The 12 teams still playing in the EuroBasket 2011 tournament in Lithuania are each down to their final game in the second round. Only the top four teams in each group of six will move on to the knockout stage. Bear in mind that not only the championship itself, but also a second Olympic bid to the runner up, and four bids to the final Olympic qualifying tournament prior to the actual Games next summer, are on the line. If you make it to the final eight, you've got a very good chance of at least getting to the pre-Olympic tournament. If you are eliminated at this point, both your 2011 EuroBasket, and your 2012 Olympic aspirations expire.
Of the 12 teams, only one - Georgia in Group F - has been eliminated at this point. On the other hand, five are already assured of going through. That leaves six teams with something to gain (and something to lose) in the final games of Round 2.
Group F (which will play their games on Monday) is pretty straightforward at this point. Georgia, as we've already pointed out, is eliminated with a record of 0-4. Greece is locked into the third seed, win or lose in their game against Georgia, so you can pretty much expect them to rest their starters on Monday. That leaves Russia and F.Y.R Macedonia battling for first place in the group in their meeting, and Slovenia and Finland battling for the last spot available in the final eight. Finland (who barely made the field of 24) and F.Y.R. Macedonia (who were certainly not considered contenders for a top seed in the Final Eight at the outset) are the huge surprises of this tournament overall.
Group E is much more complicated. With one game left for each team, no one has been eliminated from contention, while only two teams (Spain and France, who meet today) are guaranteed to advance. The winner of Spain/France will be the group winner while the loser will be the second seed. As for the other two spots, well, I'll crib from the official EuroBasket website:
Scenario I: Serbia and Germany both win. In this case Serbia qualify for sure, while Germany would need a win by 11 or more points. In any other case Serbia and Lithuania go through.
Scenario II: Serbia and Lithuania both win. This means Lithuania finish 3rd, Serbia go 4th and Germany with Turkey miss out.
Scenario III: Turkey and Germany win. Lithuania and Germany qualify in this order, at the expense of Turkey and Serbia.
Scenario IV: Turkey and Lithuania win: Lithuania take 3rd, Turkey 4th.
Here's why it all works that way: I don't know. I mean, some of it is fairly obvious, but I've read the FIBA rules, and I would have interpreted Scenario I above differently (specifically I have Germany needing to win by 9, and I don't have Serbia advancing if Germany wins by 9 or 10).
Since Chris Kaman has made us somewhat Germany-centric around Clips Nation (and maybe it's safe to say that NBA fans in general would be happy to see Dirk Nowitzki remain in the tournament and hopefully play in London as well), Scenarios I and III above are of the most interest - Germany has to win to keep their hopes alive. It won't be easy against a Lithuania team playing at home.
By the time Lithuania-Germany starts, the other games in the group will have already concluded, and Turkey can do the Germans a huge favor by beating Serbia. This does two things for Deutschland: (1) it makes the game into a simple 'win and advance' situation, eliminating the question of margin of victory; (2) perhaps more importantly, it guarantees that Lithuania will advance, win or lose, removing a sense of urgency in Germany's opponent. The Germans do not want to be in a position where they have to beat Lithuania by double digits when the hosts have their backs against the wall. They'd much rather be playing a team that knows they're moving forward and not even concerned with seeding (if I'm reading Scenario III correctly above, though that's another one I would have interpreted differently).
By the time you're reading this on a Sunday, Turkey-Serbia will probably be over already - it should be in the books by around 7:30 AM Pacific. So head on over to the EuroBasket site to check on the result - if Turkey is the victor, Germany's job got a lot easier; if Serbia won, it's going to be a nigh impossible.