Home National Teams EuroBasket 2011 Eurobasket Rankings: Part 3 (positions 1-8)

Eurobasket Rankings: Part 3 (positions 1-8)

8. GREECE

Originally I had them below Montenegro and, obviously, much below top8, besides the scandalously easy draw for them. All this, of course, changed after Zouros became the luckiest coach in recent memory, with Spanoulis and Schortsanitis leaving the team and thus, allowing space for the long awaited refreshment.

So far so good for the Greeks who started playing as they should under their new coach and they are getting many hopes from Koufos and the yet to find his form Calathes. Young blood from their junior generation in Papanikolaou and Sloukas are also expected to be in the team, the veterans are not ballhogs so far (and this means that there are doubts about Bourousis, Zisis but not Fotsis to overdo it in official games) and the defense looks pretty good. Add to that the instability of Croatia and Montenegro and you are getting a top8 team here, despite the question-marks raised from their rather easy friendly matches. Judging from the team’s constant progress, no-one would say it’s impossible for them to win a knock out match as a best case scenario.

Group C qual. 83%, group F qual. 71%, to win it all 7.13%

7. CROATIA

If the best team of the group is ranked 7th best of the tournament for me and the groups are only four, then I mustn’t be thinking highly of Group C. Either way, it doesn’t matter much for the unlucky Croatians. They are not reliable by any means, but they remain by far the most talented team of this group and one of the most talented of the competition. They will miss Ukic and maybe a steady and contributing bigman, but they have depth for two national teams, some good distributors like Simon and maybe Car and finally a couple of wing scorers in Tomas and Bogdanovic. My serious doubts come on the stability of Tomic, Barac and the focus that the team will give to Zoric, who is probably the most reliable force in the paint for them right now. Despite all that, Vrankovic needs to solve the Draper/Popovic dilemma. That could be important for them, as they need to solve it already from the 1st stage of the competition, but if they reach their potential, they could be looking at a direct trip to London.

Group C qual. 83%, group F qual. 73%, to win it all 7.26%

6. SLOVENIA

Long story for Slovenia. Everyone loves this team, but most in Interbasket.net forums remember the legendary Big Lebowski quote before the 2007 Eurobasket: “How many Eurobasket will be able to see in the future? 20-30, considering the average hope of life: something will happen, we’ll see Germany winning again, we’ll see some strange returns(..) Even Great Britain could, why not. If some new countries will be born in Europe, they’ll obtain a medal. Slovenia won’t. Never”.. Obviously that’s a part of history, which was repeated in Eurobaskets 2007 (Greek late comeback from -16 in QF) and 2009 (Serbia and Greece beat them in both medal games in the last seconds). But, while most comments usually focus on the team’s breakdowns in key or knock out games, they don’t usually include the importance of the group stage. And, this makes it even more interesting with Maljkovic taking care of the team this year. Ok, many absences, but an easy draw and plenty of time to grow through it. Right now, they look stronger than Russia in the paint and they play them the last day of the 1st round. Finishing 1st or 2nd in the group will be one of their must-do goals, but the key for them will be their performance on the 2nd week of the tournament onwards. Obviously, they can go as far as anyone, especially after beating Lithuania and being convincing against Spain

Group D qual. 93%, group F qual. 82%, to win it all 8.20%

5. RUSSIA

Well benefitted from the unbalanced groups, Russia would probably have been ranked as high as 2nd in my rankings, hadn’t they faced three significant issues. These are, the unreliable point guards (Shved and Ponkrashov are good and tall but unstable, despite the great ballhandling and athleticism of the first and the passing of the 2nd) after Holden’s retirement, the recent injuries in key bigmen, especially Kaun, but also Zhukanenko and the unreliable early stage schedule, which could get them unprepared for the key knock-out stage games, against extremely skilled, experienced, thirsty and well tested teams until then. But these could be the sole problems for the very reliable David Blatt team, which can always get the result, they defend well, are deep and athletic, have the talent to beat every single team in this competition and they can prove that with some convincing wins against Lithuania in the preparation games. A few depressing performances (against Poland and especially Israel) could very well be forgotten a week from now, if they have swept the first matches in Group D and prepare themselves for their first serious test against Slovenia

