Only a few days into the group stage of the 2015 Eurobasket, and some interesting results have already been posted, there are 24 national teams who are competing for the coveted title of who is the best in European Basketball. This year marks the first time ever, that the tournament will be hosted in four different countries, mainly Germany (Berlin), Croatia (Zagreb), Latvia (Riga) and France (Montpellier).
Each country will host a group. Then France will host the knock-out phase and the finals in the city of Lille at their Pierre- Mauroy Stadium, large enough to hold 27,000 enthusiastic fans.
We decided to break down the groups and predict who would finish where, and which teams you can bet on to get through to the semi-finals and finals.
Group A – Montpellier, France
France as per usual is a large favourite to take first place and win the tournament. Coach Vincent Collet’s team is a very talented one and has a lot of superstars, only Joakim Noah will not make it. The celebrated Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum, Boris Diaw, Rudy Gobert and Nando De Colo will lead the team who looked spry and disciplined to start the tournament on home turf during the friendly matches held earlier this week.
In their group are Israel, Finland, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Poland. None of these teams are big playmakers when it comes to European basketball and so France is almost a shoe-in to cruise by the group stage, saving their best for the the knockout rounds. The only team here that could serve up trouble is Russia. Along with them, Poland will probably qualify.
We predict: 1. France 2. Russia 3. Finland 4. Poland
Group B – Berlin, Germany
This group in opposition to Group A, is probably bar far the most difficult and competitive of the round-robin stage. Iceland is most definitely the weakest team, with the multi-time past champion Spain as the favourite. Even with key players out of the squad for various reasons, many see them topping the group. Sergio Scariolo will coach the 2011 European Champions who are going to be without superstars like Marc Gasol, Jose Calderon, Ricky Rubio and Juan Carlos Navarro.
But they will have others since their roster is so deep, such as Pau Gasol, Rudy Fernandez, Sergio Rodriguez and Nicola Mirotic among others (Felipe Reyes, Pau Ribas and Victor Claver). These clutch players will try to earn Spain another gold medal in one of the last appearances of this infamous generation of ball players.
The team that will test them can only be Serbia who already defeated them yesterday in gruop play. Serbia will fight tooth and nail with Spain for the first place, as they aew looking to repeat last year’s amazing performance, which ended in a loss to the USA in the final of the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Their key players are Milos Teodosic, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Miroslav Raduljica who are team leaders, but they will have to do it without Boban Marjanovic, due to injury, and this could affect Aleksandar Djordjevic’s squad in the long race.
With these two giants at the top you can expect a race for third between Italy, Germany and Turkey; the first two sides have an advantage because of their current performance and roster. Italy will have all its NBA superstars, such as Danilo Gallinari, Marco Belinelli and Andrea Bargnani. They will lead their national team looking for inspiration for success, a long time after their stellar performance in 2004. Daniel Hackett, Alessandro Gentile and Luigi Datome will be their supporting cast.
Germany almost beat Serbia today in this group so with Germany’s Dirk Nowitzki returning after a four-year absence to help Germany finish within the top-7, their odds look good in securing a place in the 2016 Olympic Games directly or through the Olympic Qualifying Tournament. Dennis Schroder of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks will play with the team for the first time, and Chris Fleming will coach this squad.
With Italy and Germany as the main favourites to claim third and fourth place, Turkey will have to overcome both of them to steal a win as the darkhorse. Ersan Ilyasova as the team leader will have to raise his team’s game, otherwise it will be unlikely for them to go any further than the group stage.
We predict: 1. Serbia 2. Germany 3. Spain 4. Germany
Group C – Zagreb, Croatia
Here the host, Croatia, is once again the favourite alongside and Greece too are likely to get the most votes for who will take top place in Zagreb. The Croats have a talented and deep team with players like Bojan Bogdanovic, Mario Hezonja of the Orlando Magic, Ante Tomic and Dario Saric as their key players. Coach Velimir Perasovic will have to make sure they play cohesively as a team if they want to qualify to the quarter or semi- finals.
Croatia will battle it out with Greece for first place, and their exciting match played today where Greece took the win by a mere 2 points will probably determine who will have the upper hand.
Coach Fotis Katsikaris probably has one of the best teams since 2007, as the arguably best player in Europe, Vassilis Spanoulis, has come backs after 2013 to lead his national team to the winner’s circle for the first time since 2009. With the 33-year-old guard, is Giannis Antetokounmpo whose performance will be key for the Greek side, called the “Greek Freak” he has exploded on the scene after only two seasons in the NBA.
Giorgos Printezis is also a key player expected to make an impact on a team that is so deep and that can beat any opponent and any time. These two favourites should finish in the first two places, with other decent team fighting for the last two spots.
Slovenia as a former part of the ex-Yugoslavian teams has a lot of string basketball culture and a decent squad on the court this year that is strong defensively. They have solid players shooting the ball well from the three-point range and that could make them a threat if a team falters. FYROM, also an Ex-Yugoslav state will play without Bo McCalebb, but Richard Hendrix is expected to be their key player. The team is not very talented, but they play with heart and emotion and so it can be expected that they will do their best in every game based on their energy and 3-point shooting.
Slovenia even without Goran Dragic, cannot be underestimated, they will have the fans on their side, since many Slovenians will go to nearby Zagreb to support their national team. So anything can happen.
Georgia’s odds don’t look so good but could surprise, behind names like Zaza Pachulia, who has Jacob Pulen, Manuchar Markoishvili, Viktor Sanikitze and Giorgi Shermadini on his side, evolution could happen for this budding basketball nation. Coach Igor Kokoskov will prepare his team to be at its very best in the group stage to try to get out of the group stage nd qualify to the knockout round.
Lastly, the Netherlands are not very talented, they are a small team and play a dangerous run and gun style, that could be very effective against teams that are mediocre defensively or have lapses and might steal them a game here or there, but not much more.
We predict: 1. Greece 2. Croatia, 3. Slovenia 4. FYROM
Group D – Riga, Latvia
Lithuania is by far, the best team of the group which they proved today in willing, with Jonas Valanciunas of the Toronto Raptors and Jonas Maciulis as their key players, this team’s goal is to finish, at the very worst, within the top-7.
Behind Jonas Kazlauskas’ team are other five national teams that don’t have a lot of basketball history and so this can be considered the weakest group with Estonia, Latvia, Belgium, Czech Republic, and Ukraine fighting for spots. Since everyone after Lithuania seems to be at the same level, with maybe Belgium and/or Czech Republic being a step ahead of the rest we expect and wild fight for the remaining seeds.
We predict: 1. Lithuania, 2. Latvia 3. Czech Republic, 4. Belgium
The finals should be very interesting since this tournament provides for a very exciting and of high quality of basketball, even though France and Spain seem to be the favourites for the first two places, Greece, Serbia, Lithuania and Croatia could easily knock them out. Germany is a great outside team that could do damage.
The differences between the top national teams are so slight that this really is any major team’s tournament to win. It’s going to be competitive and tough. And so we predict that that top three will not includes all the obvious ones.
Our Prediction: 1. Serbia 2. France 3. Germany