All roads lead to Spain: FIBA World Cup Group D preview
The 2014 FIBA World Cup of Basketball is closing in. After 36 years, a Filipino team is once again among the teams participating, and Pinoy hoop nuts the world over eagerly await how Gilas Pililipinas will fare against the world's best basketball talents.
Gilas is bracketed in Group B together with Senegal, Puerto Rico, Croatia, Greece, and Argentina. In this three-part series, we will give a preview of what to expect from each of the groups in the World Cup. In this particular post, we'll focus on Group D.
What to expect
This set is maybe the most wide open of the whole lot. Top FIBA Americas side Mexico looks strong, while the Boomers, Slovenia, and Eurobasket 2013 bridesmaids Lithuania are top-shelf squads, too. Needless to say, even if they can provide stiff challenges, I suspect that Angola and South Korea will be reduced to spoilers’ roles in this group.
I’ll put my money on Lithuania to be this group’s top team heading to the knockout stages. They finished 8-3 in Eurobasket 2013 and have lost just two games out of 14 tune-ups this year. Coach Jonas Kazlauskas has guys like Jonas Valanciunas, Donatas Montiejunas, and Mantas Kalnietis as his stars. Lithuania’s size will give opposing teams a lot of trouble, while their strong perimeter play is also notable.
Fellow Euro team Slovenia should easily slide into the top four as well, with Goran and Zoran Dragic leading the way.
Both Australia and Mexico have looked impressive in pre-tournament play, too, with the former carrying a 7-5 record, while the latter having a 6-3 slate. Gustavo Ayon, Jorge Gutierrez, Hector Hernandez, and Orlando Mendez-Valdez are the aces for the FIBA Americas champs, while the Boomers will lean on a quartet of NBAers — Cameron Bairstow, Aron Baynes, Matthew Dellavedova, and Dante Exum.
The plights of Angola and Korea are compounded by the fact that key players are missing from their rosters. Carlos Morais of Angola and Kim Min-Goo of Korea are both MIA after sustaining injuries this year. Incidentally, both were named to the respective All-Tournament Teams of Afrobasket 2013 and FIBA Asia 2013.
Top four prediction: Lithuania, Slovenia, Australia, Mexico
Eliminated: Korea, Angola
|Country||FIBA Rank||Pre-Tournament Record||NBA Players|
|Lithuania||4||12-2||Donatas Montiejunas, Jonas Valanciunas|
|Australia||9||7-5||Cameron Bairstow, Aron Baynes, Dante Exum, Matthew Dellavedova|
|Mexico||24||6-3||Jorge Gutierrez, Gustavo Ayon