FIBA Basketball World Cup Power Rankings, Volume 4
BEIJING (China) - The First Round is behind us, and we are just hours away from the start of the Second Round. Sounds like a good time to check up on the teams in the fourth edition of the FIBA Basketball World Cup Power Rankings.
Since we are down to 16 teams, we are also losing the Competition System clause from the Power Rankings format, which basically makes this a review of one team's power through the First Round.
|Really happy for Venezuela to be here after all the drama they had surrounding them ahead of the event. The players can see this Second Round as a huge opportunity to play completely relaxed, which is when they are at their most dangerous level. Scoring could be a problem in the Second Round, they are only 19th in points per game in China (76.0 ppg).
|Dominican Republic have sports in their DNA. They are probably the biggest surprise of the event so far, knocking out Germany and getting themselves into another challenging group, with France, Australia and Lithuania. Crazier things have happened...but when you have 25th ranked offense in the event, and you have to go up against the giants of the Boomers and Lietuva, the odds really are against you.
(Perfect. Because Dominican Republic are all about proving people wrong.)
|Have no idea how to explain that Puerto Rico lost by 29 to Senegal in the last preparation game, and went on to become the clutchest of all teams in China. Wait. I know. It's because they are Puerto Ricans and nothing gets them more fired up than seeing other teams taking them for granted. The spirits of Filiberto Rivera, Ricky Sanchez, PJ Ramos and all the others lives on! Serbia and Italy up next for them, more chances to upset the world.
|Basketball Champions League side and perennial Czech champs CEZ Nymburk have to be proud because of their contribution to this Czech Republic team. Vyoral, Pumprla, Hruban, Peterka, Bohacik and Kriz are all Nymburk players, Schilb and Palyza are former Nymburk players and coach Ronen Ginzburg spent 11 years with the club. System was in place, with Tomas Satoransky, Patrik Auda and Ondrej Balvin in to compliment it, the Czechs are making the most of this summit.
|Russia used all of their big game experience to send Nigeria to the Classification Round 17-32. "We were a little bit smarter," as coach Sergey Bazarevich explained it. Now time to be a little bit smarter than Poland, who are flying high on a 3-0 record. And then, a little bit smarter than Venezuela, and puf! You're in the Quarter-Finals, Russia.
|Poland: We need 10 games to get three wins in the preparation period.
Also Poland: We need three games to get three wins in the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Also also Poland: You need to see this speech by coach Mike Taylor. Dawaj Polska!
|Italy are knocking down 12.7 three pointers per game in China, tied for the most (with USA), but with a deadly accuracy of 43.7 percent (compared to USA's 35.5). And if you ever watched any Meo Sacchetti coached team, than this is not a surprise for you. By the time you read this, they could already be torturing Spain, but one thing is for sure - Italy will be the live-by-the-three-die-by-the-three team of the Second Round.
|I just hope Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greece get another chance to face Aco Petrovic and Brazil, after the Brazilian coach said he knew for six months how he'll guard the NBA MVP, and especially because he said that a 40-year-old Alex Garcia did what Aco said he did. So, yes, we want a rematch to see what a blood-thirsty Giannis looks like.
|Lithuania are the best 2-1 team of the First Round. In most of the other groups, they would be a clear 3-0 team. The trouble here is that they now have to defeat France and the Dominican Republic, while hoping that Australia won't do the same, because a Quarter-Finals duel with USA is on the horizon here.
|The best part about First Round in Wuhan - Argentina. Their defense, to be precise, as they are number one in steals per game, number three in rebounds per game, number four in blocks per game. And the offense isn't any weaker, no way, because when a team has Facundo Campazzo, Nicolas Laprovittola and Luis Scola, it's easy to see why they aren't turning the ball over more than 11.3 times per game (8th lowest).
|Read the Greek part of the ranking again. Brazil are arguably the most fun team in China, not just because of stuff going on on the basketball court, but also because of random kisses in press conferences and quotes that travel the world faster than speed of sound. Brazil v USA is set to be a firecracker on September 9.
|Judging by defensive efficiency, Spain are the fourth best defensive team of the event (behind France, USA and Argentina). That stat will have the greatest test of all in Wuhan, because they will go up against Serbia, offensive efficiency leader by some distance. Probably the biggest test for Serbia's 14-game winning streak.
|France v Lithuania on Saturday. France v Australia on Monday. Get two wins there, France, and you could be the number one team to beat the rest of the way. And you have a strong MVP candidate, too, because of all the players that have advanced to the Second Round, only Bogdan Bogdanovic is statistically more efficient than Rudy Gobert.
|USA went through a scare against Turkey, but that overtime win could be a huge warning sign for all the others, who might be thinking "oh yeah, we can take this USA team on any day!" Because a similar thing happened in 2010, when they dodged two late Marcelinho Huertas-Leandro Barbosa bullets in a 70-68 win over Brazil. Which only made USA angry and saw them win the remaining games by +37, +35, +55, +10, +15 and +17, finishing with gold medals around their necks at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2010. History repeating?
|The difference between Australia and most of the others is the fact that Australian point guard actually plays the small forward position. Joe Ingles is leading the assists per game stat department in China with 8.7 assists per game for the Boomers, and was just one assist away from the first ever triple-double in the FIBA Basketball World Cup history! He had 17 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists against Senegal.
|Still unbeaten since February. And as long as that run is still alive, Serbia will stay at the top of the Power Rankings. And at the top of all the other, more important rankings. Especially if Bogdan Bogdanovic continues his torment of others with a 15-of-23 success rate from three point range since the World Cup started. To put it in perspective - Bogdanovic alone knocked down 15 triples. Lithuania as a team made 16 three-pointers in China...
*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 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.