On August 31st, the FIBA World Cup will begin. You don’t know what that is? Well, I didn’t before this summer so I don’t blame you. In this article, I’ll go over some logistics of the tournament, team USA, teams that could knock off USA, and my predictions.
FIBA stands for International Basketball Federation (it’s rearranged to Federation International of Basketball in other languages). It usually happens every four years, but the United States won in 2014. This year, the event will be held in various cities of China including Beijing, Shanghai, and more.
Thirty-two teams will compete for the title from countries all around the world. The format of this tournament is similar to that of FIFA’s World Cup. The teams are divided into eight groups (four per group). Each team plays the other teams in their group once (total of three games, round robin format). The top two teams of each group make it to the second round. The second round is very similar except with four groups of four. Also, each team plays two games instead of three. Again, the top two teams of the group advance to the final phase. The finals consist of eight teams in a simple single elimination bracket. Here’s a look at each group:
*All group pictures are from FIBA’s website
It’s safe to say Team USA isn’t what it has been in past years. Their 2014 World Cup team featured James Harden, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, and Anthony Davis. This year, the only NBA all-stars on the team are Kemba Walker and Khris Middleton. There are plenty of young players like Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, and Myles Turner on the squad, but USA isn’t a lock to win it like previous years. Here’s the full roster:
The main contributors will be Kemba, Middleton, Mitchell, Tatum, Turner, Joe Harris, and Harrison Barnes. Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown should also play roles, but I don’t see big minutes for the rest of the roster. I really love the dynamic duo of Kemba and Mitchell and I think they’ll lead the team this tournament. Here’s my projected starting five:
Harris and Barnes may break in, but I’d start those guys. One thing to notice is that ⅓ of the team is made up of the Boston Celtics. I guess the Celtics are America’s team…
The Rest of the Contenders
In my mind, there are five teams who can knock USA off. Team France will deploy a few NBA players in Rudy Gobert, Frank Ntilkina, Nicolas Batum, and Evan Fournier. I’ve heard Elie Okobo was on the team, but I don’t see him on their roster on the FIBA website. Either way, this squad will be great on defense and they’re gonna contend. The Serbian squad will also be fierce. All-star Nikola Jokic will be joined by passing-wizard Milos Teodosic and pure shooter Bogdan Bogdanovic. Then we have the perennial powerhouse Spain. Ricky Rubio and Marc Gasol will anchor a deep team of rich tradition. Those three European greats are bound to make the final phase.
The next two teams are dark horses. Team Australia actually already took down Team USA in an exhibition match. Patty Mills came up big in that game as well as Joe Ingles. However, they aren’t as highly touted as the former three teams, so Australia will be fighting for views this World Cup. Team Greece shouldn’t struggle with the fans, though. The “Greek Freak”, Giannis Antetokounmpo, will wreck opposing teams with his otherworldly skills. He’s the only reason they’ll contend, but that’s reason enough for me. He’s the best player at FIBA.
Here’s my final phase bracket:
*Powered by Microsoft OneNote
Even though Team USA is weaker than usual, I just don’t see anyone that will take them down. Of course, Australia could, but I don’t think USA will slip again. I’m thinking a USA-Serbia rematch from 2014’s final will happen. Jokic would be the best player on the court, but the depth of USA would win out. So, if you expected American Sports Blog to pick anyone but America to win, you’d be wrong. GO USA!!!
Image credits: Boston Globe, ESPN, Bleacher Report, SI, Wikipedia