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Group C - 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup
06/02/2014
News
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FIBA - A glance at Spain 2014's Group C

BARCELONA (FIBA Basketball World Cup) - United States boss Mike Krzyzewski doesn't need to be reminded.

The famous coach knows that he and his players must be concentrated and prepared for each and every game at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain if the Americans are to have a successful title defense.

The national team has lost just once under Coach K, with Greece beating them 101-95 in the Semi-Finals of the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan.

There have been some close calls, though, including four years ago when they edged Brazil, 70-68, in the Preliminary Round of the 2010 FIBA World Championship.

Had they not scraped a win in that Group B game, their path to the top of the podium would have been more complicated.

That close call sharpened their focus and they went unbeaten for the remainder of the competition, winning the FIBA World Championship for the first time since 1994.

Since the defeat to Greece, the USA have won all of their games.

They prevailed in the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship in Las Vegas, claimed gold at the Beijing Olympics, finished top of the podium at the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey and won an Olympic title in London.

At this year's FIBA Basketball World Cup, the Americans will play in Group C against the Dominican Republic, New Zealand, Ukraine and wild cards Turkey and Finland.

Can any of those opponents upset the USA, or at least throw a scare into them?

Yes, according to Krzyzewski.

"Our preliminary round group looks like an especially even group," he said.

"We faced Turkey in the Gold Medal Game of the 2010 World Championship, and we played an exhibition game against the Dominican Republic during our 2012 national team tour, so we're somewhat familiar with those national teams.

"And while we haven't recently played the other three teams in our group - Finland, New Zealand and Ukraine - we have tremendous respect for them, as we do for every team that is competing in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

"As we've seen in the last couple of World Championships, any team is capable of beating any other team."

There are a number of 12-man squads that the United States could assemble for the World Cup, drawing from the pool of 28 players USA Basketball recently announced for the summers of 2014-16.

Kevin Durant, the MVP of the tournament in 2010, and Kevin Love are in the pool and appear to be sure things for the World Cup squad, although USA Basketball chairman and national team managing director Jerry Colangelo says "no one has a lock" in the American side.

Each of the Americans' Group C foes have the advantage continuity with its squads.

The majority of the players in have competed alongside each other in national team competitions for the past several years.

Even so, USA Basketball have created a national team program under Colangelo and Krzyzewski that for the past several summers has gathered players.

Though many in the 28-strong pool have not featured at a FIBA Americas Championship, FIBA World Championship or Olympic Games, they have taken part in camps that have included the stars that have competed in the big tournaments.

The USA are dominant, but also dream opponents for the other sides in Group C.

New Zealand coach Nenad Vucinic may have put it best when he said: "Every team wants to face the best in the world and test themselves."

Here is a brief look at each team.

United States (FIBA Ranking Men: No. 1)
Kevin Durant has been an elite NBA and international player for several years, yet his performances keep getting better. Don't bet against the Oklahoma City man putting on another stunning performance in Spain that lets him contend for a second MVP award. So what can be expected of this USA team? Unlike the 2012 Olympics, when the United States had to play "small" and have LeBron James and Carmel Anthony defend taller players in the low post, size won't be an issue for this team. Portland center LaMarcus Aldridge, who has been a part of the national team program for several years, looks a good bet to make his senior team bow at the World Cup, and Houston Rockets superstar Dwight Howard is also in the 28-man pool and could feature. There is also the exciting prospect of Paul George's involvement. The Indiana Pacers forward is a contender for the NBA's MVP award. Stephen Curry, healthy and with more experience, is also back in the fold. He played on the title-winning side of 2010 but not in 2012.

Turkey (FIBA Ranking Men: No. 7)
Turkey have received a wild card for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup. If they play as well as they did with their first wild card, back in 2006 at the FIBA World Championship in Japan, this will be an exciting summer for the team. Why a squad as talented and deep as theirs did not qualify directly for Spain 2014 last summer still has hoops enthusiasts scratching their heads. The squad has plenty of talent, size and experience yet since reaching the Final of the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Istanbul, it has failed to impress. In 2011, the team came up short of the Quarter-Finals at the EuroBasket in Lithuania, thus falling well short of the 2012 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT). Then in 2013, Turkey won just one of their five first round games. Turkey have yet to install a suitable replacement for coach Bogdan Tanjevic, with the veteran leaving the bench for EuroBasket 2011 but then returning to lead the side during EuroBasket 2013 qualifying and the Final Round in Slovenia. Once a new coach is appointed, the Turks can begin to look ahead to Spain.

