31 August, 2019
15 September
FIBA Basketball World Cup Power Rankings, Volume 2
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FIBA Basketball World Cup Power Rankings, Volume 2

BEIJING (China) - Teams are timing their form with just over a week left before the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 begins. Time to check up on them with the second edition of our Power Rankings.

The formula stays the same as in the actual competition, meaning we went through the possible scenarios in the First Round of the Group Phase, then the Second Round of the Group Phase, and the entire Final Phase - in theory, that means that, let's say, Canada, Australia and Lithuania cannot all be among the Top 16 because only two of them will actually advance from Group H.

In case this all feels familiar to you, it is because it was also explained in the first Power Rankings last week.

All of the teams have started their friendly games, too, which gave us something to work with in terms of their current form. You can keep track of all the scores in our preparation games tracker.


Soundtrack of the week for Cote d'Ivoire: Hello darkness my old friend... Dropped one place since last week because of stuff that had nothing to do with the actual game on the court.


Soundtrack of the week for Venezuela: Hello darkness my old friend (2017 Disturbed version)... Dropped four places since last week because of stuff that had nothing to do with the actual game on the court.


Jordan are rising two spots because Cote d'Ivoire and Venezuela are having the hardest of times in their preparation for the event. With Jordan being in a group with France, Germany and the Dominican Republic, they will need an upset or two to book a trip towards the sweet 16. A test against Greece this week may give us the answer are they capable of that or not. 


Up one place, but still in hiding, Korea have a pair of games against the Czech Republic and Lithuania ahead of the event. Meaning, they could have a huge jump in the final Power Rankings next week, because if they show potential out there, especially against Lithuania, they might just be alive in the battle with Russia and Nigeria to advance.
(Argentina are still the clear favorites for the group in Wuhan.)


Angola were 29th last week, and aren't that far away this week. A tournament in China saw them defeat a Croatian national team, but it was a team made of the last two U20 generations of Croatia - and not even the strongest Croatian team made it to China for the World Cup, so defeating U20 selection of a non-World-Cup-participant is not going to scare Serbia, Italy and Philippines.


Rest in peace, Frank Prats. Stay strong, Dominican Republic.


So, how do you slip from 16th to 26th in a week? First, it's a matter of your group opponent rising, and taking you out of the top two in your group in provisional group power rankings, meaning you cannot be in top 16 anymore. Then, it's a matter of you losing to Croatia. Make that, losing to last two U20 teams of Croatia combined. Puerto Rico, snap out of it, please.


Senegal announced their final roster for China five days ago, and it's looking solid, especially with Maurice Ndour, Mo Faye, Hamady Ndiaye, Youssou Ndoye and Babacar Toure on board to get all the boards. But, they still have the same issue as last week - they are stuck in a group with Canada, Lithuania and Australia.


Iran could easily be a part of the sweet 16. But, it seems that Tunisia are just that one bit stronger than them at this moment, the same way it feels that Iran are one bit stronger than Puerto Rico. The way Spain looked in this period, it feels like they will be at 3-0, while Iran, Tunisia and Puerto Rico will battle it out for second spot and a place in the Second Round.


Crna Goro, kapljo vode... Montenegro lost all three of their friendly games in France, but coach Zvezdan Mitrovic said "it went better than expected" and that he got some answers. Also, they will be among the rare teams who will try to avoid run-and-gun and transition basketball, as Mitrovic wants the team to slow it down to five-on-five halfcourt basketball. Not a surprising decision, at all. Down three spots since last week, one for each defeat in France.


The trouble with assessing Japan's power is the fact that they are yet to play against any team not named New Zealand. So let's just keep them at 22, the same place they had last week.


Let's not talk about New Zealand losing 122-88 to Canada, okay? Okay.


Good news for Philippines? June Mar Fajardo, Roger Pogoy and Troy Rosario finally joined the team.
Bad news for Philippines? They only have two games against Adelaide 36ers to get the entire team clicking. They drop one place this week.


Czech Republic won twice, lost once in the friendly tournament in Germany. Two wins and one defeat in China would take them through to the Second Round, probably. So, just click the crtl+c on what you did against Germany, Poland and Hungary in Hamburg, and ctrl+v to the floor against USA, Turkey and Japan. Copy-paste basketball. 


Hopefully, the non-basketball related troubles of Nigeria's are now over. Because off-the-court problems certainly did not help D'Tigers in their preparation for China, and they certainly did not help their Power Rankings, as they fall from 8 to 18 in a week. Russia and Argentina are just waiting for Nigeria to lose focus for a minute or so, they will be there to keep them away from the Second Round. But, if Nigeria figure it out, then Egypt's record for best placed African team* at the World Cup is in danger.
*They were fifth in 1950.


Can we just send Canada on loan to any other group? Please?


Poland are probably enjoying the fact that we went with the actual competition system through these Power Rankings. Because their 0-3 tournament in Germany showed that they aren't a better team than, let's say, Canada, but a favorable draw could and should make Poland a team fit for the Second Round, meaning they should be in the top 16.


Tunisia's average age of their final roster: 32 years old. Number of players younger than 30: two. Which means two things: (1) these guys are loaded with experience, led by Salah Mejri and Michael Roll, (2) these guys played with each other for most of their careers, so they will have chemistry.


China keep on winning and are currently looking like the hottest Group A team. Meaning, they could advance with a 3-0 record, meaning they could challenge Argentina/Russia/Nigeria/Korea for a place in the Quarter-Finals, meaning they could actually be an elite eight team after this is all said and done. Three wins over Puerto Rico, Angola and U20 Croatia are getting them in the right mood with the event approaching.


