Eurobasket is really heating up. In a few hours France -- the undefeated team starring the remarkable Tony Parker -- will meet Spain, which is everyone's presumed favorite in this game and the tournament.
After sleepwalking through the start of the tourney, Spain has turned up the heat the last two games, looking like the España we expected, while the undefeated French squad has been steady from the start, buoyed by its exceptional defense. Spain underachieved for the first four games and only earned the #4 seed, so France has to face them two rounds earlier than they would have liked. For Spain, it's a role reversal from the 2004 Olympics, when they went 5-0 in group play but had to play a talented but underachieving Team USA in the quarterfinals and lost.
This matchup will have a strong NBA flavor to it with Pau Gasol (Lakers), Marc Gasol (Grizzlies) and Rudy Fernandez (Blazers), plus 2009 draftees Ricky Rubio (Timberwolves), Victor Claver (Blazers) and Sergio Llull (Rockets) suiting up for Spain. France will counter with Tony Parker (Spurs), Boris Diaw (Bobcats), Nic Batum (Blazers) and Ian Mahinmi (Spurs), plus 2009 draftee Nando De Colo (Spurs). (Don't expect to see much of Claver or Mahinmi, though.)
Meanwhile, a long-time TrueHoop reader with impeccable ties to these teams e-mails that he's expecting a strong showing from the French. "Spain is in the unfortunate situation of playing the second end of a back-to-back tonight," he explains. "Not only that, but they had to fly from Lodz, Poland to Katowice, Poland, this morning after defeating Poland by 22 points last night."
UPDATE: TrueHoop commenter Twilight Envoy points out that trip was actually by bus, not plane, which makes sense; Google Maps says it's about three-hour drive.He also suggests that not all members of the Spanish team are enamored, at the moment, with coach Sergio Scariolo.
The game will be live on ESPN360.