Group C Preview - Day 1

30.08.2011

EUROBASKET 2011

20. Bo McCalebb (F.Y.R. of Macedonia)
F.Y.R. of Macedonia will need Bo McCalebb's scoring punch against Montenegro

Montenegro v F.Y.R. of Macedonia - Wednesday at 15:30

Montenegro will have more than simply winning on their minds when they face F.Y.R. of Macedonia in Alytus.

For whatever happens on court, the Group C curtain raiser will go down in the history books as the proudest moment in Montenegrin basketball history as they make their eagerly anticipated debut at EuroBasket Final Round.

It's certainly been a meteoric rise to prominence for one of the smallest countries in European basketball and following hot on the heels of the Women's team earlier this summer, it's now the turn of the men to enjoy life at their first major tournament.

While emotion will be guaranteed from the moment the national anthem is played, a win is far from certain, even if many observers have Montenegro pencilled in as one of the tournament dark horses due to their impressive form during qualifying last summer.

Crucially, former NBA player Nikola Pekovic has recovered from some recent injury concerns and he will be relishing leading his team under the basket. Indeed the new Partizan Belgrade recruit is far from the only ace in the pack of what is a stacked Montenegrin frontcourt.

While Pekovic could certainly prove to be the difference between the teams, F.Y.R. of Macedonia play-caller Marin Dokuzovski will be confident his backcourt could give his team the edge.

In addition to the explosive energy and scoring of Bo McCalebb, he can also call upon the contrasting style of veteran playmaker Vlado Ilievski with both players more than capable of playing a big hand in racking up an opening day victory.

Greece v Bosnia and Herzegovina - Wednesday at 18:00

A depleted Greece meanwhile face Bosnia and Herzegovina and will be expected by most to overcome their opponent despite being without a host of star players.

After an eventful and challenging couple of months, Coach Ilias Zouros could be forgiven for just wanting to finally get on with the matter in hand.

He will be acutely aware of the potential banana skin lying in wait and is likely to take little notice of some unconvincing pre-tournament games by Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Greece is by no means sure to have things all their own way and it could be a tough one if the likes of Henry Domercant, Mirza Teletovic, Nemanja Gordic and Nihad Dedovic make their shots.

Nevertheless, the Greeks remain strong favourites and especially with Nick Calathes having recovered from an injury which at one point looked like ruling him out.

Croatia v Finland - Wednesday at 21:00

If there's one team who starts the tournament in little fear of being under-cooked in terms of preparation it's Finland. Having emerged from the Additional Qualifying Round, they should certainly be in competitive game mode as they participate once again for the first time in 16 years.

There is a palpable sense of excitement about the Finland National Team due to the new generation of players emerging who could potentially ensure there isn't another agonisingly prolonged period of absence from EuroBasket Final Round in the future.

However, the time is very much now for Finland and having seized the initiative to book their spot, they tip-off their campaign with a tough looking match-up against something of a new look Croatia.

Having dispensed with some familiar and experienced names including Kresimir Loncar and Marko Banic in addition to the injured Roko Leni Ukic and Marin Rozic, the line-up may be different but the questions remain.

Croatia still has the talent to make their mark but as with every tournament for so long now, their inability to make it to the podium continues to weight heavy on their shoulders.

They will probably be expected to start their challenge with a victory over Finland due to their superior depth and experience and while there is a chance their opponents could be a little overwhelmed, they could also play with the carefree attitude of any underdog with little to lose.

This in itself could cause a big headache for Coach Josip Vrankovic and his team who are likely to rely on their big men to see them safely rack up a victory.


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