Final preview: Historic hosts or repeat champs, and who makes U19 World Cup?
RIGA (FIBA U18 European Championship 2018) - Time has come to hand out the medals at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2018 with the Final and Third-Place Game. But there is also a spot up for grabs at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2019 and we need to see if two or three teams will be relegated to Division B.
Time: 19:45 CET, Sunday
Key matchup: Sure the back and forth between Latvia ace Arturs Zagars and Serbia gunner Zoran Paunovic could be downright spectacular, but the key for the hosts will be how Anrijs Miska and Armands Berkis can slow down the Serbian big man duo of Filip Petrusev and Marko Pecarski, who have been working fantastically together or separately throughout the whole tournament.
Fact of the game: Latvia are trying to become the ninth host team to win the title following: 1972 Yugoslavia, 1988 Yugoslavia, 2004 Spain, 2005 Serbia and Montenegro, 2008 Greece, 2010 Lithuania, 2014 Turkey and 2015 Greece. Also, other than the ruling era of Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, Turkey in 2013 and 2014 are the only team to repeat the U18 crown. And Serbia are just the sixth reigning champion to get back to the Final following: 1990-1992 Italy, 1996-1998 Croatia, 2012-2013 Croatia, 2013-2014 Turkey (won) and 2014-2015 Turkey.
They said: "Of course the mission is not accomplished yet, but we made history and we are already proud of ourselves. But our coaches said we will squeeze the juice to the end and see what happens," Latvia guard Arturs Zagars
"Everything is against us. The gym will be full, but we can't put pressure on ourselves. We just have to concentrate on the floor and play our game. We watched their game and we know that Latvia is a great team and they will have a lot of fans on their home court. We just have to play our game and stay positive. I am very hungry (for a repeat title). After last year's (U18) European Championship ended I was already thinking about this year," Serbia center Marko Pecarski
The 'insider' prediction: Latvia are already a jacked up team just from their playing style and they will be pumped up even more by the Arena Riga crowd - which should be rocking. Serbia will not be flustered by the noise though and the leadership of Pecarski and Petrusev wanting to repeat their crown from last summer will be huge. You can count on the Big 3 Ps (Pecarski, Petrusev and Paunovic) to show up, so really it's just a matter of the rest of Serbia playing at least solidly. They will do so and Serbia will quiet the Riga fans - who will then realize what a fantastic result Latvia even reaching the Final is and cheer wildly for their 2018 summer heroes.
Time: 17:30 CET, Sunday
Key matchup: Joel Ayayi could not make an impact in France's Semi-Finals loss to Serbia and the guard will be hungry to right that against Russia. And Aleksandr Ershov will need to slow him down. Ershov himself will be out to improve on his showing in Russia's Semi-Finals defeat against Latvia.
Fact of the game: These two teams know each other from the first game of the tournament in Group B in Ventspils, which Russia won in an 82-80 thriller. Also, France's only podium finish since 2009 was the 2016 U18 title. Russia meanwhile only have one medal - 2010 silver - and their only other top four finish was fourth in 2012.
The 'insider' prediction: That first game back on July 28 seems like ages ago and both teams have advanced greatly since then. This should be a great game as both teams are relaxed having reached the FIBA U19 World Cup 2019 and can target a spot on the podium. Just heads Russia, tails France... would say heads without really coming up with a great rationale. But let's say Russia because France are the worst free-throw shooting team in the tournament and Russia the best.
Time: 15:15 CET, Sunday
Key matchup: Two lefty point guards run their teams and how Lithuania's Rokas Jokubaitis and Jonas Mattisseck of Germany can perform will play a major role in which country reaches the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2019.
Fact of the game: Both of these countries want to get back to the U19 World Cup, where they played last summer in Cairo in... the game for fifth place, with Germany winning 80-74.
The 'insider' prediction: While Germany are more athletic - and probably more individually talented from top to bottom - than Lithuania, the Baltic side has more big game experience among their players and the question is who would step up late in a crucial situation for Germany. We have seen Jokubaitis and Deividas Sirvydis do that enough and Lithuania book their ticket to the U19 World Cup.
Time: 13:00 CET, Sunday
Key matchup: Nikos Arsenopoulos will be one of the guys trying to contain Finland's deadly shooter Ville Tahvanainen, who has scored 19.8 points per game as he has hit 22-of-48 three-pointers - good for 46% - including three games with 6 three-pointers. Arsenopoulos for his part averages 13.2 points a contest.
Fact of the game: Greece cannot be relegated since they have already been named as hosts of next summer's U18 tournament. Finland must win to stay in Division A. If the Finns do win, then only Bosnia and Herzegovina and Ukraine will drop to Division B and only Netherlands and Slovenia will be promoted to Division A.
The 'insider' prediction: Not to say that pride doesn't mean much, but Greece face no pressure to win this game. For Finland, Sunday's opening game at Arena Riga means survival in Division A and that urgency will push the Finns that little bit more to dive for loose balls and Finland remain in Division A. And Belgium face Estonia in a Division B Third-Place Game that loses most of its meaning.