The draw for the 38th edition of EuroBasket, the European men’s basketball championship that will take place from Wednesday 4 September 2013 to Sunday 22 September 2013 in Slovenia, has thrown up a good bet in one of the groups.
Lithuania is available at odds of 2.20 with Stan James to top EuroBasket Group B. Some bookmakers are quoting Lithuania at odds on and that looks more like it given that the basketball-crazy Baltic country has been grouped with Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Latvia, Montenegro and Serbia.
First, one should consider the geography of the EuroBasket Group B participants because it is important. The section contains four of the seven nations that came from the break up of Yugoslavia that began in the early 1990s and that means there will be several ferocious derbies. Bosnia and Herzegovina may not be realistic EuroBasket contenders but the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia each view themselves as having a real shot at going a long way in the tournament. Lithuania has a local derby of its own in EuroBasket Group B but, with all due respect to Latvia, it is the weakest team in the section.
EuroBasket Group B having such a Balkan flavour certainly advantages Lithuania. Another factor in Lithuania’s favour is that, while its roster is missing some of its famous names, it is not as inconvenienced as many of the other championship favourites by the absence of basketballers, primarily on the books of National Basketball Association sides, who have decided to skip the 24-team competition.
Lithuania is one of the few countries in which basketball is the national sport so it has a production line of talent in spite of its population being only slightly more than three million people. It probably helps that there seems to be no such thing as a small Lithuanian, with its Eurobasket squad featuring one big man after one big man. And Lithuania’s form in the lead up to the tournament has been brilliant, including an 82-51 blow-out defeat of Russia. Lithuania played 12 friendly matches in August and earl September 2013, winning 11 games – it loss was a 62-80 defeat to Greece in Athens – and beating EuroBasket Group B rivals Bosnia and Herzegovina (93-74) and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (62-50) on the road comfortably.
The opening day of EuroBasket matches includes Lithuania versus Serbia, a game for which the Lithuanians are fairly short odds to win. Rather than back Lithuania at odds of 1.50 with Ladbrokes to beat Serbia, support the Lithuanians at odds of 2.20 in betting on the EuroBasket Group B winner.
Turning one’s attention to EuroBasket title betting, Spain is the championship favourite with every bookmaker. Spain is as short as 2.50 with Bwin and as long as 3.25 with Coral and William Hill. It is 5.50 bar Spain, which brings in Greece, with France next in line at 6.00. Lithuania is trading at single-figure odds with most bookmakers but Youwin is out on a limb with its offer of 15.00.
If everything goes according to the EuroBasket seedings, the semi-finals will see France take on Greece and Spain play Lithuania. That is a big if, though, because the top three sides in each of the four initial groups qualify for the second round and the second round comprises two groups of six teams from which eight sides will progress to the quarter-finals and the beginning of knockout action.
In the circumstances – for example, it would not take much for Spain and France to run into each other before the final – Youwin’s odds of 15.00 about Lithuania winning its fourth EuroBasket crown is the value play. Lithuania is trading at around the 9.00 mark with most bookmakers so one may not get on for vast amounts of money but anything at 15.00 would be a sound investment from a long-term, trading perspective.
One of the reasons that Spain and France are shorter than Lithuania is that they have soft group draws, particularly the French. France will have the chance to experiment early on because none of its EuroBasket Group A opponents should get close to recording an upset victory over the French.