After the 6 to 12 games per day in the FIBA preliminary round, the 2 games per day in the FIBA knockout round has been a crawl. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday’s games were all blowouts with the exception of Brazil vs Argentina. And despite all the crowd shots showing fans agonizing in the stands, the Argentina-Brazil game lacked drama. Argentina built a small lead thanks to Luis Scola’s incredible shooting and simply held off Brazil. It just goes to show that just because a game is close, it isn’t necessarily memorable. Onto the Elite Eight and some potentially better match-ups.
Serbia led by Oklahoma City’s Nenad Krstic and 2010 Euroleague MVP Milos Teodosic face the incredibly deep Spanish team featuring Portland’s Rudy Fernandez, Memphis’ Marc Gasol, and a host of players that could play in the NBA if it wasn’t so enjoyable and lucrative to play in Europe (i.e. Fran Vazquez, Ricky Rubio, and Juan Carlos Navarro).
Fran Vazquez has particularly impressed me in this tournament. The Orlando Magic holds his rights in perpetuity, and if some NBA team can ever convince him to come to the US, he seems like an impact post player.
Then the host country Turkey featuring Phoenix’s Hedo Turkoglu and three lesser known NBA players takes on a Slovenian team featuring Phoenix’s Goran Dragic, Milwaukee’s Primoz Brezec, and 8 year NBA veteran Bostjan Nachbar.
Spain vs Turkey seems like the likely semifinal based on Spain’s superior talent and Turkey’s home court advantage, but any of these teams could advance to the Finals.
The US team faces a Russian team featuring former Kansas Jayhawk Sasha Kaun.
Then Lithuania featuring former Missouri Tiger and future Toronto Raptor Linas Kleiza faces an Argentina squad featuring Houston’s Luis Scola, Milwaukee’s Carlos Delfino, and Washington’s Fabricio Oberto.
The US is the prohibitive favorite against Russia. Lithuania can advance if Linas Kleiza can continue his incredibly hot shooting. Kleiza is averaging 19.5 points per game and 7.2 rebounds per game in the tournament. But that’s nothing compared to what Argentina’s Luis Scola has done to date scoring 30.3 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game. In fact, these are the two top scorers left in the tournament.
Argentina is deeper and Scola had better numbers to-date, but Lithuania’s overall toughness intrigues me in this one. For some reason I predict a Lithuanian victory in a minor upset.