Group D qual. 95%, group F qual. 85%, to win it all 8.48%

4. LITHUANIA

Yes, I know. 3rd in the world, plus Saras, Kaukenas, Valanciunas, K. Lavrinovic, Petravicius and I don’t know how many more. But, they don’t have a small forward at all. They will have to depend on Jasaitis for 25’ and Pocius, a combo guard for the rest of the mins. I also know they have the best fans in the world and they happen to play at home. Jonas is no accident, but then why don’t they play him more and they insist on Javtokas? In some other discussion, they have some injuries on big men lately, but they do have the depth for 3 NTs in the paint. And the Kalnietis with a well shaped Saras are their best combo duo for years. But, they cut their best SG for unknown reasons and their best last summer player is also out. I don’t know what else to note. Probably there are too many “buts” or “ifs” in the discussion, the tournament is too competitive, too long and the team spirit in this bunch might not look like their strongest part. Still, they are the sole team that has beat Spain (as they did in 2009 and then they were ousted early in the competition, not making the top8), but lost twice to Russia and lastly to Slovenia. All their top3 scorers are bigs, which means they don’t really have much balance in offense. There is no clear answer to why they are ranked 4th and not 2nd, but this isn’t the tournament that this could be answered with a few words only.

Group A qual. 88%, group E qual. 67%, to win it all 10.01%

3. FRANCE

The first weeks of what this team has been showing have disappointed me, but they have slowly started improving. Right then, Turiaf and Diot got injured, while the previous injury of Causeur had already created question-marks of the perimeter reliability of this French squad, which will be depending again mostly on Toni Parker, the best player of a generation that was ready to dominate Europe 8 years ago and they have yet to win more than a bronze medal, mainly because of exactly this reason (Toni Parker) and also the lack of a seriously contributing big man. The 2nd part of the equation is now solved, for my personal joy, with Noah finally being available to play for them. He will be an upgrade in both distributing and defensive presence for this team. Now, if Parker realizes that he is not a pass-first PG, so he becomes something less than what he is pretending to be right now, then the really useful part of his game will match with the likes of the lower profile names of the perimeter (De Colo, Batum, Gelabale, maybe Albicy) and France will become a legit contender for the first time. If not, then it’s time for Parker’s generation to be abandoned and a refreshment to take place on the French NT, if not now, then immediately after the 2012 Olympics, given France will qualify.

Group B qual. 83%, group E qual. 72%, to win it all 10.80%

2. SERBIA

We can start writing down names with problems. Velickovic (no PT in Madrid. Then, injury forces him to miss tournament), Keselj (no serious role in Olympiacos. Then injury…), Tepic (2nd straight bad season with Panathinaikos), Bjelica (out for season in Baskonia with serious injury), Teodosic (from Euroleague MVP to 2nd option in his team), Macvan (from star level to 5mpg), Rasic (changing teams mid-season), Milosavljevic (average season overall), Krstic (sat out in the playoffs). It is hardly good news, when only Savanovic, Markovic and maybe Marjanovic were decent this year, but everyone forgets that we are talking about the winningest generation of some time. These guys finished 2nd in 2009 (a very weak, that’s true) Eurobasket and would’ve played in the 2010 WC final, if a wrong call 2’’ from the final whistle hadn’t cost them the SF loss to hosts Turkey. No matter what, they are still a young and developing team, with 2 wins in official games against Spain over the past two summers. They have depth in every position, of course all the above question-marks, but also the experience and the knowledge of the game better than anyone else, as well as Dusan Ivkovic. Tough to beat all the above

Group B qual. 85%, group E qual. 75%, to win it all 11.22% {jathumbnail off}

1. SPAIN

Spain is naturally the favorite team, since they are looking mediocre to good (for their level) in the friendlies and they solely suffered just two minor injuries coming to the tournament. After all, a famous cliché is that this is Spain’s summer, after all the success in junior competitions, in men and women. As for the reigning champs, they will try to be the first team that will repeat as Euro champs since 1997. Will they have problems doing that? No big deals, just I can’t understand Scariolo’s way of thinking. Their chemistry looks completely wrong, insisting in Rudy Fernandez as a SF, when he can offer more at SG, while San Emeterio and Suarez were looking both as ideal SF solutions. Now that Suarez is gone, they will have to do something with Llull’s presence on the floor. Llull is neither a PG nor a SG and this, for a team that doesn’t really need another guard, could be a tough call. Obviously, the frontcourt looks very well filled, even if Mirotic could match-up greatly with the Gasol bros as an offensive option, but Ibaka is offering in exchange the defensive presence they need, along with Reyes, both coming from the bench. If Spain does get an edgy start, they have time to improve. They will be heavy favorites against any opponent in this tournament, but this doesn’t make them unbeatable at any moment of any game. They now know through their recent unlucky moments, that they can’t consider any matchup easy and this is what makes them more dangerous. Especially with this all-star roster and the chemistry between the veteran stars of the team

Group A qual. 95%, group E qual. 85%, to win it all 12.72%

The article was written by Dimitris Ritsonis. Dimitris is in the basketball business as a trader. He currently works for one of Europe’s leading betting companies. You can follow him on twitter @wardjdim

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