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Experts: Who has been the biggest revelation of the World Cup and who has disappointed most?
BEIJING (China) - As we approach the most important battles of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019, we have gathered our writers for another round table to reflect on what has already happened here in China and also predict what awaits us around the corner.
Once again, Enzo Flojo, Julio Chitunda, Jeff Taylor, Igor Curkovic and David Hein are our international starting five for this piece. Enzo knows all about FIBA Asia events, Julio is here to make sure you don't miss a thing about the African teams, Jeff is the voice of LiveBasketball.tv for basketball all around the world, Igor is giving you a taste of Europe, and David is a veteran of FIBA events, straight out of USA.
If you're interested in their pre-tournament predictions and how they have aged, you can find them here.
Meanwhile, here we go again - lights, camera and action!
The World Cup is far from over and the most important games are yet to come, but who has got the inside track on the MVP award?
Enzo: Right now, I'm really fascinated by Bogdan Bogdanovic. He has been, for me, the single most dangerous and explosive player at the World Cup. He's third overall in scoring (20.6 points per game) and second overall in three-pointers made per game (3.6) while also averaging 4.8 assists and 1.4 steals per contest. It's not a surprise he has the highest overall efficiency rating for all players in the Quarter-Finals.
Julio: I had previously picked Nikola Jokic, and although he continues to be a phenomenal player, I feel that Bogdan Bogdanovic has been tremendous for Serbia. He is not just playing beautiful basketball offensively, but he is doing a bit of everything. Just like coach Sergio Scariolo admired his performance against his own team, I feel what Bogdanovic has done so far belongs to another planet. Simply superb.
Jeff: I think of Kemba Walker, USA, but also Australia's Pat Mills and Aron Baynes, Argentina's Facundo Campazzo and Czech Republic's Tomas Satoransky. If I had to choose one right now, it would be Satoransky. He's making plays on both ends of the floor. He inspires his teammates. Satoransky is at the controls of the biggest surprise at the World Cup. For the record, he's averaging 15.2 points, 7.4 assists and 6.0 rebounds.
Igor: If you go back to the original Experts piece we did, you'll see that I said...well, Giannis. But I also said, if not Giannis then it should be Bogdan Bogdanovic, so I'm sticking with that answer because Bogdan is playing like a real gift from God for the Serbians. Which is logical because Bogdan means "a gift from God."
Dave: Well, it’s hard to argue against Serbia's ace Bogdan Bogdanovic. He was utterly amazing against Spain but has been out-of-this-world all tournament. He is averaging 20.6 points on 12.2 shots per game, making his 3.6 three-pointers per contest at a 55 percent (!) clip. Oh, and he is dishing 4.8 assists to 1.2 turnovers (for an excellent 4:1 assist to turnover ratio) while grabbing 4.2 rebounds and 1.4 steals.
There are a lot of great story lines in the World Cup. Which was your favorite to follow?
Enzo: No doubt my favorite story line is how the Serbians are out to snare the title from the Americans. Since the beginning of the World Cup, the Serbians have made no bones about their main goal and how they believe they are the best team in the tournament. They ate some humble pie against Spain, but that only means we will likely get our Team USA-Serbia matchup earlier than expected. I'm not complaining one bit.
Julio: Despite losing to Greece in their last game of the Second Round, Czech Republic have caught everyone by a surprise. They are through the Quarter-Finals, and they can continue to cause even more damage. Just like one day Brazil great Oscar Schmidt told me, "Everyone likes to see an underdog doing well".
The other positive thing that caught my attention is China. I have been following and covering the FIBA Basketball World Cup for some time now, and I have to admit that China have been one of the best host countries. Fans here love the game, and players and coaches feel it.
Jeff: Honestly, the first thing that comes to mind is Poland and the power of positive reinforcement. Mike Taylor has coached Poland since 2014 and his enthusiasm, energy and upbeat approach has paved the way for this national team to have a wonderful experience at a first World Cup in 52 years. He's created an environment where players can flourish as long as they put the team first. Mateusz Ponitka and Adam Wacynszki have blossomed into leaders and wonderful players.
Igor: Luis Scola being 39 years old and still producing like he's 19 or 29. All modern day athletes should look up to him, the way he trains, plays, acts - Luis is a legend for sure. The fact that he prepared 14 weeks by himself before the training camp even began, that's unreal.
Dave: Some people might pick Poland, but I am going to go to Czech Republic, having seen them the last two games in Shenzhen. Sure, the Poles are a great story - I picked them as the surprise package in our experts preview article. But I love the closeness of this Czech team with half the team playing for the same club (CEZ Nymburk) and three of them coming from the same city (Opava) where the assistant coach comes from and where he won titles with them. Will they beat Australia? No, probably not. But it's a fun story … oh and Tomas Satoransky has been an absolute joy to watch here in China.
Who has been the revelation of the tournament for you?
