Follow FIBA on Facebook
Group C Preview: Will USA find it smooth to 'Basque' in the Bilbao sun?
BILBAO (FIBA Basketball World Cup) - Not everything in the build-up to the world's biggest basketball event has been favorable to reigning Olympic gold medallists USA in their attempt to become only the second team in the history of the FIBA Basketball World Cup - formerly known as the FIBA World Championship - to successfully defend their title.
Many of the top stars pulled out of the world's most celebrated basketball team at one stage or another, for some reason - all of them well justified - or the other. Yet Mike Krzyzewski's 12-player ensemble remains the most conspicuous of the 24 teams in the fray as they take on the Dominican Republic, Finland, New Zealand, Turkey and Ukraine in Group C.
"I'm excited about the 12 players selected and feel we have excellent versatility and the makings of a really good defensive team," said the Duke University Hall of Famer said after making the cut to his roster.
Leading the American campaign in Spain are three players who are out to prove a point to the basketball world.
Derrick Rose is all keyed up - and more importantly all healthy - to celebrate his comeback into action after two injury-hit years robbed him of a logical progression from his 2011 NBA MVP award.
Rose, along with Stephen Curry and Rudy Gay are the only three players in the current roster who carry the experience of the 2010 FIBA World Championship title run.
James Harden and Anthony Davis are the only other players with international experience but have their work cut out for them to transform their splendid rookie performances of 2012 London Olympics into ones of leadership.
It will be interesting to see how these five combine to steer the other 'international' rookies - especially in the front court - on the world's biggest basketball stage.
The USA will be up against two teams that came through wild cards, but neither short in capabilities.
Turkey did shake the basketball world with a scorching run - powered by a partisan home crowd - four years ago before falling to the USA in the Final and will count on that experience to shrug off an indifferent interim period.
With nine of the players in the current roster carrying the experience of 2010 forward, Turkey are certainly not rookies on this stage. But it will be Emir Preldzic, one of three who was not present in Turkey, who will be called upon to act as the vanguard in the offense.
Cedi Oman, the MVP of this summer's U20 European Championship, will be asked to raise his level to match the senior ranks. The wild card might just be an understatement of Turkey’s capabilities.
Finland is the other wild card team in the group, but they returned an impressive performance at EuroBasket 2013, riding the wave of vociferous support provided by their thousands of travelling fans in the stands.
Under coach Henrik Dettmann, the Finns can be expected to play fast and attractive basketball with the 'returning-from-retirement' Hanno Mottola providing the inspiration. Two of the most dangerous long-range shooters in international basketball, Petteri Koponen and Mikko Koivisto, will prove more than a handful.
The other three teams in the Group have shown a lot of perseverance in reaching Spain.
The Tall Blacks from New Zealand have often shown that they can run deep in any competition and probably have the most perfect mix of youth and experience in the group.
With Kirk Penney providing the link between New Zealand's most successful moment in FIBA's flagship event in the past – a run to the Semi-Finals in 2002 - and Tai Webster, Isaac Fotu and Rob Loe, Nenad Vucinic’s side is one of those to watch at Spain 2014.
The Dominican Republic and Ukraine complete the group, but not for merely making the numbers.
Having twice lost an opportunity to play in an international competition by a whisker, the Dominicans finally made it to the FIBA Basketball World Cup with newcomer James Feldeine rising to the occasion to match Jack Martinez’ efforts.
Coach Orlando Antigua who struck rich on his maiden appearance on the bench will surely count that the duo continues to lead the campaign with similar panache.
Ukraine are last in the list here, but only because of the alphabet.
The surprise package of EuroBasket 2013 proved their mettle in wins against Serbia and Italy on their way to a sixth-place finish and their presence in Spain is certainly gallant given all the distractions back home.
With the naturalized playmaker Eugene "Pooh" Jeter in his elements, Mike Fratello's team is out there to carve a niche for themselves.
For that matter each player in each team, including the hallowed USA is out there for his share in pie in history.