In a distant land far away (Poland) European teams fight for continental supremacy. As the qualifying round comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on a few days that have been jam packed with national pride and animalistic instinct. In the Eurobasket Kingdom, the rules are very simple: survive. At any cost.
The Lion- Turkey
Not known as a favorite going into the tournament, Turkey has looked like the king of the jungle. They have feasted on their opponents like cornered deer, thirsting for blood. Other undefeated teams like Greece and France have put up good performances but they have not played the competition Turkey has; they are not lions. In their first encounter with the evenly matched but wounded Lithuanian squad, Turkey was able to pounce on their prey in the 4th quarter for an eight point win. The lions with the biggest manes are Ersan Ilyasova and Hedo Turkoglu who were able to put in 17 and 19 points respectively. Next up on the chopping block was the lowly creature that is Bulgaria who barely put up a fight in a 28 point loss. The final victim for the lion was the home team Poland who was undefeated up until that point. Caught with their chests out Poland became the latest prey disposed by Turkey. They were not the premier team coming into the tournament but Turkey has two of the EuroBasket’s best players and a stable of big men that was good enough to earn the title of Lion.
The Goat- Israel
Some teams may have less talent (Great Britain and Bulgaria) than Israel, but no team put up a worse showing in the qualifying round. Placed in a group with one winnable game (Croatia) and one game in which they were the favorite (Macedonia), Israel had a clear chance to advance. After barely losing to Croatia, Israel was beaten by Macedonia and become the ill fated goat of this kingdom. This only became worse after a 46 point shellacking by Greece in the final game. After this it was clear that Israel was the animal in this kingdom that was laying in an open field, just waiting to be maimed.
The Snake- Poland
Known for being a sneaky animal, the snake has a way of slithering up on its prey and attacking them before they know what hit them. In this kingdom that snake is Poland who snuck up on a lot of teams at the EuroBasket. They were expected to qualify for the next round but a beating of both Bulgaria and Lithuania by double digits was quite impressive. Poland is led by their three-headed cobra snakes; David Logan, Marcin Gortat, and Maciej Lampe, who are all in the top 10 in scoring in the tournament. Now that their opponents know what to expect it will be harder for Poland to sneak up on other teams in the next round.
The Gorilla- Spain
The heavy, heavy, heavy favorite coming into the tournament was Spain. People were asking themselves who Spain was going to beat in the finals or if they would go undefeated. Spain though is not the lion of this kingdom they are the gorilla. The lion goes unblemished and is the unquestioned leader of the jungle, while Spain was devoured by a hungry Serbia team who beat them in their first game. Spain was able to bounce back in its next two games beating the lackluster Brits by 8 and then the tough Slovenians by 6. Neither game was a romp by Spain because like a gorilla sometimes they can monkey around. Spain is still an imposing beast like a gorilla and could strike at anytime. Beware.