New Zealand (FIBA Ranking Men: No. 19)
The Tall Blacks may have the most talented side in their history when they run onto the court in Bilbao, Spain to face Turkey on 30 August for their Group B opener. Thomas Abercrombie is healthy and shooting an Australian NBL best 51.4% (36 of 70) from behind the arc for the Breakers, with his teammate and national team defensive stalwart Mika Vukona averaging a career-best 11.4 points. Kirk Penney, the last remaining piece of the side that finished fourth at the 2002 FIBA World Championship, is fit and able to play, too. Perhaps most encouraging for New Zealand are the youngsters who are playing their trade in the United States. Tai Webster, two years removed from his dynamic displays at the 2012 FIBA OQT in Venezuela, is playing big minutes as a freshman for the Nebraska Cornhuskers in American college basketball and sophomore forward Isaac Fotu is one of the best players in the Hawaii Rainbows squad. Steven Adams has removed any doubts about his potential as a rookie center with the Oklahoma City Thunder, playing big minutes. There are others at veteran coach Nenad Vucinic's disposal like Alex Pledger, Corey Webster, BJ Anthony and Rob Loe. New Zealand, according to Australia coach Andrej Lemanis, may be "a little bit of a sleeper in the world's eyes right now."

Dominican Republic (FIBA Ranking Men: No. 26)
These are exciting times for the Dominican Republic, who last appeared at a FIBA World Championship in 1978. After narrowly missing out on qualifying for the 2010 event, the Dominicans reached the podium at the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship. They next made it to the last game of the 2012 FIBA OQT in Caracas, only to fall to Nigeria and not advance to London. Last year, without Atlanta Hawks big man Al Horford, the Dominicans achieved a top-four finish to book a place for Spain 2014. While Horford wants to play this summer, he must first recover from a pectoral muscle injury that has cut short his season with the Hawks. New coach Orlando Antigua had plenty of firepower at his disposal with veteran big man Jack Martinez averaging almost a double-double (12 points, 9.3 rebounds) at the FIBA OQT and with an injection of quality in the backcourt of James Feldeine. Antigua's side will square off against three European teams in Group C. At the OQT, when the head coach was John Calipari and Antigua was his assistant, the Dominican side beat the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (MKD) but suffered heavy defeats to Russia and Lithuania.

Finland (FIBA Ranking Men: No. 39)
The Finns have been a huge success story of late. They ended a 16-year drought of no European Championships when qualifying for the 2011 event in Lithuania and progressed to the second round before finishing ninth. The team then stormed into the second round of EuroBasket 2013 following victories over Turkey, Greece and Russia - three teams in the top seven of the FIBA Rankings Men - and Sweden. Finland fell by heavy margins to Croatia and Spain in the next round, but signed off from the EuroBasket with a thrashing of hosts Slovenia in front of a packed Ljubljana arena to seal a ninth-place finish again. If the shots fall in Spain as they did against the Slovenians, when the Finns - aka the Wolfpack - made 17 of 32 attempts from the arc, Finland have a great chance of moving into the second round. Inspirational captain and long-serving national team star Hanno Mottola suffered a knee injury in the first round and wasn't able to play the last four games but he is well on the way to recovery and figures to play at the World Cup. Finland's coach, Henrik Dettmann, had a lot of success on his first trip to a FIBA World Championship. Twelve years ago, he was the coach of Germany and guided the team to a third-place finish, beating Penney and the Tall Blacks in the Bronze Medal Game.

Ukraine (FIBA Ranking Men: No. 45)
Ukraine enjoyed their finest moment in the international arena last year in Ljubljana when they finished sixth and qualified for the World Cup. Few expected the achievement, especially after a drubbing in their first game of the second round at the hands of Latvia. But the Ukrainians returned to the court two days later breathing fire and upset Serbia, and then advanced to the Quarter-Finals when Belgium surprised the Latvians in their encounter. Though Ukraine fell to Croatia in the Quarter-Finals, qualification for the World Cup was theirs after a victory over Italy in a classification round contest. The naturalized point guard from the United States, Eugene 'Pooh' Jeter, brought scoring, playmaking and leadership, but the Ukrainian success owed mainly to the defensive intensity and hard work on the boards of all the players. There was shared determination by everyone, including Mike Fratello's coaching staff, to prove they could win games at the highest level. There is so much excitement in Ukraine about the national team that the country's legendary player, federation president Oleksandr Volkov, smiled and joked at Monday's draw in Barcelona that he wanted to play. That is not, rest assured, going to happen. World Cup participation is a terrific opportunity for Ukraine to build some momentum ahead of 2015, when the country hosts the EuroBasket.

FIBA