EuroBasket Update -- On to the Second Round

Christof Koepsel

Spain and France have looked good to advance, but Russia and Turkey were dreadful and have already gone home. And who had Finland going to the second round in the office pool?

The first round of EuroBasket 2013 is in the books in Slovenia, with 12 of the 24 teams advancing into the second round. NBA fans won't be surprised to know that Spain and France, teams featuring many familiar names, each won their group in the first round to advance. On the other hand, Russia and Turkey, perhaps the next most NBA-rich countries, were dreadful in the first round, winning just one game each in five tries, and have been eliminated. They'll now have to hope for a wild card invitation to next year's World Championships. If you were wondering if Hedo Turkoglu might have something left after the Magic buy him out, forget about it. He shot 5-28 in EuroBasket and sat out the last two games.

What a difference two years make for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia -- in 2011 they advanced to the Final Four behind New Orleans native Bo McCalebb. This time around, while McCalebb was the fifth leading scorer in the first round at over 17 points per game, the team failed to advance to the second round, going 1-4 in their pool.

Speaking of Former Yugoslav Republics, it's interesting to view this tournament from a geo-political standpoint taking into consideration the break up of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. In the 80s, those two entities would have entered two teams in this tournament. This year, fully six former Yugoslav republics (Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and FYROM) and five Soviet Republics (Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine, Georgia and Russia) qualified for the tournament, taking up nearly half of the initial field of 24. Of the 12 teams advancing to the second round, a quarter of them are former Yugoslav republics (Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia) and a quarter are former Soviet republics (Lithuania, Latvia and Ukraine). Imagine how good those teams would be if their talent pools were still combined.

There were several surprise teams in the first round. The only team to go undefeated through the first round winning all five games was Italy, a team playing without Danilo Gallinari or Andrea Bargnani. Marco Belinelli of the Spurs has led the Italians in scoring at 15.8 points per game, but it's been a balanced effort with four different players averaging 12 or more, including Luigi Datome who will be a 25 year old rookie for the Pistons this season.

Another big surprise is Finland, who went 4-1 in the first round to easily advance. Unfortunately, they lost veteran big man Hanno Mottola to a knee injury on the final day of the first round. You may remember Mottola from the University of Utah or the Hawks were he played a couple seasons. At 37 he wasn't exactly carrying Finland, but his presence will be missed. With Mottola out, the Finns head into the second round without a single player with NBA experience, and only Petteri Koponen (who was drafted in 2007 and whose rights currently belong to the Mavericks) with NBA ties.

Jeffrey Taylor of the Bobcats led all scorers in the first round at over 21 points per game, but unfortunately his Swedish team managed only one win and did not advance.

Spain still has to be considered the favorite to win it all. They did lose to host Slovenia in the first round, but they were completely dominant in their four victories, winning by 20 or more in every one.

The second round kicks off tomorrow. The remaining 12 teams have been placed in two groups of six, and they'll play the three teams in their group that they have not yet faced. The top four teams from each group will then advance to the knockout stage which begins in a week.

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