For 24 European countries, the road to Rio begins at EuroBasket 2015.
The biennial tournament, which takes place from September 5 through September 20 at various locations around Europe, will qualify the top two teams for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Moreover, the next five top finishers at EuroBasket will qualify for a July tournament, where teams from around the world will battle it out for the three final Olympic spots.
France are the defending champs, and with a roster full of NBA talent–namely, reigning EuroBasket MVP Tony Parker, do-everything forward Nicolas Batum and rising superstar Rudy Gobert–and home-court advantage (Lille) for the final rounds, they are contenders to repeat. But there are plenty who will challenge them, including Spain, Lithuania, Croatia and Serbia.
Here’s a look at how each of the 24 Olympic hopefuls will begin the tournament:
EuroBasket 2015 Day 1 (September 5) Schedule
Group A (Montpellier, France)
Poland 68, Bosnia and Herzegovina 64
Israel 76, Russia 73
France 97, Finland 87
Group B (Berlin, Germany)
Germany 71, Iceland 65
Spain 70, Serbia 80
Italy 87, Turkey 89
Group C (Zagreb, Croatia)
Georgia 72, Netherlands 73
MKD 65, Greece 85
Croatia 80, Slovenia 73
Group D (Riga, Latvia)
Czech Republic 80, Estonia 57
Belgium 67, Latvia 78
Lithuania 69, Ukraine 68
Game to Watch: Spain vs. Serbia
Two legitimate Olympic medal candidates.
Spain, which won EuroBasket in 2009 and 2011 and finished second to the United States at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, is a consistent basketball powerhouse. Although Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Jose Calderon and Ricky Rubio won’t be with the team in Berlin, La Roja will still have the services of Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic and Rudy Fernandez.
Serbia, meanwhile, doesn’t have as many recognizable NBA names, but Aleksandar Dordevic’s squad isn’t short on talent. Crafty point guard Milos Teodosic averaged 13.6 points and 4.4 assists during Serbia’s second-place finish at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, while Nemanja Bjelica, who will join the Minnesota Timberwolves this season, is the reigning Euroleague MVP.
Throw in Phoenix Suns 2014 first-round pick Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Serbia features one of the best trios in the tournament.
With this matchup, you could very easily be watching a preview of the final.
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