FIBA World Cup 101: A guide to the spectacle in Spain

Starting this Saturday, August 30, 24 teams will compete for one of the grandest awards in international basketball. These 24 countries will go at it with pride, prestige, and honor all on the line, as well as the chance to bring home the much-coveted FIBA World Cup trophy.

With the tournament just days away, let’s go through a basic rundown of the clubs participating in the World Cup, along with which groups they are placed in, how they got there, and what they have to accomplish to win the title they covet in Spain.

Qualifications

Spain, being the host of the competition, automatically received a spot in the World Cup. The United States, meanwhile, booked their ticket to the competition way back in 2012, when they prevailed in the basketball tournament of the London Olympics.

These are two teams who have to be favored for a number of reasons. The Spaniards will be led by the Gasol Brothers – Marc and Pau – both of whom are still quality starting big men in the NBA. 

Last NBA season, Marc registered 14.6 PPG, 7.2 RPG, and 1.3 BPG despite dealing with various injuries. Pau, on the other hand, played for a coach he did not have a great relationship with but still mustered averages of 17.4 PPG and 9.7 RPG.

España will also field Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka, who’s a terror for the opposition on both sides of the floor. 

Ibaka put up 15.1 PPG, 8.8 RPG, and 2.7 BPG last season, coming in second in the Defensive Player of the Year voting. A legitimate argument can also be made that had he stayed healthy for the 2014 NBA Western Conference Finals, there’s a huge chance it could have been OKC instead of San Antonio advancing to the Finals.

Playmakers Ricky Rubio, Juan Carlos Navarro, and Rudy Fernandez will likewise see action. 

Other than their influx of talent, Spain also has the advantage of continuity, as their squad has trained with each other for years now, not to mention competed in multiple other FIBA tourneys in the same span. They also have homecourt advantage, which is going to at the least fuel the team.

Unsurprisingly though, Uncle Sam’s guys will be the top choice for most to win the tournament. This year’s team isn’t as good as the one fielded in 2012 for the Olympics, which had LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, and Kobe Bryant, to name a few, but the Americans still have the roster with the most talent, let alone the best athletes.

(Check out their complete roster here: http://www.usab.com/mens/national-team/roster.aspx)

The United States’ coaching staff recently announced its final 12-man roster – a decision that became tougher with Paul George lost to injury and Durant backing out due to fatigue. Despite injuries and withdrawals, Team USA remains the favorite.

It doesn’t mean, though, that they’re a shoo-in to win. As former NBA All-Star and 2004 Olympian Stephon Marbury said during his recent visit to the Philippines: the United States has lost before. Case in point was ten years ago when Argentina eliminated them on the road to the crown. While taking down the Americans will be tough, it’s not an impossible feat.

Angola, Egypt, and Senegal, which finished first, second, and third, respectively in the 2013 FIBA Africa Championship, will represent their continent in the World Cup, though each club will be competing with one another as well. 

Australia and New Zealand, meanwhile, will represent Oceania.

Both teams faced each other in a two-game series in the 2013 FIBA Oceania Championship, though regardless of who came out on top each knew they would be guaranteed trips to Spain.

Someone to watch out for from Egypt is 19-year-old Ehab Amin, who’s currently playing for the Texas A&M – Corpus Christi Islanders men’s basketball team, which has a history of making it to the US NCAA tournament.

Despite winning just the bronze in their continent’s FIBA tourney, Senegal has the best collection of talent amongst their African contemporaries. 

The squad is spearheaded by Minnesota Timberwolves sophomore Gorgui Dieng, who averaged 11.9 PPG and 10.7 RPG in the month of April season after getting limited minutes in first few months of the 2013-2014 NBA season. 

The 6-foot-11 big man also won an NCAA national championship with the Louisville Cardinals in 2013, which played a huge role in him getting selected 21st in that year’s NBA Draft.

Aiding the young Senegal native is Hamadi N’Diaye, 27, who’s currently playing for the Delaware 87ers in the NBA D-League.

Australia will be spearheaded by NBA second-year man Matthew Dellavedova, who was a quality back-up for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2013-2014 NBA season (4.7 PPG, 2.6 APG). The team will also have point guard Dante Exum, who was a top four pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. 