Enzo: It's a toss-up between Mateusz Ponitka of Poland and Tomas Satoransky of Czech Republic, but I'll choose the latter. Satoransky was always going to be the Czechs' main guy, but I didn't expect he'd perform this well and lead his team to the Top Eight. He's put up 15.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game, which places him among the most efficient players in the entire competition.
Julio: Satoransky has been huge for Czech, but I will pick Bruno Caboclo. Very impressed with the way the kid grew as a player, and am also impressed about his future with the Brazilian national team. He's humble and I have noticed that he dreams of taking Brazil to another level.
Jeff: Aron Baynes. Fear the beard. This guy raises the level of toughness for an already formidable Australia. He's a mean son of a gun inside on defense and on offense, Baynes is scoring from everywhere and crashing the boards.
Igor: Chris Goulding and Jock Landale of Australia. I don't want to go into teams, because it's obvious that Czech Republic and Poland are here among the eight. Switching to players then. And with Australia having NBA championship winning guys on board, they needed the "others" to step up, which is what Goulding and Landale have been doing since day one in China. No fear, no stress, no panic, those two are the best role players in the World Cup right now.
Dave: I am gonna say Mateusz Ponitka even though he isn't a revelation for me. He was fully expected to be Poland's leader and he's been magical for the red and white. But I first saw Ponitka play in 2010 at the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup in Hamburg, Germany. He was part of Poland's so-called golden generation and was named to that tournament's All-Star Five nine years ago.
On the flip side of the coin, who is the biggest disappointment of the World Cup for you?
Enzo: All the Asian teams? No, I mean, seriously, I had so many high expectations for the Asian teams, especially since this World Cup was the first one hosted in Asia in 13 years. At the very least, I expected China to make it to the Second Round and had picked Japan to be the Cinderella team of the tournament. None of that happened, though. Save for Australia, all FIBA Asia teams got relegated to the Classification Round. Sigh.
Julio: Obviously I will go with Nigeria. Since Day 1 of their training camp in Atlanta and because of the talented roster they brought to China, I always believed this could be the year that an African team would reach the Quarter-Finals of the World Cup, but things didn't go their way. Hopefully, they can do better in Tokyo next year. The talent is there, I just don't understand what is missing. With all due respect to Argentina and Russia, I feel that these two teams who beat Nigeria in the Group Phase were in Nigeria's reach. Maybe they lacked a bit more team effort. I don’t know.
Jeff: Greece and Giannis Antetokounmpo? Nigeria? Turkey? Well, because of the magnitude of the game, let's go with Turkey. The biggest victory at a World Cup for any team since Greece's 101-95 triumph over the USA in 2006 was there to be had for Turkey on Tuesday, September 3, but first Dogus Balbay and then Cedi Osman missed those all important free-throws and the Americans won, 93-92 after overtime. Turkey had already done the difficult part of getting into position to win, but did not take advantage.
Igor: Croatia. No, wait... Nigeria and Germany. I've talked to the Nigerians in Wuhan, and almost all of them said that the defeats to Russia and Argentina could've been avoided with just a bit more experience of playing these event and playing together. So, Tokyo 2020 sounds like a perfect chance for Nigerian redemption. As for Germany, it's still unclear what happened to the team that was running circles around everybody in the preparation period.
Dave: This one is easy - Germany. I actually picked them to beat France in their first Group G game in the First Round but they ended up losing that game and the next contest against Dominican Republic - in a loss that is a huge setback for a country that has seen so much development. This is also a team that had the talent to reach the Quarter-Finals. And they ended up finishing 18th.
Which four teams to do you see in the Semi-Finals?
Enzo: I think Serbia will bounce back strong and halt Argentina's win streak. I see Australia and Spain putting stops to the magical runs of Czech Republic and Poland respectively. I also believe it'll be a close one between Team USA and France, but the embattled Americans should pull through and advance. Having said all that, it's Serbia facing Team USA and Australia colliding with Spain in the Semi-Finals for me.
Julio: Serbia, Spain, USA, Australia.
Jeff: I'm looking forward to four very competitive Quarter-Finals but expect Australia, USA, Serbia and Spain to be in the last four.
Igor: I really like Argentina, Poland, Czech Republic and France, which is why I'm going to say Serbia, Spain, Australia and USA will reach the Semi-Finals. Because I usually am horrible at predicting stuff like this, so I have to go opposite of what my gut is telling me right now.
Dave: Spain's experience (and defense) will be too much for Poland while Serbia will bounce back and knock off Argentina - though that game should be a fun battle. In the other half of the bracket, Australia will be challenged but will overcome the Czech Republic while the USA v France Quarter-Final will be the best game of the quartet. Having participated in the Live Blog over the past two weeks, we are asked to give a bold prediction, so let's do that here. I will say that France win it. The French point guards will be able to deal with the USA pressure and the lack of crispness on offense will come back to haunt the Americans.