FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tourney--Quarters Preview
A quick glance at the quarterfinal round. Besides the Greece-NZ matchup, think the other 3 games have the potential to be competitive.
Greece vs. New Zealand:
Greece should have no issues dispatching the Kiwis at home. They can focus all their defensive pressure at Kirk Penney, since he's been the only threat for N.Z. so far, besides some minor help from Pero Cameron. Would be a stunning upset if Greece somehow lost.
Croatia vs. Canada:
Croatia definitely has a huge edge in the backcourt with the 5-headed monster of Kus, M. Popovic, Tomas, Ukic, and a returning Planinic. Canada's frontline is still solid with Levon Kendall, Joel Anthony & Dave Thomas, though they obviously don't protect the basket as well without Dalembert. Should match up well vs. Croatian bigs Nikola Prkacin, Marko Banic, & Stanko-nia Barac.
Got to go with Croatia. Not only does Team Canada seem to be in disarray, just have more confidence in Croatia consistently producing on the offensive end as opposed to Canada's directionless Oh-ffense relying on a 36-year old Rowan Barrett to bail them out. Though Canada does have enough talent to make this game tight.
Germany vs. Brazil:
Germany has to be considered the favorite with their impressive play so far, but Brazil has enough juice to make the Germans sweat. Brazil does have a collection of solid big bodies (Splitter, JP Batista, Araujo, Becker) to challenge the huge frontcourt of Germany. Brazil has the ability to keep up with Germany on the boards.
Like most teams around the world, Brazil has no one to check Dirk. Splitter might be the best bet, but I would only use him in short doses so as to keep him out of foul trouble. The Splitter-Kaman matchup should be very intriguing.
Germany has to keep track of Marcelo Machado, because he's always a danger to get lethally hot from long-range and he can end the Germans' summer trip real quick if he gets rolling. Brazil probably has the advantage on the perimeter with Huertas, Garcia, & Machado. With their two explosive guards they should look to push the pace more. Huertas & Garcia are effective in playing this style, and this worked in stretches in the '06 Worlds.
Team Germany could need more offensive input from primary perimeter threat Demond Greene, who was a total non-factor vs. NZ because of early foul trouble. Splitter might be able to contain Kaman, so the Germans might need scoring help for Dirk from the perimeter.
If Germany can keep the ball movement working like they have, they are tough to stop. Brazil can win this game, but have to go with the Germans simply because there is no answer for Dirk on the other side.
Slovenia vs. Puerto Rico:
Expect this to be a close game. Puerto Rico comes into this game on the heels of a lackluster effort vs. Croatia. Though not uncommon for Puerto Rico to lapse into sloppy, out-o-control play. This will happen when you often give Arroyo, Barea, & Ayuso free reign to do as they please.
Rasho has been a force this summer, and continues to be one of the best bigs in int'l play. Like at last year's Eurobasket, Rasho has been the key to Slovenia's defensive attack, and a factor on offensive with his baby hooks. Rasho is shooting 20/28 thru 2 games, while thoroughly outplaying Dalembert in the Slovenia-Canada tilt.
Great matchup between backcourts with Jaka Lakovic, G. Dragic, Becirovic, D. Lorbek facing off against Barea, Arroyo, & Ayuso. Will be interesting to see if PJ Ramos & Dan Santiago can somehow neutralize Rasho.
Have to go with Slovenia because of their strong play all summer, and their defense continues to be sturdy. But P.R. matches up fairly well with Slovenia--backcourts are a wash, and Puerto Rico does have the potential to go at Rasho with three 7-footers (Santiago, Ramos, & Sanchez).