that is…)
But. Despite the fact that this side will be remembered as a disappointment, the reality is that Team Lithuania performed admirably well given the limitations. So they were shut down by the Spanish machine despite a gritty, gutsy game played by Valanciunas against Serge Ibaka and the Gasol Boys. And they threw a winnable one away against France in the second round with 16 turnovers against 15 assists – too few proper small forwards, eh?"
"Will Jasikevicius have enough in the tank at age 36 to make any significant contribution? The veteran playmaker looked like a kid in a candy store at EuroBasket throwing up lob passes for Valanciunas to dunk.
If Jasikevicius is no longer in the picture – he led Lithuania and was third-best in EuroBasket 2011 with 4.6 assists – is Kalnietis ready to take the next step as the Lithuanian national team’s top point guard? And is talented playmaker Augustus Peciukevicius – who will turn 21 in February 2012 – ready to be brought into the mix?
Lithuania have no lack of big men, but in 2012 we could finally see Donatas Motiejunas make his debut with the senior national team. The ultra-talented 21-year-old impressed in two seasons at Benetton Treviso before breaking out in his move to Asseco Prokom, with whom he averaged 12.5 points and a Euroleague second-best 7.9 rebounds in the Euroleague."
Does This Team Have a Shot at a Medal? For Lithuania, it really depends on matchups. I'd say they have the ability to beat any team not named the USA or France. Those two teams are just too athletic, and will beat them 9 times out of 10. But they'll also face stiff competition from Nigeria, who are also very athletic, and Spain and Russia, who have powerful front lines. If they can get the right matchups and defeat a powerful foe or two, I could see Lithuania getting the Silver or Bronze in these Olympic games. But all luck aside, they'll probably end up fighting someone they don't want to and finish in fourth or lose in the Quarter-Finals.