Eurobasket Qualifying Update
Team Italia heads to Pau, France on Friday for a rematch with Les Bleus. You might remember Italy suffered a serious blow to its Euro '09 hopes with an 80-77 loss in OT to a Parker-less France on Aug. 5th. Currently, France leads Group B with a 2-0 record, Italy is 1-1, & Finland 0-2 (Bosnia leads Group A at 2-0).
Now Italy is faced with a must-win situation, because if France wins, they're likely headed to Poland (they would clinch Group B and would be big favorites to defeat the Group A winner). If Italy pulls the road upset, Group B will likely be decided by a tiebreaker because both teams should finish 3-1. Though, Finland could play a spoiler for either squad.
France still has to travel up to Finland to finish off round-robin play. Finland was competitive in a 10-point loss last Saturday in France, and nearly beat Italy at home.
Total point differential for round-robin play is the tiebreaker, and France has the upper hand. Right now, France is +13 point diff., Italy is -1.
Not sure of Tony Parker's stamina or overall health status. Parker only played sparingly vs. Finland, but I imagine that was a strategic move. Assume he will play a bigger role vs. the Italians. Though, Team France has been fortunate that their young guards, Antoine Diot & Nando De Colo, have played with such poise.
The status of Nic Batum is questionable, as well, because of a bum shoulder. Nic was a huge factor in the 2nd half of the Aug. 5 meeting.
Athletic Italian SF Stefano Mancinelli will be absent because of a shoulder separation suffered in the Aug. 5 meeting vs. France. Underrated loss for the Azzurri--Mancinelli was playing superb off the bench before his injury late in the 3rd.
Italy was lucky to hold off Finland on Tuesday, 77-75. Marco Belinelli continues to shine in FIBA play--Marco led Italy with 23 pts on 10/18, but still showed his carelessness, 5 TOs. Andrea Bargnani got involved more with 21 pts. on 8/17 & 8 rebs, but was limited to 24 mins. because of foul trouble. Italy really needs to open up their offense more, put more points on the board. They were too conservative at Euro '07 as well.
You would hope Italy throws some packed-in defensive alignments vs. France, make the Frenchies prove themselves from the perimeter. But hoping for astute strategizing by Coach Recalcati is a dubious request. Also, getting Bargnani more involved than he was in Game 1 would be helpful.
Gotta go with France on Friday. Playing at home, Parker back in the fold, & Italy's questionable coaching should swing the favor toward Les Bleus.