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FIBA World Championships Predictions

The FIBA World Championships are set to kick off in four days time in Turkey, and I figured now is as good of a time as any to pick who I think will advance from each of the groups.

There are four groups of 6 teams each, and the top 4 teams from each group advance to the knockout round. Without further ado:

Group A (Argentina, Serbia, Australia, Germany, Angola, Jordan)

Possibly the most cut and dried group. Argentina is ranked #1 in the world after finishing in 3rd in the Olympics, but haven’t won gold or silver at the Worlds since 2002. Serbia has only one player – Nenad Kristic – but are still ranked 5th in the world and finished 2nd at the 2009 EuroBasket tournament. Australia is led by former St. Marys star Patrick Mills, and although Germany is vulnerable without Dirk Nowitzki or Chris Kaman, neither Angola nor Jordan is strong enough to push them

Advancing teams: Argentina, Serbia, Australia, Germany

(For a more in depth look at group A, go to Sparty and Friends)

Group B (USA, Slovenia, Brazil, Croatia, Iran, Tunisia)

Obviously the game to watch here is USA v. Iran, if only for the political connotations. This is easily the most top seeded group as the defending Olympic gold medalists United States are ranked #2 in the world, and the next highest seeded team, Brazil, is ranked 14th. Brazil has some good youngsters, as they made it to the championship of the FIBA U-18 worlds, but this year’s Brazilian team has just two NBA players, Anderson Varejao and Tiago Splitter. Brazil has not medaled at the Worlds since 1978.

Slovenia also have just two NBA players: Goran Dragic and Primoz Brezec. The Slovenians come from Yugoslavia’s rich basketball tradition, but have not had much of their own since splitting. Croatia, another former Yugoslav republic, has not a single NBA player on their roster, but they have many seasoned veterans of international ball who will be a tough out.

Advancing teams: USA, Brazil, Slovenia, Croatia

Group C (Greece, Turkey, Puerto Rico, Russia, China, Ivory Coast)

Greece, the 4th ranked team in the world, has no NBA players, but they have a team whose pick and roll gave the United States fits at the last world championships. Their best known player is Sofoklis Schortsanitis aka Baby Shaq, but Greece has a solid stable of players who should win the group, and should sneak up on teams in the medal round. Watch 20 year old Nikos Pappas, who was named the best young Greek player this year.

Turkey has multiple NBA players, including Hedo Turkoglu, but Utah Jazz center Mehmet Okur should miss the tournament due to injury. Turkey has qualified for the worlds only three times, and it will be up to Hedo to carry them as far as they can go.

Puerto Rico is ranked 10th in the world, and their two best players are a pair of quick guards: the Miami Heat’s Carlos Arroyo and the Dallas Mavericks’ Juan Carlos Barrea.

With no Andrei Kirilenko for Russia, we have our first upset:

Advancing teams: Greece, Turkey, Puerto Rico, China

Group D (Spain, France, Canada, Lithuania, New Zealand, Lebanon)

Spain is perhaps the favorite to win the tournament, even without Pau Gasol. Marc Gasol is a capable center and is flanked by some great guards including Rudy Fernandez and Ricky Rubio. Spain might not win the tournament, but they will probably be the most fun team to watch.

Although this isn’t a traditionally strong Lithuanian team, they should have enough to finish second in the group. They played the US tough early in an exhibition game before being overrun by superior athleticism. They’re not the greatest shooters, so they need to slow the game down and work the ball inside.

France would look a lot better with Tony Parker, but they have some NBA players including captain Boris Diaw who should ensure the French get to the knockout round.

Canada hasn’t been to a world championships since 2002 and have never medaled. Former Syracuse star Andy Rautins could shoot the Canadians into the medal round.

Advancing teams: Spain, Lithuania, Canada, France

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