We’re just a few hours away from the start of the 2010 FIBA World Championships, and I may be in the minority on this, but I’m pretty excited. As crazy as this NBA off-season has been, there hasn’t been that much excitement surrounding the event….at least in this country. It’s been stated time after time, but some European countries actually find the World Championships to be more prestigious than the Olympics, which actually makes sense considering the way other countries compare the World Cup and the Olympics. For one, it’s competitive basketball back on my TV screen. No offense to Becky Hammon and Diana Taurasi, but it’ll be nice to search elsewhere for my basketball fix (yes I’m a junkie).
The story of course is surrounding Team USA’s “B-Squad” attempting to bring home the country’s first World Championship victory since 1994’s forgotten squad won in Toronto. This year’s edition of Team USA hasn’t gotten a ton of fanfare for a couple of reasons. On one side, ‘World Championships’ have never meant that much in the USA. We’re a country that puts a lot of faith, support and importance on the Olympic Games. I mean let’s be real, the excuses for losing are already in place for Joe Schmoe if this Team USA falls: “We didn’t have our best guys. This isn’t the Olympics. We didn’t have any bigs, etc, etc.” The second reason is because of the lack of percieved ‘star power’ on the roster from the mainstream. How do I know this? They didn’t pass the Mom test, aka she doesn’t see this as the “real” Team USA. And I know that something is popular once it gets my mom’s position…when she started asking me about Jersey Shore I knew it was about to blow up.
I like this Team USA for a couple reasons. One, they actually are just flat out likeable. Kevin Durant leads the charge (what a summer he’s had, looking great on the court, tough to stomach for Blazer fans eh?), Derrick Rose is emerging, Chauncey Billups is sweating and they just have a group of guys who I have found to be easy to root for over the summer. They seem to get along with each other, they work hard, and they represent the country. Let’s be honest: the only time Coach K is likeable is when he’s on the sidelines for the USA, not for Duke. Secondly, I like the formation of the team. This is a collective group that together molds together to be a good team. They are athletic, can run, have skillsets that can bring the best out of each other. More importantly, everyone has a role and has bought into it. Have you ever heard Andre Iguodala or Rudy Gay talk this much defense, let alone play it ? Exactly.
Team USA has the talent, speed and teamwork to do really well in this tournament. The questions surround whether they can do the little things to win tough games. How will they do against zones? Will their inexperience hurt them against raucous crowds? What about teams who want to slow down the game? How about the crazy international refs? What about teams who try to smash Team USA in the interior? (I still think Kevin Love is underrated on this team, understandable since he’s the 12th man but still.) None of us know the answers yet. I hope the Greece blowout didn’t send expectations through the roof–this team still has a lot of proving to do. We know they can, the question is will they?
That same formation of roles and buying in is the reason why I wasn’t so ‘shocked’ or ‘upset’ about Rajon Rondo being the final cut or withdrawing. As great as Rondo is, I don’t think he was needed this year. In the international game, you need shooters, so you can see the value of keeping Eric Gordon and Stephen Curry. Not only that but I’ve really liked the way Derrick Rose has played and I think he and Rondo would almost duplicate each other on the same team.
As talented as this Team USA roster is, it won’t be an easy road to the World title for America. They find themselves in a group with tough, gritty European teams such as Croatia and Slovenia, a talented Brazilian team and a potentially crafty Iran. And then there’s Tunisia, bless their hearts for trying. Let’s not forget about the knockout stage which would require Team USA to win four pressure packed contests, potentially against powers such as Spain, Greece, Turkey or Argentina. I’m definitely excited to see what this Team USA team can do starting tomorrow, as should you too. At the very least, it’s some on-court basketball we all can talk about instead of constant streams of speculation.
Click ‘continue reading’ for my wacky, unfounded and mostly fun predictions for the World Championships and more…
Let’s get straight to my predictions for the World’s, I will be wrong but since I have this space I’m allowed to do so. But oh boy…if I’m right…prepare…for…gloating. There are 24 teams competing in the 2010 World Championships, divided into 4 groups of 6. The top four teams from each group will advance to the single-elimination knockout round of 16, and you know how it goes from there. Here are all the groups, with my picks to advance in bold.
Group A: Argentina (winner), Serbia, Australia, Germany, Angola, Jordan
Angola could be a wildcard in this group, but I don’t think they can get enough wins to advance. I like the favorites to go on in this group.
Group B: USA (winner), Croatia, Slovenia, Brazil, Iran, Tunisia
I don’t think this group is too hard to predict either, Iran shouldn’t be able to get enough wins to get in. And Tunisia…oh boy. The three teams behind USA will all be competitive and tough wins, some say this is the toughest group and I can’t help but agree.
Group C: Turkey (winner), Greece, Puerto Rico, China, Russia, Cote d’ivoire
I’m going to put China in the next round for fun over Russia…because I can. Sun Yue for life!!!! Picking the home country to win the group, although Greece probably should be the favorite. As long as Puerto Rico has Carlos Arroyo playing like he always does for Puerto Rico (aka out of his mind) they should advance as well.
Croup D: Spain (winner), France, Lithuania, New Zealand, Canada, Lebanon
Spain should run with this one, New Zealand is my sleeper to sneak out of the group over Canada. I can’t pick Canada, I’m sorry don’t poison my maple syrup.
Round of 16 (here’s the bracket): Argentina over Brazil, France over Puerto Rico (BATUM!), Turkey over New Zealand, Australia over Croatia, USA over Germany, Greece over Lithuania in a great game, Spain over China, Serbia over Slovenia
Quarterfinals: Argentina over France, Turkey over Australia, USA over Greece, Spain over Serbia
Semi-Finals: Argentina over Turkey, USA over Spain
Finals: USA over Argentina.
Couldn’t go against Team USA in this one, they should win this. If they can get past Spain again I think they will bring home the gold and the 1994 “Dream Team 1.5″ will be forgotten in the annals of history.