Patty Mills, the leading scorer of the 2012 London Olympics basketball tourney, won’t be in action due to a shoulder injury he suffered during the NBA season that will keep him out of action for several more months.

After finishing in the top four of the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Argentina, and Dominican Republic will also be present for the 2014 World Cup. 

Prohibited by the Spurs to play in the World Cup due to a stress fracture in his leg, the Argentines will have to make do without star Manu Ginobili, who put up 19.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 4.1 APG in the ’12 London Olympics. Moreover, signs are pointing to Carlos Delfino, another NBA player, not participating in the World Cup as he recovers from a foot injury that kept him out all of last season.

Nevertheless, the team still has a formidable paint presence in Luis Scola, and the point guard play of Pablo Prigioni benefits Argentina, which is composed of seasoned veterans who will be troublesome to any opponent.

Puerto Rico will be guided by point guards Carlos Arroyo and JJ Barea, while former New York Knick and PBA import Renaldo Balkman will also see action coming off averaging 18.7 PPG in the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship.

Mexico, on the other hand, will be led by 2013 FIBA Americas MVP Gustavo Ayon, while Dominican Republic will have to lean on their young NCAA-caliber players since Al Horford, who tore his pectoral muscle last NBA season while playing for the Atlanta Hawks, won’t be present in Spain.

From Asia, Iran and South Korea earned tickets to the World Cup in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, along with the Philippines’ very own Gilas Pilipinas.

Players to watch out from the Iran roster, of course, are Mehdi Kamrani and Hamed Haddadi, the latter of whom was crowned the MVP of the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship held in Manila after an 18.8 PPG and 10.0 RPG performance throughout the tourney. 

Marc and Pau Gasol (left and center) and Serge Ibaka (R) of Spain will give the defending champions USA a run for their money. Photo by Angel Diaz/EPA

Marc and Pau Gasol (left and center) and Serge Ibaka (R) of Spain will give the defending champions USA a run for their money.

Photo by Angel Diaz/EPA

With the Philippines, Coach Chot Reyes selected naturalized NBA player Andray Blatche to suit up for the World Cup over long-time reinforcement Marcus Douthit. While Blatche is clearly the superior talent, the latter has been with the Gilas program for years.

The continent with the most FIBA World Cup participants is Europe, which is sending seven countries in total, including the hosts of the tournament.

Not counting the Spaniards, France is the best team of the bunch after winning the 2013 FIBA Eurobasket. While not having Tony Parker and Joakim Noah, who both decided to sit out the World Cup, will hurt, the Frenchmen still have quality NBA names like Nicolas Batum, Evan Fournier, Nando de Colo, Boris Diaw, Ian Mahimni, and Rudy Gorbert.

A case can be made that next to USA and Spain, France is the best team on paper.

Lithuania, which lost to France in the finals of the 2013 Eurobasket championship and earned silver, will be tough to deal with up front as Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas and Houston Rockets floor-spreader Donatas Motiejunas will be in uniform. 

One surprising aspect about Lithuania’s team is that Linus Kleiza, who averaged 19.0 PPG and 7.1 RPG in the 2010 FIBA World Championship (the prior title of the FIBA World Cup), was not included in the 17-man lineup of Coach Jonas Kazlauskas.

Meanwhile, Croatia, fourth place in Eurobasket, will be led by big man Bojan Bogdanovic, who recently signed a 3-year, $10-million contract with the Brooklyn Nets. 

Slovenia, who finished fifth in 2013 FIBA Eurobasket with a 7-4 record, will be spearheaded by 2013-2014 NBA Most Improved Player of the Year Goran Dragic, who posted 20.3 PPG and 5.9 APG last season with the Phoenix Suns. His brother, 25-year-old Zoran Dragic, is a former Slovenian League Finals MVP and another standout to watch out for.

Ukraine and Serbia make out the rest of the European stash of teams. The latter of the two finished at seventh place in the Eurobasket, but received a pass to the World Cup due to Spain, which finished third in Eurobasket, automatically receiving a bid.

