ISTANBUL, Turkey -- I spent the second game of tonight's doubleheader at the World Championship sitting alongside ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, who believes Turkey is going to defeat Serbia in the semifinals Saturday and make it to the gold medal game Sunday.
Hard to argue with him after watching the performance they put on in a 95-68 victory over Slovenia.
The Turks made eight of their first 10 3-point shots, finished with a field goal percentage of 67 percent and never looked back after taking a double-digit lead 8 minutes into the first quarter on a dunk by Ersan Ilyasova over Bostjan Nachbar off a pass from Hedo Turkoglu on a 2-on-1 fast break. Ilyasova finished with a team-high 19 points on 7-for-9 shooting with five rebounds and two steals.
Fraschilla's take on the Turks, who are now 6-0:
"The one intangible factor they've got going for them is they're playing in front of this incredible home crowd. The energy level of the team is boosted by the fact that these fans, they don't wait for the team to make things happen, they implore them to make things happen. The team is playing off the fans more than the fans are reacting off the team."
"On the court, Turkoglu is such a great facilitator of (coach Bogdan) Tanjevic's offense because if you put a smaller guy on him he can post up, he can shoot it, he's a great playmaker, and most importantly, what I've seen tonight, is the team feeds off his confidence. I'm watching these guys' faces, and it's like being in a back-alley street fight with Mr. T on your side. You can see that there's a reverence for him among his teammates that creates great confidence for them as a team."
"Their length, it's deceiving. (Omer) Asik, (Semih) Erden, even (Oguz) Savas, these guys are young but very experienced players. They've been playing on a high international level since they were 16 or 17. This is not new to them, although guys like Asik and Erden are going to be new to the NBA fan, but they're well known in Europe as two of the rising young quality European big guys.
"Experienced guards, not great guards, but (Kerem) Tunceri, (Ender) Arslan, (Sinan) Guler, it's a very solid crew, and then they've got Ilyasova, who started coming into his own last year as an NBA player. You've got Ilyasova and Turkoglu as two guys who provide a lot of confidence to the rest of this team. Ilyasova's ability to make shots, Turkoglu's playmaking ability, the size of their big guys, and then the overall experience of this team, and then you throw in there Tanjevic's great reputation as a coach in Europe.
"I think Serbia, on a neutral site, may be a little bit deeper one through 10. I don't know if they have a Turkoglu, but they have a lot of quality players. I just think Serbia is going to have an uphill battle handling this crowd. The emotion of this crowd on Saturday is going to be incredible. Hard to see Turkey losing to Serbia in this kind of an environment, although on paper it would be a great matchup.
"It's so ironic about FIBA basketball, because coming into this tourney Turkey was playing very poorly. The coach was playing a lot of different lineups. They were an afterthought coming into the tournament because of the fact that the perception was they were not playing well in the friendly games. It just goes to show you that these veteran European coaches often times are willing to lose a battle in the friendly games to win the war."