FIBA U18 Euro Championships QF preview

FIBA U18The FIBA U18 European Championships will move to the quarter-final stage on August 1st as four games and eight nations will compete to advance to the semi-finals. The competition moves into a knockout situation where it really is winner takes all as the best teams from the group stage clash, here is what to expect from Friday’s action.

Italy vs. Greece
The Italians have hardly impressed despite finishing second in Group E, although a 4-2 winning record in the group glosses over a team that maybe lack unity on the floor. Sure, the players know their place and that’s supporting backcourt duo of Federico Mussini and Diego Flaccadori. The Italian team does well giving Mussini and Flaccadori the room to play, but if either or both of the star men sit out the game or just don’t find form then Italy look more impotent. The fact that the duo have scored 58% of all Italy’s points says it all, however success against a tall Greek team could fall on the shoulders of Luca Severini. He will have to work extra hard in the paint as the Greek’s have proved adept at blocking.

Greece finished third in Group F, but with an identical 4-2 winning record as Italy in Group E. The team is more balanced than Italy and the line-up is not necessarily reliant on the consistency of a few players. Having said that, the Greek machine purrs more soundly when Dimitrios Stamatis and Vasileios Charalampopoulos have good games.

Serbia vs. Lithuania
Serbia laid down a marker in Group F by topping the table with an impressive 5-1 record, finishing the last round with a comfortable 82-62 win over second placed Turkey. The Serbian players have clicked over the last few games and have secured four consecutive wins, with captain Stefan Lazarevic leading by example all over the court. The stats show that the Serbs are a solid all round team at both ends of the court (third best scorers with 76.0ppg and fourth best defence with 66.0ppg conceded).

Lithuania has been driven early in games, but have looked nervier in closing contests out. However, the team still secured qualification from Group E with a 3-3 record, although a last minute win over Poland was needed. Domantas Sabonis has been the architect of Lithuania’s early performances, but the team will need Martynas Varnas to step up in both defence and attack, especially to stop the threat of Lazarevic.

Croatia vs. Spain
Croatia blasted its way through Group E, emerging from the last stage as the only team with a perfect record. Of course, things change with the pressure of knockout Basketball, but at the very least the Croats enter the quarter-final of the FIBA U18 European Championships on a high. Croatia’s strength has been an extra gear late on in games, typically the country has pulled away from opponents late in the third or early in the fourth quarters. Big things were expected of Lovro Mazalin during this competition, but while he has aided Croatia’s success so far (including a standout second half showing against Italy), he has failed to meet expectations. Still, the tournament is still in full swing and the player has time yet to impress. He is certainly in the right outfit to do so as Croatia are the competitions’ best team in terms of field goal percentage, defensive rebounds, total rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and opponents’ field goal percentage.

That highlights the uphill battle that Spain faces, and the team has struggled at times during this FIBA U18 European Championships. Marc Garcia will be a key to any success Spain will have against Croatia as he is averaging 14.5ppg, although he will have to up his shooting from beyond the arc (9 from 30 attempts so far).

Turkey vs. Latvia
Host country Turkey were soundly beaten by Serbia in the final game of Group F but still progressed to the quarter-final with a 4-2 record. It was a similar story for Latvia, although the team secured its progress with a win in the last game in Group E for its 4.2 record.

Turkey has the second best offensive record in the competition with 76.5 points per game, but have lacked at the back with one of the worst defensive rebound records in the tournament. Latvia will look to find consistency in scoring, while the team will also be on a mission to take care of Turkish leading scorer and rebounder Egemen Güven. The task of doing that will likely fall on the shoulders of Rinalds Malmanis and while he will not stick to the Turk, Serbia showed the way how to handle Güven. In the last game he was restricted to 0 scores, 0 boards, and 0/4 shooting before being hauled off after 9 minutes and Latvia will almost certainly mirror the Serbs in that approach.

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