|31 August 2012|
|Shooting guard Sergii Gladyr has led Ukraine to four wins in five games and now they find themselves with a first chance to clinch early qualification on Sunday |
There is still a long way to go to the EuroBasket Final Round in Slovenia next year for most teams, yet four sides are already within touching distance.
Montenegro, Croatia, Ukraine and Italy have been so good in the Qualification Round that all four outfits could punch their ticket to the EuroBasket on Sunday.
The only side to lose in that fabulous four is Ukraine, in fact, and that was 80-79 to Croatia at home.
Had Oleksiy Pecherov completed a drive at the end of the contest, Ukraine would have been undefeated.
They at least showed the capacity to win a thriller by hitting the road and edging Hungary on Thursday night, 78-76.
Shooting guard Sergii Gladyr was terrific again, pouring in 17 points.
He is leading the team in scoring at 11.4 points per game while shooting an impressive 40% (10 of 25) from the arc.
Montenegro have stunned Europe this season.
Playing without their NBA center Nikola Pekovic of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Montenegro haven't missed a beat.
Their 81-76 triumph at Israel on Thursday was the sixth consecutive win in Group A for the team coached by Luka Pavicevic.
They also won their encounter at Serbia earlier in the campaign.
In Group F, Italy have performed well without NBA players Andrea Bargnani and Marco Belinelli.
Their 82-70 victory at Portugal was a fifth in as many games for the Azzurri, whose coach is Simone Pianigiani.
|No team has impressed more in the Qualification Round than Montenegro - if they win their seventh consecutive game on Sunday, they would secure a place at the EuroBasket with three games to spare |
In Group A, if Montenegro win their home game against Serbia, they qualify.
Even if they fall in their remaining games after a win over the Serbians, they would have the better of both Serbia and Israel with two victories against each.
Montenegro would finish no lower than second.
In fact, if Estonia lose to Israel on Sunday, all Montenegro need to do is avoid a defeat by more than 12 points when they meet the Estonians on 5 September and they clinch top spot.
In Group C, if Croatia and Ukraine prevail on Sunday, both advance to the EuroBasket. In this scenario, the duo would lock the top two spots and leave the rest of the group rivals battle it out for third place, which could afford them a chance to make it to Slovenia.
However, Croatia's and Ukraine's Sunday results are co-dependent and if only one of the two wins but the other loses, both will have to wait for their next chance on Wednesday.
In Group F, the Italians are in the Final Round as well if they clinch a victory over the Czech Republic, a side that has been playing very well of late.
Should they beat the Czechs, then Turkey would be the only side who could beat the Azzurri to first place in the group.
The top two sides in each of the six Qualification Round groups, and the four best third-place teams, progress to the Final Round.