5 things to know after the Orlando Magic’s FIBA World Cup first round
Now that half the field has been eliminated — sent down to the 17-32 classification games for Thursday and Saturday, so even they get some extra games — we can get serious about who is going to win this thing and how the bracket sets up.
With three games under our belt, we have a sense of who is actually good and what teams should be eyeing the medals.
Overall, there are two teams in each group sitting at 3-0. And so Sunday’s games are going to be the ones everyone will watch as all of those 3-0 teams will face each other in all likelihood to win their groups and advance to the knockout round.
The U.S. is still the clear favorite. They have the talent and depth that few teams in this tournament will have. And unlike previous iterations of Team USA, they are playing really well together quickly. They started off strong and have smoothed over their weaknesses.
The big concern with the U.S. remains the starting group which has gotten off to slow starts. Steve Kerr replacing Brandon Ingram with Josh Hart in Wednesday’s gmae was a seeming recognition of this. The U.S. was never threatened in the win over Jordan.
The U.S. will face a tough challenge in facing Jonas Valanciunas and Lithuania on Sunday. Valanciunas is the kind of bruising center this U.S. team is not designed to face (they get Nikola Vucevic and Montenegro on Friday).
But if the U.S. wins Group J, they would face the second-place team in Group I — the Dominican Republic with Karl-Anthony Towns, Italy, Puerto Rico or Serbia. That means the U.S. is not going to face any heavy hitter or tournament favorite until the semifinal round.
That is if they win their group.
The top challenger? Look no further than Canada.
If there is any team that can keep pace with the U.S.’s speed and depth it is Canada. They like to run up and down the floor and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been one of the best players in the tournament.
Canada would get the second-place team in Germany’s group. That is a tough road with the possibility of facing Germany, Slovenia or Australia.
Germany is probably the best of that group provided Franz Wagner is healthy with Dennis Schroder playing well and a good mix of size and shooting. Australia has a lot of size and length that has proven difficult for a lot of teams to handle.
And Slovenia has Luka Doncic who might be the MVP of this tournament and its leading scorer so far.
That does not even get to Spain who just always wins these tournaments.
The U.S. seemingly has an easier path to get to a medal game — it is not as both Montenegro and Lithuania could prey on the U.S.’s big roster weakness. But there are still a lot of teams to watch out for now that the second round is beginning.