Friday, August 25, 2006

2006 FIBA Worlds-Round of 16 Preview (part II)

Games to be played on Sat. nite/Sun morn. (in US).

- Germany (B-2) vs. Nigeria (A-3): Well, I thought that Dirk would be able to curtail his minutes in Group B, but Angola put a crimp in that plan. Dirk has just been Dirk: 25 ppg & 10.6 rpg. Doing the same things he does in the NBA, but with a little bit more willingness to work down low. Germany is pretty much a one-trick pony & if Dirk is off, they could easily lose this game. The only other German in double figures is sharpshooting SG Demond Greene at 12.2. Former Tarheel Ademoka Okulaja has been a good glue guy for Germany with his defense, rebounding (5.2) & his effective post game. Germany has done a very good job on the boards-- outrebounding their opponents by 10 a game.

I don't think Nigeria should be discounted. They have looked pretty solid in group play and have a nice collection of well-built athletes. They are led by NY Knick Ime Udoka, who has been doing a solid job playing out of position at the PG for the Nigerians. He does an efficient job running the offense and has a nice floor game, doing a little of everything (15.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, & 4 assts). Former Texas Longhorn Gabe Muoneke has done a good job using his strength & athleticism to command respect in the paint (10.8 & 4 rpg). Former Oklahoma Sooner Ebi Ere, another good athlete, provides Nigeria with one of the few servicable shooters they have--Nigeria shot 29% from 3pt. Watch out for current Maryland Terrapin Ekenne Ibekwe (6 & 6 rpg), who is good for a few high-wire finishes per game.

Germany really struggled putting away Angola who used their speed to constantly attack the paint, so I could see the Germans struggling the same way vs. Nigeria. Although NIgeria's offense can go thru some rough patches where they have trouble hitting shots.

-USA (D-1) vs. Australia (C-4): I think the US lucked out a little having the Aussies slip in over Brazil. The Aussies really don't matchup well at all & really should not be a concern for Team USA. We pretty know what we get with the US, and expect their pressure defense to work wonders in this game since the Aussies average 20 TOs per. The US should command the board battle as well, as the Aussies are severely undersized outside of Bogut and start a 6-6 PF. Although, one thing the US has been a little spotty at is guarding the 3pt. line and this is the Aussies' bread-n-butter.

The Aussies' offense revolves around them looking for outside looks even more than going thru Bogut--the Aussies have shot 41.4% from 3pt. Andrew Bogut has had a solid tourney with 11.4 ppg & 6.2 rpg and plenty of nice passes, but he still needs to get more touches and look to get up more shots. They have a pretty solid PG in CJ Bruton who does a nice job running this club (13 ppg). An underrated player to watch for is jack-of-all-trades forward Sam Mackinnon who does all the little things (7.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.5 assts, & good for some steals).

The Aussies like to mix up their defenses & I expect them to show alot of zone. But even with that, they just do not have enough firepower overall to hang for very long.

-France (A-2) vs. Angola (B-3): Do not just hand this game to France; Angola is legit & very dangerous. I thought Angola was a fluke as well but then I saw how they played Spain & Germany, and I became a believer.

I've been saying that France is somewhat overrated all summer (even with Parker) and I always pointed to the fact that they had a major flaw--outside shooting. Well, I thought they would be bad, but they have been atrocious, the worst in the whole tourney--21.7% from 3pt. to go with 38,4% overall. This has led to really looking ragged on the offensive end & not putting up a ton of points. Boris Diaw has probably been their best player, but still has not played up to his potential; he needs to give more, if France wants to advance. Florent Pietrus totally outplayed his NBA-employed brother with 11.2 ppg & 6.6 rpg and just playing with great energy. Current Sonic Mickeal Gelabale has been alright overall & has been one of the few Frenchmen with any success fron long-range (35.7%). Mamoutu Diarra is basically the only other guy to be mildly concerned with from outside (38.5%). Former NY Knick draftee Fred Weis has been pretty solid on both ends of the floor, and has looked as least as good as Jerome James, so maybe Isiah can tender him a $30 mil offer.

Angola has been the surprise of the tourney. I was a little skeptical when they went 3-0 out of the gates vs. Panama, Japan, & New Zealand, but they made me a believer when they gave Spain their closest game & they battled Germany to 3 overtimes. They are a very scrappy, undersized ballclub that likes to constantly be on the attack, especially getting into the paint on offense. Joaquim Gomes likes to finish in the paint & will draw fouls (16 & 8.6 rpg). Olimpio Cipriano is probably their best shooter (14.2 on 42.3 from 3pt.) who went berserk from deep vs. Germany in the 2nd half. They also get help in the paint from athletic Ed Mingas with 15.8 ppg & 7.6 rpg. Although their key weapon might be PG Milton Barros who creates so much havoc on both ends with his speed & relentless attacking with the dribble. If I am Angola I would be crazy not to sit in a zone and let France brick away from outside. I really feel this game is a toss-up.

-Greece (C-1) vs. China (D-4): Much like Germany, China is a one-man gang, but Yao does not even have the surrounding cast of Dirk. Yao has done his part by leading the tourney in scoring with 28.4 ppg on 64% shooting with 9.3 rpg. Besides him there is not much: Wang Zhi Zhi has been decent with 9.6 ppg & 50% from deep & Wang Shipeng is the only other Chinese player in double figures with 10.6.

Gritty Greece is the ultimate definition of a team. It's really hard to say who is their best player & they really don't have anyone who's spectacular, just a great collection of smart, savvy basketball players. A team that is much better than the sum of their parts. Even though some APBR-metricians might beg to differ (Greece's Def. FG % was 47.7 in Group B), Greece's defense is excellant. Their help rotations are the best I've seen, outside of maybe Spain, they just make the opponent work so hard for their shots. One thing they do better than any team, even better than the US, is force turnovers--24 per in group play. This is usually led by the handiwork of Euroleague Defensive Player of the Year Dimis DIamantidis who averages 4 steals per. Offensively, this team will not overwhelm you with their talent, but they usually do just enough to win the game. They like to dump the ball into center Lazaros Papadopoulas alot where he likes to showcase his nice footwork to get off his hook shots or he will find guys with his passing skills (9.8 ppg & 2 assts). Combo forward Antonios Fotsis is probably the most naturally gifted Greek player with a good inside/outside game & pretty good athleticism. With Nikos Zisis out with a busted face, Fotsis is the best outside shooter left on a weak outside shooting team.

I see Greece pulling out this game. The score might not be a blowout, but that is just because of Greece's deliberate style of play on both ends. China should try some zone out to force Greece to prove themselves from outside--this has been Greece's Achilles Heel even when Zisis was healthy (31% from 3pt.). This might be the only chance China has at pulling an upset.