Originally Posted by winwin
GAME OF THE DAY: Serbia v Italy
Serbia v Italy - Wednesday at 15:15
Italy's first game in their return to the EuroBasket is a huge one.
The opponents in the opening clash of Group B in Siauliai are Serbia.
The FIBA World Rankings have Italy seventh and Serbia eighth.
Results the past three years show that Serbia have been a far superior team.
Serbia qualified for EuroBasket 2009 (and Italy did not) and went on an unexpected run to the Final.
They left Poland with a silver medal and followed that up with a fourth-place finish at the 2010 World Championship in Turkey.
Italy, meanwhile, haven't played in a big event since EuroBasket 2007.
Serbia will be without forward Novica Velickovic, who is out of the EuroBasket because of muscular injury, but Nemanja Bjelica (hand) and Marko Keselj (cheekbone) passed late fitness tests and will play.
The Serbia squad oozes with talent.
Milos Teodosic is one of the best playmakers in Europe, Dusko Savanovic is a top forward and Nenad Krstic and Kosta Perovic are solid centers.
Other weapons include playmaker Stefan Markovic, power forward Milan Macvan, shooting guards Aleksandar Rasic and Milenko Tepic, defensive juggernaut Ivan Paunic and 2.22m center Boban Marjanovic.
Italy changed coaches after EuroBasket 2009 qualifying disappointment, handing the reins to Montepaschi Siena's successful boss Simone Pianigiani.
They played well in EuroBasket 2011 qualifying and are now even stronger as Danilo Gallinari, unavailable the last four summers due to injuries, is in the team.
His fellow NBA players Andrea Bargnani and Marco Belinelli are two reasons why Italy believe they can progress from a very difficult Group B.
Head to Head: Serbia beat Italy twice in their EuroBasket 2009 qualifying campaign, 78-64, in Cagliari and 72-52 in Belgrade. However, Bargnani, Belinelli and Gallinari did not play for the Azzurri.
Last Time Out: Italy defeated Greece, 82-81, in the Acropolis Tournament and Serbia fell, 80-77, to France at the London Invitational Tournament.
Key Match-Up: Bargnani v Serbia centers Krstic, Perovic and Marjanovic - Bargnani's ability to step outside and hit shots from long range can cause problems for centers more accustomed to defending in the low post, but the Italian will also have to prove he can hold his own defensively.
Key Stat: Serbia were very efficient with their offense at the 2010 World Championship, shooting 49.6% from the floor and averaging 88.9 points. Both numbers were second only to gold-medal winners Team USA. Their average of 17.6 assists was third best in the competition.
X-Factor: The biggest question heading into the EuroBasket for Italy is how their playmakers will perform. Combo guard Daniel Hackett is coming off a terrific campaign with his hometown club, Scavolini Pesaro, and has the opportunity to be a big contributor.
Sounding Off: "I once played against Teodosic in the Semi-Finals of the Under-20s. It was a battle then, they won and then won the gold medal. Hopefully this time, it will be different," says Italy guard Hackett.