Despite finishing a paltry 0-4 in the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship, Brazil was one of the teams chosen by FIBA to earn a wildcard entry to the World Cup. Rivals of the Brazilians can expect the squad to be much tougher this year compared to last, as NBA players Leandro Barbosa, Nene, Anderson Varejao, and Tiago Splitter have all elected to suit up for their country this time around.

Despite getting injured and not being able to end the NBA season, Barbosa still showed he could still put up points by averaging 7.5 PPG in around 18 minutes of action while he was healthy. Brazil’s three guys up front, meanwhile, are all two-way players that will make dealing against the Brazilians a tough task.

Greece is another wildcard, and is going to be a squad to watch out for. The team’s best player, no doubt, is the “Greek Freak,” Giannis Antetokounmpo, who turned heads in his rookie season with the Milwaukee Bucks last year with averages of 6.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG, and 1.9 APG in limited action. 

Now at 6-foot-11 with an ability to handle and shoot the ball, the World Cup could be another avenue for Antetokounmpo to break out and get more of the entire globe’s attention.

Nick Calathes of the Memphis Grizzlies and Kostas Papanikolaou will join the Greek Freak to form a serviceable trio.

Finland and Turkey round up the rest of the Wildcard four. While the roster structure of the former is still a mystery to some, the Turks are expected to lean on NBA-caliber big men Omer Asik and Enes Kanter. 

Hedo Turkoglu, the former best player of the Turkey national basketball team, announced his retirement from international, which started back in 1998.

Groupings and tournament format

Group A: Brazil, Egypt, France, Iran, Serbia, Spain

Group B: Argentina, Croatia, Greece, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Senegal

Group C: Dominican Republic, Finland, New Zealand, Turkey, Ukraine, United States

Group D: Angola, Australia, Korea, Lithuania, Mexico, Slovenia

24 teams will enter the tournament, but only 16 will advance to the next round. Each squad will play the other five members in their respective group in the preliminary round, and the four teams per group with the most points after will advance to the Round of 16. 

The participating teams can earn and lose points in the preliminaries by the following:

A win earns 2 points.

A loss earns 1 point. 

A loss by default earns 1 point.

A loss by forfeiture earns 0 points.

The final standings following the preliminaries will go as follows (via www.fiba.com):

Group A: A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, A6

Group B: B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B6

Group C: C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6

Group D: D1, D2, D3, D4, D5, D6

In the Round of 16, the advancing teams from the group stage will matchup in do-or-die contests, and will go as follows (via www.fiba.com):

Game 61: C3 v D2

Game 62: C1 v D4

Game 63: A3 v B2

Game 64: A1 v B4

Game 65: C4 v D1

Game 66: C2 v D3

Game 67: A4 v B1

Game 68: A2 v B3

The eight winners will then advance to the quarterfinals and face each other in do-or-die contests (via www.fiba.com):

Game 69: Winner 61 v Winner 62

Game 70: Winner 65 v Winner 66

Game 71: Winner 63 v Winner 64

Game 72: Winner 67 v Winner 68

The winners of the quarterfinal round will then advance to the semis and face each other in do-or-die contests (viawww.fiba.com):

Game 73: Winner 69 v Winner 70

Game 74: Winner 71 v Winner 72 

The winners of the semifinal round will then go on to face each other in the finals, while the losers battle for third place (via www.fiba.com):

Battle for third:

Game 75: Loser 73 v Loser 74

Finals:

Game 76: Winner 73 v Winner 74

Other notes:

The winner of the 2014 FIBA World Cup will automatically receive a slot in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. In the event that Brazil, the host of the 2016 Olympics, wins this year’s World Cup, the first runner-up will attain a ticket to Rio instead, considering the host of the Olympics gets an automatic spot.

The 2014 FIBA World Cup will be the last time the event is held after a four-year cycle. FIBA has decided to hold its next World Cup in 2019, starting a five-year cycle in order to not be placed in the same year as the FIFA World Cup.

The 2019 FIBA World Cup will mark the first time since 1967 that FIBA and FIFA’s World Cups don’t take place in the same year. Furthermore, the 2019 FIBA World Cup will expand its number of qualifying teams for the preliminaries from 24 to 32.

11 teams have already expressed interest and have made bids to host the World Cup five years from now: Estonia, Finland, Brazil, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Germany, France, and the Philippines.

- Rappler.com