Monday, July 4, 2011

FIBA U19 2011 World Championship -- Eighth Final Round Preview

And Then There Were 12
The first preliminary round of the FIBA U19 World Championship Tournament has finished, and the top three teams from each of the four groups will advance and be reseeded into two groups (E & F) of six teams each.

The reseeded groups E (groups A & B) & F (groups C & D) will take their first round records (and points) into second round play. Showing each team's points per possession and efficiency margin (offensive points per possession - defensive points per possession) should provide a hint of things to come in the second round:

Group E

One might expect that with randomly drawn four team groups, the distribution of reseeded teams from each group might fairly distributed even as well. Not so with Group E. Though all six teams advance with identical records, a look at each team's points per possession counters the strong inference that second round play will be tightly contested. Brazil, Poland and Russia sport large difference margins in part because each beat up on the #4 team, Tunisia, in the group. Tunisia is headed to the first set of classification games, along with Taiwan (Group B), South Korea (Group C) and China (Group D -- a mild surprise), while those three will continue with match-ups against the Group B contingent. Group B leader Australia, has three games that should be very interesting. Four teams will advance out of Group E, and from the point difference it seems that Group A will be heavily represented. As for Group F...

Group F

I had assumed, before the start of tournament play, that two losses would consign a team to the classification round. Not so apparently, as both Group C and Group D contribute a team with a 1-2 record. Canada's loss to Lithuania may have been expected, but the loss to an unexpectedly tough Croatian team rates a mild surprise. A look at the points per possession (ppp) shows that Croatia had a small, but nevertheless positive difference margin. Lithuania was stunned by that Croatian team on the first day of tournament play, which accounts for their 2-1 record. Team Lithuania is stronger than the record implies. Though all three second preliminary round games will be tough for Team USA, expect the game with Lithuania (played on Tuesday), to hint at how far the USA team has come in the last three-plus weeks. Serbia's game with Lithuania on Monday (7/4) should tell us whether Team Lithuania peaked in the exhibition tournament which preceded the FIBA World Championship.

Games of Interest
The aforementioned USA-Lithuania rematch aside, other games of the Eighth Final Round that should prove interesting include Australia-Russia (Monday 7/4), Croatia-Serbia (Tuesday 7/5), USA-Lithuania (Tuesday 7/5) and Australia-Brazil (Tuesday 7/5), Serbia-Canada (Wednesday 7/6 -- these two may be fighting over a spot in the medal round), USA-Croatia (Wednesday 7/6) and Australia-Poland (Wednesday 7/6 -- could decide whether Australia makes it to the medal rounds).

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