Surely these are the dog days of summer, where loyal basketball fans are either forced to catch baseball fever or begin to remember how much they hate the New England Patriots again. These hardwood doldrums aren't going to last, as training camp is only . . . uh . . . 3 months away. The Doge Barrage is coming up, but that's not even the right sport! What else can a fan do but sigh and pretend to care about the infield fly rule or trimming a roster down to a paltry 53 players.
But don't fret basketball fans, there surely IS more quality basketball this summer. I mean, of course, the FIBA European Championship Qualifier!
Some individuals here may be only marginally familiar with the world outside of the United States. Alternatively, many people here are actually visiting the site from outside of USA. For whatever reason not many other blogs are talking about this 15 Team Tournament -- which is to see which teams actually qualify for the Big European Championships in 2011, and which teams also stay in the division they are in. (There are so many nations in Europe that there is a Division A and a Division B -- kind of like if the best two teams from the NBA-DL went into the NBA, and the Nets and some other crappy team was sent down into the NBA-DL) Of course, I could be wrong -- I only just found out about this tournament by reading the google translated website of some European basketball website.
Anyway, here's the actual FIBA page for the tournament for everyone to bookmark. (It's in English) There are three groups, each with five teams.
- Finland (Hanno Mottola, Teemu Rannikko and crew),
- Italy (don't know if Andrea Bargnani, Marco Belinelli, and others will play in this, but they do have a guy named Luigi),
- Latvia (guys who make my spell check cry),
Montenegro (Omar Sharif?)
- and Israel (Omri Casspi, Lior Eliyahu, Yotam Halperin and others who will represent a nation not physically connected to Europe in the European tournament through some pretty interesting logic)
Easily Group A goes through Italy and Israel. Finland has gotta be reeling because right before this tournament they lost Pettri Koponen to injury. But as we all know, sometimes an injury an rally a team and bring them together.
Bosnia and Herzegovina (Not a lot of known names here, but Bozo Durasovic -- yes I'm mentioning him here because his name is Bozo. He doesn't have to be well known or even good. With a name like that, you will live forever on the internet),
Hungary (I got nothing here),
Macedonia (no Minotaurs but are adding Americans Bo McCalebb and Marques Oscar Green, so I guess we know who'll be taking the shots),
- Ukraine (Kyrylo Fesenko, Oleksiy Pecherov and one guy named Maxym, and another named Maksym -- and they also managed to pick a head coach a few days ago)
- and Great Britain (Luol Deng, Pops Mensah-Bonsu and vowel Hall of Fame early entrant Oyooluwa Adegboye -- three of the most astoundingly British names ever)
While the Ukraine has some NBA guys on their team, I really think that they are going to have to fight for 2nd place here. Great Britain may be just good enough to play spoiler for Fes and crew. Of course, I think Hungary has a good shot to be the winner of this group, because they seem to be playing pretty hot leading up to this tournament.
Belgium (Okay, seriously, how the heck are they trying to pull off that guys named Beye Tabu-Eboma and Ilunga Mbenga are from Belgium? Are there like no rules for these tournaments?),
Portugal (apparently not, because one of their star players is actually Joao Gomes, who is the Jordan of Africa and played in the Olympics for Angola -- this is as shady as if France used guys born on small islands near South America like Ronny Turiaf and Rodrigue Beaubois on their nation team . . . wait),
Poland (Marcin Gortat, Maciej Lampe and crew),
- Georgia (Zaza Pachulia, Nikoloz Tskitishvili and Taurean Green . . . really?)
- and Bulgaria.
I don't know anything about these teams, so I'm going for Georgia and Portugal. No reason. I'm coming to the point in my life where I kind of am nostalgic of the USSR, this blog post would have been so much easier and quicker if they still existed. I'm sure a lot of webmasters at the FIBA Europe website feel the same way. (Almost half of the teams in the Division A and Division B qualifying tournament would have previously just been called "Russians" years ago - makes me think of how bad our US squads may be internationally if we were broken up into Texas, Pacific Northwest, and other groupings like that) Anyway, this is a killer tournament because only the top team from each of the three groups is a lock to advance for the EuroBasket 2011 tournament. Only two of the 2nd placed teams from group play will move on - meaning that you can still just barely miss out on winning your group, and still be left at the end of the music without a chair to sit on. If you did not get that, I implore you to read up on the children's game called 'Musical Chairs'.
The games start today (now, I guess). Ukraine face off vs. Macedonia in what is a must win game. (I am just making things up now) I'm going to pull for Fes (and will add his stats from these games to his "what I did this summer" first day of school report that I'm doing on him), but I think Great Britain is the dark horse to win this European tournament, because the Queen of England some how wrangled the most black guys from other nations to play for her team than all the other teams combined.
I'm sure these games will be on the internet to watch somehow . . . I just don't know where right now. Hey, it beats watching my Tigers lose games every night.