EuroBasket 2015 team-by-team prediction guide

It was an overcast but warm evening in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana on September 22, 2013 and during the half-time break of the Eurobasket bronze medal clash between Spain and Croatia, the Ukrainian dance troupe, Red Foxes revealed the logo of the 2015 Eurobasket tournament, originally set to be hosted by their home country.

Their enthusiasm and pride that a tournament of this magnitude would be staged in the Ukraine was evident. The girls, as well as everyone that followed Eurobasket 2013 had witnessed the nation finish sixth, a best-ever placement. It earned them a spot at the 2014 FIBA World Cup and with a home Eurobasket on the horizon; things were looking promising for the Ukraine.

Unfortunately, their joy was short-lived, as on March 19, 2014, it was announced that Ukraine would not host Eurobasket 2015 due to political unrest and financial instability. It was damaging, but for basketball purposes, the show had to go on, and in Madrid, during the FIBA World Cup; France, Germany, Croatia and Latvia would emerge as co-hosts, replacing Ukraine and spearheading a highly anticipated 39th edition of FIBA’s European tournament, where the finalists qualify automatically for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

GROUP A: MONTPELLIER (French dominance or Russian redemption?)

Bosnia & Herzegovina:

Bosnia & Herzegovina will be without star player Mirza Teletovic, and along with other absentees Jusuf Nurkic and Nihad Dedovic, this will certainly be a different Bosnian team that will take to the floor in Montpellier, but they will still be competitive and make life as difficult as possible for others. Coach Dusko Ivanovic will have his guys well prepared, but it might not be enough.

RosterHere

Prediction: Group

Poland:

One half of the twin towers will be present at Eurobasket as Marcin Gortat will put on the Polish vest, but Maciej Lampe sits out. Otherwise, there is little fire power that will see the Poles go further than the last eight. Damian Kulig brings a scoring touch that should see them squeeze through the group stages, but don’t expect much after that. 

Roster: Here

Prediction: Second Round

France:

Hosts and many people’s favourites to remain standing in Lille on September 20, but we’ve seen what happens in the past to stacked teams, just look to Spain at last year’s World Cup. France though, led by Tony Parker and Nicholas Batum will look to impose their dominance early and send a message to the rest of the pack, scattered across Europe.

Roster:  Here

Prediction: Winners

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Russia:

Recently reinstated by FIBA following unfair presidential elections in 2013, Russia come to Eurobasket almost looking to show that they have put their post-London 2012 nightmare behind them and move forward. The women’s squad reached the quarter-finals of their respective Eurobasket tournament. If the men achieve the same feat in France, then it’s a small step forward. But it will be hard.

RosterHere

Prediction: Second Round

Finland:

Always a joy to watch; on the court they have a team-first mentality and they never stray away from that ethos. Off the court, they have passionate supporters that rival some of the best fans in international basketball. They will bring the WolfPack to Montpellier and add extra challenges to the favourites.

Roster: Here

Prediction: Second Round

Israel:

Israel are a consistent fixture at Eurobasket, with this being twelve straight appearances since 1993. Problem is though that the Israelis don’t have a good record since claiming the silver medal way back in 1979. They were tipped to do well, two years ago in Slovenia but an opening day defeat to the unfancied Great Britain quickly ended that. Barring some major shocks, we’re not expecting too much here.

Roster: Here

Prediction: Group

GROUP B: BERLIN (The Group of Death) 

Germany:

This will be an emotional time for Germany with the return, most likely for the last time of one of its favourite sons in Dirk Nowitzki but Germany will also have a point to prove, they were dumped out of Eurobasket, two years ago in the group stages despite beating eventual champions France on the opening day and with Nowitzki on board, they will want to right that wrong immediately.

Roster:  Here

Prediction: Quarter-Finals

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Serbia:

On a high from their surprise runners-up placement at last year’s FIBA World Cup, Serbia will be keen to continue that good fortune in the hope that it lands them an Olympic birth so that they can join their victorious female colleagues in Brazil. This is one tough group though, and big teams will fall early here. While Serbia should get out of this group, they will falter quickly when they arrive in France.

Roster: Here

Prediction: Second Round

Iceland:

A first ever appearance at Eurobasket for Iceland and they will look to enjoy every second of this adventure. They were outstanding in last year’s qualifying rounds, running circles around Great Britain and challenging Bosnia & Herzegovina all the way, the Icelandic side will show a tremendous amount of heart as well as a solid transition game. They will do their nation and the sport of basketball in the country proud, regardless.

Roster: Here

Prediction: Group

Photo: Mansoor Ahmed/MAP
Photo: Mansoor Ahmed/MAP

Spain:

The Spaniards have quietly gone about their business being one of the first teams to name their final Eurobasket squad, which came as no surprise to any and going 7-0 in their warm-up preparations solidified their mindset. They will take each game at a time, but with a roster that is perhaps more familiar with each other than any other team competing, they will go far, as usual.

Roster: Here

Prediction: Runners up

Turkey:

Turkey have not enjoyed their warm-up preparations for Saturday’s opener against Italy. Despite a positive showing in the Akropolis Tournament in Athens, they have not been firing on all cylinders and look like a team still in transition. Will be a tough team to face, but longevity will be a problem. One of the big names to exit early, the signs say.

