|Dusan Ivkovic's Serbia did not expect to see themselves involved in a final-day battle to qualify, but at least their fate is in their hands |
The last five EuroBasket 2013 berths that are yet to find a holder will be assigned on Tuesday night, when the Qualification Round concludes.
Nine national teams are still in contention for these five highly-coveted tickets, with chances that rank from excellent, in the sense that they control their own destiny, to the rather slim.
The contenders (in alphabetical order) are Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Serbia, Sweden and Turkey.
Mathematically-inclined fans would be well within their rights to point out that, in actual fact, there are still six places up for grabs and ten contenders.
Israel however would have to suffer an unprecedented loss of biblical proportions in Belgrade to make that sixth spot available.
If Arik Shivek's team were to lose by more than a whopping 89 points to Serbia on Tuesday and Estonia were to defeat Iceland then, indeed, Israel would finish fourth in Group A and miss out on the EuroBasket.
It is rather safe to assume though that neither Serbia nor Estonia are calculating their chances by relying on that outcome.
Unless we're in on Tuesday for a night that will redefine the history of European basketball, Israel will play in Slovenia next summer.
The five teams that will emerge victorious from this nerve-wrecking Tuesday experience will join the teams that did their homework earlier in the Qualification Round and have already secured their participation at EuroBasket 2013.
They are Montenegro and - based on the aforementioned reasons - Israel from Group A, Germany from Group B, Croatia and Ukraine from Group C, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Georgia from Group D, Poland and Finland from Group E, Italy and the Czech Republic from Group F.
Some of these teams have not yet played out their schedule and will take to the court on Tuesday night.
They have every reason to fight just like the teams vying for qualification and every reason to want to sign off with another win.
Every result influences directly their win/loss percentage, and therefore every result counts toward their seeding for the EuroBasket Draw.
Let's have a detailed look at all the possible scenarios the nine contenders could find themselves involved in on Tuesday night. The top two teams in each group, as well as the four best third-place teams, qualify to the EuroBasket.
Israel: They are virtually assured of a second- or third-place finish unless they lose by what is an almost impossible margin (> 89 points) in Belgrade. Israel will finish second in the group if they defat Serbia or lose by less than 19 points in case Estonia defeat Iceland, or by less than 13 points in case Estonia lose their game.
Serbia: If they defeat Israel they are through, without having to wait for other results. If they lose and Estonia win, then the Serbians will finish fourth. If both Serbia and Estonia lose, Serbia will be third but on a 5-5 record (50% W/L percentage) their fate will be decided by the calculators and their goal average (points scored/points conceded) in relation to third-place teams in other groups.
Estonia: They need to defeat Iceland and then hope that Israel makes them a present by winning in Belgrade, in which case Estonia will claim third place in Group A with a 6-4 record, enough to book their ticket to Slovenia. The unlikely Serbian victory over Israel by a margin larger than 89 points would also see them through as third.
Azerbaijan: If they win in Germany they are guaranteed a second-place finish. If they lose and Sweden also lose, they will finish third, with Bulgaria in second. If they lose and Sweden win (at Luxembourg), they will finish fourth and out of contention.
Sweden: They have to beat Luxembourg and hope that Azerbaijan lose in Germany, to claim second place in the group. If they win and Azerbaijan also win, they will finish third but with their 4-4 record (50% W/L percentage) they can hope to make it through as one of the four best third-place teams only if at least two third-place teams in other groups also have the same W/L percentage but a lower goal average than theirs (currently 1.067).
Bulgaria: They have played all their games and now have a chance of finishing second, if both Sweden and Azerbaijan lose their Tuesday games. They could also finish third, behind Sweden, if only Azerbaijan lose on Tuesday, or behind Azerbaijan if only Sweden lose. In either of these cases though their goal average of 1.034 would be very unlikely to see them earn qualification, even if two or more third-place teams in other groups finish with the same W/L percentage.
Austria: They are the only remaining interested party in this group. Their chances of qualifying as one of the four best third-place teams though are slim. They need to win in Croatia, preferably by a wide margin to improve on their current 1.031 goal average, and hope that a host of other results goes their way so that there are at least two other third-place teams with the same record and a worse goal average when the dust settles.
Latvia: A win in Romania will see them through as one of the four best third-place teams. If they lose, they will still finish third but with a 4-4 record (50% W/L percentage). In this case, and with their goal average currently at 1.124, if their loss is by a small margin in a low scoring game, they could have options to qualify if at least two of the third-place teams in other groups also finish with the same W/L percentage and their goal average is inferior.
Belgium: A win in Albania will see them safely through, as one of the four best third-place teams. If they lose however and finish with a 4-4 record, they can only hope that at least two third-place teams in other groups also finish with the same win/loss percentage and with a lower goal average. Their current goal average is 1.074 and if it was to drop even further, their situation would probably be unfavourable if this second scenario materialises.
Turkey: If they defeat the Czech Republic, by any margin, they book their ticket to the Final Round. What's more, if they win by more than 18 points, they even clinch second place in the group. If they lose however, they finish third at 4-4 and join those who have to pull out the calculators at the final buzzer, with their goal average coming into play. It is currently 1.051 and even if two or more third-place teams in other groups finish with the same win/loss percentage, it might not be enough for them to qualify.