One day left in the qualifying round of the U20 European Championship and every team can still reach Friday’s quarterfinals. That is very cool and makes for plenty of great action. Also in today’s look around the tournament, Lithuania’s Donatas Motiejunas appears gassed but is a tremendous talent. So is Montenegro big man Nikola Vucevic.
This is what every basketball fan wants in a championship – all 12 teams in the qualifying round still have a chance to reach the quarterfinals, even the winless Italy in Group E.
First place is also up for grabs as undefeated 4-0 France take on 3-1 Spain. The French were on target from long range in the first half in easing past Russia by 21 points. If Thomas Heurtel and Antoine Diot can handle the Spanish pressure and the French bigs are effective in the blocks then France should remain the only undefeated team. Look for Xavier Rabaseda to have a big game after missing two free throws with two seconds left which would have tied the game against Greece.
The Greeks are 3-1 and already in the quarters ahead of their game against Latvia, who will book their spot in the final eight with a victory and a Russia loss.
Group F in Ialysos is a total mess with Lithuania ahead of the pack at 3-1, while four teams are knotted at 2-2 and Serbia trail in last place at 1-3.
Croatia and Turkey open Wednesday’s qualifying round action. Turkey once again looked like world beaters in blasting past Ukraine. And Croatia played well but fell to Lithuania as Mario Delas did not have that good of a game for Croatia.
Ukraine and Lithuania is the second game and the Baltic side can secure first place with a victory. Ukraine know they cannot afford to fall behind big again as they have in their last two losses.
And the nightcap in Ialysos has Serbia taking on Montenegro. The Montenegrins are clearly the more talented team and should ease past their former compatriots.
One of the keys to the Serbia-Montenegro game will be Nikola Vucevic’s ability to operate in the post. Montenegro’s USC big man once again showed why he is considered a top talent with 19 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks against Ukraine – his fourth double-double in five games thus far.
heinnews looks forward already to following USC this up-coming season to see how Vucevic holds his own with more time in the Pac-10. He has shown in Greece that he should do just fine.
Another guy who would do just fine in the Pac-10 is Donatas Motiejunas. But Lithuania’s 19-year-old big man will be playing against adults – likely in the Lithuanian pro league.
Motiejunas is already playing at his second U20 European Championship but looked absolutely gassed in the first half against Croatia. He rested the entire third quarter and then gave Lithuania a much-needed boost in the fourth quarter to carry the team to the victory – after playing six games at the U19 World Championship in New Zealand just before this tournament started.
Because of the strain of the U19 Worlds, Motiejunas has only had an average tournament in Greece with 9.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. But he is clearly one of the best talents at this tournament.