Roster:  Here

Prediction: Group

Italy:

Coach Simone Piangiani must have been foaming at the mouth when he wrote his final squad out, as all the big names are included and ready to go. Andrea Bargnani has shaken off a minor injury scare in warm-up and will feature along with Gigi Datome, Marco Bellinelli, Danilo Gallinari, Alessandro Gentile and Daniel Hackett. This squad will go far as well and if they stay together as a unit, will be playing for medals in Lille.

Roster: Here

Prediction: Semi-Finals (bronze)

GROUP C: ZAGREB (The war between former Yugoslav nations continues) 

Greece:

Led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, who will look to prove himself internationally following a subpar World Cup, Greece will be strong. Strong veteran heads, fronted by Vassilis Spanoulis should see Greece get out of Group C unharmed, en route to Lille. Then the tests will come.

Roster: Here

Prediction: Quarter-Finals

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Netherlands:

Back after a 25-year Eurobasket absence, the Netherlands, like Iceland are mainly happy to be amongst the big names. They have looked solid in warm-ups, picking up some victories on the way, but they struggled with the pace of some the international sides that they faced. Once they get to Zagreb, even if they get a win, they will be content.

Roster: Here

Prediction: Group

Croatia:

It’s always strange how Croatia glides through the warm-ups and headline news largely unnoticed. Maybe it’s just us. But when it comes to the event itself, the Croatians compete and do well. Like 2013, they are matched with neighbours Slovenia, only this time, Croatia will be the co-hosts. And they will hope for the same result as they got in Celje, two years previous. They will do well again. 

Roster: Here

Prediction: Semi-Finals

Slovenia:

Slovenia are one of these nations that start a tournament like a house on fire, but as the it progresses, fade away – having said that though – they open their campaign against Croatia. No doubt Slovenia should be in Lille, but how far they go depends on which Slovenian side shows up. Not having Goran Dragic will hurt.

Roster: Here 

Prediction: Quarter-Finals

FYR of Macedonia:

The Macedonians are a shadow of what they accomplished at Eurobasket in 2011 when they agonisngly missed out on a shock podium finish in Kaunas. Those days of Pero Antic and Bo McCalebb are gone and instead, the Macedonians will look to gain a victory and maybe push one of the other sides to the limit. They won’t give up, but they will struggle.

Roster: Here

Prediction: Group

Georgia:

In past Eurobaskets, Georgia has always been fun to watch as they play attractive, offensive-minded basketball. Defensively though, they’re often found wanting and it more than likely lead to their demise. Zaza Pachulia returns along with Giorgi Shermadini and naturalised Jacob Pullen to make a solid team. Perhaps they might just make it to Lille.

Roster: Here

Prediction: Second Round

GROUP D: RIGA (Lithuania and its supporting cast) 

Ukraine:

In 2013, Ukraine was the talk of international basketball. Legendary coach Mike Fratello led the nation to a sixth place finish at Eurobasket and with a FIBA World Cup spot booked plus a home Eurobasket to follow, all was well in the Ukraine. But their joy in 2013 was short-lived. A crisis in the country meant that they had to pull out as hosts. Fratello is gone, and star player Pooh Jeter isn’t in the team, so Ukraine will look to pick up the pieces and rebuild. They competed well in Bilbao last year, but fell short. Perhaps the same fate could wait in the Latvian capital.

Roster: Here

Prediction: Group

Latvia:

Latvia have always been a well-drilled team, with great shooters and skilled big men. But they have never possessed a true star that will win those games. Kristaps Porzingis could change that in years to come but for now, he will not be around. But as this is a relatively weak group, Latvia should qualify, but find the going tough when they take to the floor in Lille.

Roster: Here

Prediction: Second Round

Lithuania:

Lithuania will boast a strong list of Euroleague-based players on their roster but most importantly, an experienced group of guys who know how to win. The Eurobasket draw was very kind to Lithuania with Latvia their only real contender. Eyebrows will be raised even if they finish second in this group.

Roster: Here

Prediction: Quarter-Finals

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Estonia:

Estonia had the honourable distinction of being the first side to qualify for this year’s Eurobasket, by advancing via the first qualifying round, a month before Eurobasket 2013. It certainly was a strange qualification round, that very few realised was even happening. Despite, their early qualification, expect little-known Estonia to take an early exit as well.

Roster: Here

Prediction: Group

Belgium:

The Lions have shown their fighting spirit in the warm-ups, and in Axel Hervelle and Matthew Lojeski, they have solid scoring threats, both inside and out plus a strong, pure point guard in Sam van Rossom so in this group, Belgium should qualify, but the stay in Lille will be short-lived, unless they’re in the mood to upset a big name.

Roster: Here

Prediction: Second Round

Czech Republic:

The Czechs will have Jan Vesely, Tomas Satoransky, Blake Schilb and veteran Jiri Welsch on board and will be exciting to watch. Unlike 2013, the Czechs will look to squeak through the group stages, maybe in the fourth spot. But, like Belgium, their stay in Lille should be short.

Roster: Here

Prediction: Second Round