U18 MEN PREVIEW
The quarter-finals of the U18 European Championship Men 2011 offer some excellent match-ups. Here is a statistical breakdown of all four games.
Spain vs. Croatia
|Marko Ramljak has played some big minutes for Croatia|
Spain come into the quarters with hopes of winning their first U18 gold since 2004 while Croatia have not medalled except for their 2008 bronze since winning the 2002 title.
Spain are one of the deepest teams in Wroclaw as head coach Luis Guil has the luxury of not having to play any player more than 26 minutes. Croatian boss Jaksa Vulic meanwhile has to rely heavily on the trio of Mislav Brzoja, Marko Ramljak and Stipe Krstanovic, who all play more than 32 minutes per game.
Croatia have the worst opponent three-point percentage of the final eight teams while Spain are the third-best shooters from long range.
Spain not only are efficient (number one in assist-turnover ratio of 1.1) but they also rank fourth in offensive rebounds per game. Croatia meanwhile are again worst of the quarterfinalists in those two categories.
Croatia have the second-best defense in points allowed and will need to be on top of their game as Spain are the leading scoring team in the tournament.
Turkey vs. Lithuania
Turkey remain alive for their first ever U18 gold medal after collecting bronze in 2009 and silver in 2004 and 2005. Lithuania are the defending champions by name and are still fighting for their third gold in this age category.
The key to this matchup will likely be Lithuania's perimeter defense on the Turkish point guards. Turkey have the second-best assist-turnover ratio in the tournament as they have committed the fewest turnovers per game. Lithuania meanwhile are the top-ranked quarterfinalist team in steals per game.
Another factor could be the three-point stripe as Turkey are fifth-worst in opponents three-point percentage. But, surprisingly, Lithuania have taken the fewest treys in the tournament.
Lithuania's inside play could decide this encounter as well as Lithuania have the second-best overall shooting percentage and hold opponents to the second-lowest field goal shooting percentage.
Lithuania hope the game doesn't come down to the free throw line as they are the second-worst of the final eight teams from the charity stripe.
Poland vs. Italy
The hosts Poland have never won a European medal while Italy's last gold dates back to 1990 and their last medal coming in 2005 (bronze).
|Mouhammadou Jaiteh and France are tough defenders|
Poland are overwhelming favorites against Italy though the Italians have proven a resilient bunch, cutting a 13-point fourth quarter Lithuania lead down to three points; leading against France in the fourth quarter but losing in the final minutes; leading against Spain late in the third quarter; and coming back from 18 points down in the third quarter to beat Latvia in overtime.
Italy could actually aggravate the host side as they have committed the second-fewest turnovers in the tournament while Poland are last in steals per game. Italy meanwhile have picked up the fourth-most steals per contest.
If this game is close in the end, both coaches will likely decide to foul and send the opposition to the charity stripe as Poland and Italy are the two worst free throw shooting teams in the tournament.
Italy come into the game having scored the second most points per contest but Poland are the best team in defensive field goal percentage and number one in blocks.
France vs. Serbia.
France have won three U18 titles, the last one though dating back to 2006. Serbia have won twice since then - in 2007 and 2009 - after taking the 2005 crown as Serbia & Montenegro.
The three point stripe could decide this encounter of 2009 finalists as France are the worst of the quarterfinalists shooting from long range while Serbia are the second worst in defending the long ball. Serbia meanwhile are the third best three-point shooting team but will face the number one team in defensive three-point shooting percentage.
Serbia in general have the highest field goal percentage in the tournament while France are second worst among the final eight teams. But France have allowed the fewest points per game as the number two team in opponent field goal percentage.
As usual, this game should come down to the little things. That speaks for and against France as they are the top remaining team in offensive rebounds but are worst in turnovers committed and third worst in free throw shooting.