#Spain2014: Round of 16 Micro Previews Part 1

Hola! Yes, it sucks that Gilas Pilipinas has been eliminated, but aren’t you even a little bit happy about how well they represented the Philippines? Our boys exceeded expectations and will come home heroes. ‘Nuff said.

Right now, however, the hoop wars in Spain aren’t over yet. Sixteen countries have survived the grueling group stages and have advanced to the dangerous knockout rounds, where one loss sends any team packing.

In this first of two parts, we will give micro previews of the first four Round of 16 matches.

Rambulan na!

Are these four destined to make it to the quarterfinals in #Spain2014?

USA (5-0) vs MEXICO (2-3)
Team USA has had a few shaky moments in this tournament. In particular, trailing at the half against Turkey and falling behind after one quarter against Ukraine weren’t exactly the Americans’ shining moments. Still, they’ve shown the ability to flip the switch when push came to shove and have managed to put up an average winning margin of 33.2 points. The athletic frontline combo of Anthony Davis and Kenneth Faried has been dominant, while coach Mike Krzyzewski’s plethora of guards has been solid. The injury to Kyrie Irving doesn’t seem to be anything serious, but I don't think the States will need to play him a ton against Mexico anyway. Speaking of the Mexicans, one of the things they’ll really need to get going here is outside shooting. They average 40% shooting from beyond the arc, and they’ll need to wax hot to even stick with the NBA superstars. I expect Mexico to put up a fight early on, but I also expect Team USA to break the game open in either of the middle quarters. Team USA moves on, and Mexico goes home.

NBA big men Gustavo Ayon (MEX) and Anthony Davis (USA) should have
a titanic match-up.

FRANCE (3-2) vs CROATIA (3-2)
I swell with pride when I think that both these teams had a tough time dealing with Gilas Pilipinas. France won by just 7 against Gilas in a pretournament game, while Croatia infamously nearly bit the dust in OT against our upstart squad. This will probably be one of the closest games to call mainly because both teams have equally great weapons. If Tony Parker were playing, France would be a clear favorite here, but the fiery San Antonio playmaker is absent, so that means Oliver Lafayette and Roko Ukic just might have a field day against the likes of Thomas Heurtel and Antoine Diot. Still, the critical match-up should be between NBAers Bojan Bogdanovic and Nicolas Batum. As expected, Bogdanovic has been great for Croatia, averaging 20 points per game, but Batum has been up-and-down. The Portland star, in fact, hasn’t scored more than 13 points yet in a game. He was limited to only 2 points in 15 minutes as France ripped Iran, but that might also mean coach Vincent Collet is saving his athletic swingman for tonight’s big fight against Croatia. This should be a tight encounter, but I have France sending Croatia packing with some big plays in the clutch.

Dario Saric (CRO) of Croatia should remain dominant against Nicolas Batum (FRA) and the French.

The Dragic boys will make life tough for the Dominicans – that much is a given. I think, however, that Jack Martinez and Francisco Garcia have at least one upset game in them, and this is their best chance at slipping past a higher-seeded squad. The red flags for Slovenia? They average around 10 rebounds less than the Dominicans, and the last time they played a team with good bigs (Lithuania), they perished. Also, Goran Dragic shot terribly in Slovenia’s last game, and I have a feeling he’s still stuck in a funk. In contrast, I’m picking Francisco Garcia to continue shooting well (he averages better than 4 threes per game!) with the trio of Eloy Vargas, Eulis Baez, and Jack Martinez outmuscling Alen Omic and Jure Balazic down low. Dominican Republic will find the bottom of the net too many times for Slovenia to survive, and the Dragic brothers will go home in tears.

I smell an upset brewing between Goran Dragic (SLO) and Francisco Garcia (DOM).

SPAIN (5-0) vs SENEGAL (2-3)
This is probably the easiest to predict, since Spain has pretty much been indomitable, while the Senegalese have lost two straight after shocking the world with wins over Puerto Rico and Croatia. Cheikh Sarr’s wards lost badly to Argentina and then dropped a wild one against the Filipinos, so momentum is definitely not in their favor. Star big man Gorgui Dieng also got banged up in their last match, butting heads (literally) with Ranidel De Ocampo and then hitting the LED boards hard after a fall. Look for him to have a helluva tough time against the Gasols and Serge Ibaka. Speaking of, Pau Gasol should have another brilliant outing for the home team. He has been playing like a man on a mission in this tournament, and don’t count on coach Juan Orenga pulling any punches here. Look for the Spaniards to light it up from deep and obliterate the paint against an overmatched Senegal. Spain should mount an insurmountable lead at some point in the first half, and proceed to cruise to the quarterfinals.

Pau Gasol (ESP) and the rest of Spain should coast past Gorgui Dieng (SEN) and the rest of Senegal.

Watch out for Part 2 tomorrow as we look at the chances of New Zealand, Lithuania, Serbia, Greece, Turkey, Australia, Brazil, and Argentina.

All images are from FIBA.com.

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1 Comment

No way Slovenia loses, man.