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EuroBasket 2017 Preview Group C: Can Anyone Beat Spain?

marc-pau-gasol-spain

EuroBasket gets ready to start on August 31 and is one of the best competitions of international basketball out there. It’s taking place in Finland, Romania, Israel and Turkey from August 31 – September 17. There are plenty of big names playing in the event and some missing due to injury. EuroBasket is made up of 24 teams, playing in 4 groups. The top-4 from each group advance to the knockout round. Spain is the reigning champ from 2015. We’ll be taking a look at each group over the next few days, breaking down the roster and picking who should advance to the knockout round. I highly suggest watching the event if you can as it is probably the third most competitive event behind the Olympics and World Cup for basketball. 

Group C

Venue: Cluj-Napoca, Romania

Teams (World Rank): Croatia (11), Czech Republic (42), Spain (2), Montenegro (72), Romania (NR), Hungary (NR)

Rosters: 

CroatiaCzech

HungaryMontenegro

RomaniaSpain

Story lines to watch: 

1. Can Pau Gasol have another huge EuroBasket? 

Spain is by far the favorite to win this thing. They’ve won it three times since 2009 including in 2015 when Pau Gasol pretty much won the competition by himself. Spain was missing Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Ricky Rubio, Juan Carlos Navarro and Jose Calderon, but still won was able to win the gold. The reason was simply because Pau was by far the best player in the tournament. He led the tournament in scoring with over 25 per game while also leading the tournament in blocks per game and finishing fourth in rebounds. This time around he won’t have to carry as much on his back, but it was announced this will be his last EuroBasket. He’s still an integral part of Spain basketball and the Spanish need him to win what should be a more balanced tournament. Pau’s ability to step away from the basket and let his brother control the paint.

2. Can Croatia win a group over Spain again? 

Croatia somewhat shocked people by winning Group B at the Olympics last year. They finished in a four-way tie with Spain, Lithuania and Argentina but because of tiebreakers ended up as the winner. They will be without Mario Hezonja, Ante Zizic and Miro Bilan, but they still return a solid core from that Olympic run. Dario Saric and Bojan Bogdanovic are the two important pieces as they combined to average 37 points per game in the Olympics – led by Bogdanovic’s 25 per game. Croatia caught Spain in the first game of the Olympics thanks to a hectic last couple of seconds on the defensive side of the ball. This time the two teams don’t play until the fourth game, so we could see more trying to figure out the best path in knockout round rather than just going for the win.

3. Can Montenegro break out of group phase? 

Montenegro does have talent on the roster, led by Nikola Vucevic. Montenegro does have a pretty solid three-headed look up front with Vucevic, Dubljevic and Todorovic, but it’s going to be a name that people might remember that dictates how they do in group stage. Tyrese Rice, the former Boston College standout will be the starting guard for Montenegro and he’ll be the reason whether they advance or not. Rice has been playing overseas for the last few years including winning a EuroLeague Final Four MVP. He’s one of the better playmakers in the group and if he can be the second best point guard in this group, Montenegro should advance over Hungary and Romania.

4. Romania on the big stage

Basketball has been a massive struggle for Romania and they’ll finally have a chance here. They haven’t qualified for the Olympics since 1952. They haven’t qualified for EuroBasket since 1987. They haven’t finished in the top-10 in EuroBasket since 1973 and their best finish is a 5th place in 1957 and 1967. Needless to say they are the massive underdog here. That said, they are also the host and as I’ve mentioned before getting to play at home in Europe is such a huge advantage. The crowds are ridiculous at all these events and there’s a true home court advantage, which is good for a handful of points. They don’t have the big name on their roster – though fans might remember Alex Olah from Northwestern. The name to watch though is Vlad Moldoveanu. If Romania makes it to the knockout stage, it would be one of the most surprising stories in this EuroBasket.

5. Czech Republic competing without Jan Vesely:

Czech Republic surprised a lot of people with a 7th place finish at the 2015 EuroBasket thanks to a one-two punch of Tomas Satoransky and Jan Veseley, two guys with NBA experience. This time though Veseley is unavailable as he’s injured, meaning the success of the Czech falls squarely on Satoransky. The 25-year old just got done his first year with the Wizards where he came off the bench to play about 13 minutes a game. He’s known for being able to shoot the ball as he was a career 38% 3-point shooter for Real Madrid and I expect him to hunt for the 3-point shot at EuroBasket.

Five Best Players: 

1. Pau Gasol (Spain)

2. Bojan Bogdanovic (Croatia)

3. Dario Saric (Croatia)

4. Marc Gasol (Spain)

5. Adam Hanga (Hungary)

Projected Order of Finish: 

1. Spain

2. Croatia

3. Montenegro

4. Czech Republic

Do not qualify to knockout stage

5. Hungary

6. Romania