Italy lost to Greece and Serbia in back-to-back games by a combined 52 points. A two-point defeat to Turkey showed signs of life, but at this rate, they are much closer to protecting their second spot in Group D against Philippines and Angola, than to challenging Serbia for the top, or challenging Spain/Tunisia/Iran/Puerto Rico for a place in the Quarter-Finals. They fall two spots from last week.


Turkey lost to Greece and Serbia in back-to-back games by 29 points. A two-point win over Italy showed signs of life, but at this rate, they are much closer to protecting their second spot in Group E against the Czech Republic and Japan, than to challenging USA for the top, or challenging Greece/Brazil/Montenegro/New Zealand for a place in the Quarter-Finals. They fall two spots from last week.


Germany are 4-0 in their preparation games this summer, with wins of 32, 21, 19 and 8 points. It would be Top 10 worthy, but the hottest opponent they faced in those four was Czech Republic, so let's keep Germany at 11 until they defeat Tunisia and Japan this week, then we'll discuss how far Deutschland can really go.


Brazil's 2-1 tournament against France, Argentina and Montenegro just feels hotter than Germany's 3-0 against Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary. With Kostas Sloukas questionable for Greece, is it time to start discussing the possibility of Brazil being the second best team in Groups E and F? That would mean a place in the Quarter-Finals, you know, the same place they were stopped five years ago.


This is just a cautious number nine spot for Australia. Because they are still stuck in a group with a good-looking Lithuania and a good-looking Canada and cross paths with a good-looking France and a good-looking Germany, so it's not looking good for Australia in terms of easiness of their draw. Two games coming up against USA in Melbourne, in front of 50,000 fans, which could propel them to podium spots in the final Power Rankings next week.
(And in the actual competition, which is also important, really.)


Out of nowhere, here are the Russians, rising from 18 to 8! FIBA EuroBasket 2017 Semi-Finalist enjoyed their time in Finland, despite losing to Lithuania, they defeated the hosts 81-67 behind Sergey Karasev's 18 and Nikita Kurbanov's 15. Don't forget about Andrey Vorontsevich's 9 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, too - and about Nigeria's troubles away from the basketball floor. Russia have all the experience in the world to try and sneak into the Quarter-Finals from the Group A/B part of the draw.


Speaking of Groups A and B, it would be a major surprise if Argentina did not finish the First Round and the Second Round as the best team of all eight over there. The win over Montenegro in France showed they are strong, defeats to Brazil and France aren't embarrassing, ever, and now they've got Japan, Spain and Russia in the last three friendlies to tune everything up before tip-off in Wuhan.
(Keep an eye on that one with Spain, it could be the Quarter-Finals matchup.)


Remember when Lithuania were just 1-3 to start their preparations games? Well, it's ancient history by now. Because Lithuania blew out Finland 87-46 in Finland, then went on to defeat Russia 88-72 without Jonas Valanciunas on the day. While Australia and Canada are playing friendlies before the World Cup, Lithuania are lurking, waiting for their prey to exhaust each other, before inflicting pain and winning the group. Which could help them in the Second Round, too. Which could help them in the Quarter-Finals. Which could get them even higher than number 6 here.


Are Greece still lethal without Kostas Sloukas? Probably, but Giannis and friends are hoping their point guard makes it back in time. But a defeat to Serbia in front of the packed OAKA in Athens could shake up their confidence just a bit, especially with France, Spain, Serbia rising as the World Cup approaches.


"France* are the favorites even against the USA!" That quote came from Aco Petrovic, Brazil head coach, speaking to Sportske Novosti after feeling the might of France in Lyon last week. Les Bleus defeated Argentina, Brazil and Montenegro, sending a message that they are Semi-Finals bound if they keep this up. And they most probably will.
*...and Serbia, Petrovic said, to be precise.


Spain lost to USA, but here's the "power" part of the Power Rankings. Losing to USA in USA in a game where USA shot 11-of-19 from beyond the arc, and losing by single digits - all ingredients to make Spain look better than actually blowing out some non-World-Cup team in a friendly in Spain. Remember, Spain still have the easier part of the draw. Oh, and Ricky Rubio, Juancho Hernangomez, Willy Hernangomez, Marc Gasol, Rudy Fernandez, Sergio Llull - it would take a long time to count how many medals and titles won they've got between them.


Feels weird putting USA to number two. But, this is not really about them falling, it's about the new number one getting rewarded for their performances so far this summer.
(USA will still be the team to beat in China, no matter what these Power Rankings say.)
(Also, they never won a World Cup in Asia. Fifth in Philippines in 1978, third in Japan in 2006.)
(Also, no team has ever won three straight World Cups.)


When a team
a) defeats Greece in Greece;
b) defeats Greece in Greece, with Giannis Antetokounmpo, reigning NBA MVP, playing for the other team;
c) defeats Greece in Greece, with Giannis Antetokounmpo, reigning NBA MVP, playing for the other team in front of 18,000 fans of his;
d) defeats Greece in Greece, with Giannis Antetekounmpo, reigning NBA MVP, playing for the other team in front of 18,000 fans of his, while Nikola Jokic and Milos Teodosic are sidelined for your team,
so when a) to d) all happen, when you show sublime strength to do all of this, then you get number one here.
There you go, Serbia.
Let us know what the view from the top looks like.

*The power rankings are entirely subjective and is in no way a true, accurate ranking systems. All comments are purely those of the author.

Igor Curkovic

Igor Curkovic

Igor Curkovic is a Croatian freelance writer, Live Blog aficionado and meme expert who watches a lot of basketball and brings both the power and the rankings to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Power Rankings.