As the qualifying round of EuroBasket wraps up in Madrid this might be a good time to remind people exactly what is on the line these next three days.
Eight teams will continue on to the Quarterfinals, which begin in Thursday, and no doubt all of them dream of a spot on the podium Sunday night but they also understand that there is more on the line then just that, like a ticket to Beijing and the 2008 Olympics.
Let’s begin with the basics.
|Dirk Nowitzki has made it clear he has his eye on Beijing.|
The top two teams at EuroBasket, in other words the teams that play in the gold medal game, qualify automatically for the Olympics.
The four teams which finish below them in the final standing will also have a shot at a trip to Beijing via the world Olympic qualifying tournament which will begin 7 July 2008 at a location to be determined later this year.
But wait! There’s more to it than that.
The wild card in all of this is Spain who already qualified for the Olympics via the world championship they won last year in Japan.
If the Spanish finish in the top six then the opportunity for European teams to qualify for the Olympics moves down one spot.
For example, if Spain were to win gold, then the silver and bronze medal teams would secure the automatic bids and the four teams below them would be headed to the world Olympic qualifying tournament.
That would mean that seven teams would leave Spain with either a bid in hand or the opportunity to secure one next summer.
It’s a long way of saying that the excitement on the final weekend of the tournament will not be confined to the games which lead to the gold medal.
Classification games will be more then just a battle for fifth or sixth place, there’s a trip to Beijing in the cards as well.