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EuroBasket 2017 Preview: France expected to lead the way in Group A

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NBA: Orlando Magic at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

If Tomas Satoransky and the Czech Republic earn a Round of 16 berth in EuroBasket 2017, they’re going to face some teams in other groups. Here are the squads in Group A.

Where’s Group A playing?

Helsinki, Finland. The game schedule is here.

Finland

The Finnish made the round of 16 two years ago, and now get to host the group stage on their home court. Chicago Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen — who Howard Megdal compared to Emma Meesseman — is the player who I’m most interested in seeing. It won’t be easy to see Finland make the Round of 16, but with homecourt advantage, it’s possible.

France

Tony Parker has retired from the French national team, but NBA stars like Nicolas Batum and Rudy Gobert won’t be there for this tournament. That said, Magic guard Evan Fournier and former NBA player Nando De Colo will lead one of the medal contenders in this tournament. Though Boris Diaw is a free agent, he’ll also be onboard for veteran leadership.

Though Ian Mahinmi is French, he won’t be wearing the red, white, and blue for them in this tournament. And finally, former Wizards post Kevin Seraphin will play as well.

Greece

I was looking forward to seeing Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo lead his country to a potential medal finish. But he won’t be there — and the Greek basketball federation isn’t happy about that. Still, there are many top European league players on the squad, so they’ll still be in good position to advance to the quarterfinals at the very least.

Iceland

The Icelanders made their second consecutive EuroBasket tournament. Though their team is one of the best among smaller European state (ex - Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, Monaco, etc.), they’re probably not advancing out of this group. Valencia center Tyggvi Hlinason is an NBA Draft prospect however, so keep an eye on the 19 year old’s performance.

Poland

Marcin Gortat retired from European play after EuroBasket 2015, but the Polish are still in good hands. They have a number of younger players like Mateusz Ponitka. But for American audiences, former Gonzaga star center Przemek Karnowski is someone we’ll keep an eye on. Karnowski won the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award last college season. He also played many minutes in EuroBasket 2015 alongside the Polish Machine. Also, veteran guard A.J. Slaughter should keep them in good position to advance to the knockout rounds.

They’re the team we’ll root for in this group since we’re all Poles in spirit! Regardless, the Polish should be able to advance to the Round of 16, but it’s no guarantee.

Slovenia

The Slovenians will be led by Heat guard Goran Dragic who said that this will be his last international tournament. They will also have former NBA player Anthony Randolph, who now plays for Real Madrid in La Liga ACB. It will be interesting to see how Dragic and Randolph develop chemistry during group play. Slovenia should make it to the Round of 16, but they probably aren’t going much farther than that.

Anything cool about the basketball players from these countries off the court?

I’ll use the Marcin Gortat crutch, because he’s Polish.

Apparently, he has his own stable now. Here he is with Cedrik MG, his horse. I don’t know much about thoroughbreds, but could Cedric MG be going for a Triple Crown next year?

My pride ! "CEDRIK MG" over 2years old. #futureChamp @mg_stable @mg_stable @mg_stable

A post shared by Marcin Gortat (@mgortat13) on

Who should advance?

France should win this group. After that, Greece should be runner ups while Poland and Slovenia round out the top four teams.