All roads lead to Spain: FIBA World Cup Group C 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 C.
What to expect
Team USA should be the runaway favorite to top this group despite the fact none of its most vibrant superstars are playing (LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Paul to name a few). Anthony Davis should have a coming out party in Spain, while it’ll be interesting to see how this guard-dominated roster manages to hold off the competition. (RELATED: Is Team USA's final 12 good enough to win the FIBA World Cup?)
Outside of the Americans, however, this group has a wide-open race for the other top four slots. Barring any injuries and missteps, the Dominican Republic should be a solid top four choice given how it has the explosive Francisco Garcia and the bull-strong Jack Martinez. The Dominicans have actually won 7 of their 9 tune-up games so far, which is a very good sign heading into Spain.
Ukraine is also a probable top four team with former NBA coach Mike Fratello at the helm. They finished an unexpected sixth in Eurobasket 2013, and the team is intact for another possible miracle run here. Naturalized playmaker Pooh Jeter and Sergii Gladyr will be Fratello’s top guns in this group.
Finland is also a potential top four team, together with traditional powerhouse Turkey. The Fins shocked the world last year, winning four of its five group games in Eurobasket 2013, counting Russia, Greece, and even the Turkish squad among its victims. They averaged nearly 9 three-pointers a game in that tournament and, similar to Ukraine, will look to use the same weapon in the World Cup.
Euro-based players Shawn Huff and Petteri Koponen are the ones to watch, while 6-foot-10 Cleveland Cavalier Erik Murphy also looks to make a splash. Turkey, meanwhile, though missing the likes of Enes Kanter, Hedo Turkoglu, and Ersan Ilyasova, still has a shot thanks to the presence of New Orleans Pelicans slotman Omer Asik. He will be raring to redeem himself after a lackluster showing in Eurobasket 2013, where he put up just 5 points and 4 rebounds a game.
Turkey has struggled in its tune-up games so far, but it should still have the edge over a team like New Zealand.
Speaking of the Tall Blacks, I fear that they may be the potential winless team in this group. Despite impressing in pre-tournament play with 8 wins against 5 losses, I feel NZL doesn’t have enough firepower when the actual games begin. Mika Vukona, Kirk Penney, and promising young star Isaac Fotu can challenge the other squads, but I have them as the clear underdogs.
Top four prediction: USA, Dominican Republic, Ukraine, Finland
Eliminated: Turkey, New Zealand
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