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2011 Eurobasket: Zaza Pachulia Leads Georgia Into Olympic Qualifier

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Atlanta Hawks center Zaza Pachulia is set to lead Georgia into the 2011 Eurobasket Tournament that begins on Aug 31 in Lithuania. The tournament is made up of 24 teams that are playing for two automatic qualifying spots into the 2012 Olympics in London. Teams finished 3rd - 6th will earn a spot in the Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament that will take place next summer. 

True Hoop Blog The Painted Area previews the entire tournament and likes Georgia's chances of advancing due to their placement in Group D which is made up of Bulgaria, Russia, Ukraine, Belgium, and Slovenia. The top three finishers from the group advance to the next round.

Georgia has benefited as much as any team from the luck of the draw. If they were in Group A or B, no chance at advancing to the second round. But being placed in Group D gives them a great shot at the second round. Zaza Pachulia is the leader of this team with multiple shooters and impressive athletes. 

Remember that Ukraine is coached by former Hawks coach Mike Fratello and would have included second round pick Sergey Gladyr had he not been sidelined by a knee injury during practice leading up to the tournament. 

Georgia Schedule 2011 Eurobasket (All games can be seen online with ESPN3)

Aug 31 Vs Belgium 8:30 a.m.
Sept 1 Vs Russia 11:00 a.m
Sept 3 Vs Slovenia 11:00 a.m.
Sept 4 Vs Ukraine 8:30 a.m.
Sept 5 Vs Bulgaria 8:30 a.m. 

European Hoops blog Ball in Europe calls Georgia's matchup with Russia on September 1 as one of the games to watch in the opening round. 

1 September: Russia vs. Georgia. Watch out for Georgia in this tournament. Of the seven teams added by FIBA officials after what everyone thought was last year's qualifying round, these guys have the best chance to advance. While Russia has looked like a juggernaut this month in exhibition games, Georgia looks like team on the rise - despite losing to Latvia the other day - with Zaza Pachulia playing out of his mind lately and speed enough to keep up with the Russians at their pace. One question: Can they crack David Blatt's pernicious defensive sets?