For some reason, no one seems to be paying attention to the FIBA World Championships. Granted other than the US games, a lot of the games are on NBATV which certainly didn't help for creating any media buzz. However, some games will be on ESPN and on ESPN2 as they advance in the tournament. Nonetheless, with the tournament ready to have quarterfinals on Wednesday-Thursday, semis on Saturday, and the finals on Sunday, things are about to get crazy.
Someone with much more time on their hands did an extensive, professional preview of the FIBA World Championships. Just to show how exciting this tournament is and how unpredictable it is, only 6 of his top 8 made the quarterfinals... and Turkey was ranked only #7 but has been far and away the best story of the tournament (outside of the US dominating and only being tested by Brazil). However, after the group stage games, the same website declared USA, Spain, Serbia, and Turkey as the top-4 teams in the tournament (and other than the US, the other three are in the same part of the single-elimination bracket)
For a brief reason why Turkey has been so dominant, it's mainly because they have two 6-9 forwards capable of running the floor and hitting 3s (Turkoglu and the Milwaukee Bucks' breakout star of Ersan Ilyasova). In addition, they have two 7-foot centers who are playing in the NBA this fall for the first time. Even the preview by the other website above said that they did not have much info on these two centers (Omer Asik of the Bulls ; and Semih Erden of the Celtics). Well, Asik is averaging 10.2 pts and 7.7 rebs on 63.4% FG% in only 20 minutes/game and Erden is averaging 9.7 pts and 5.2 rebs on 61.8% FG% in under 20 minutes/game. Furthermore, the Turks are playing a crazy 2-1-2 zone supposedly and no one has had much success attacking it.
Turkey is on the opposite side of the bracket as the US, and I suppose that means they should meet in the finals. We shall see.
Here are the games for the rest of the tournament:
Wed 9/8 -
Spain vs. Serbia - 11AM EST - I still can't believe how Serbia's Nenad Kristic has been playing so well, since returning from his chair-throwing suspension last week from a fight during an exhibition against Greece (the Serbs and Greeks got in a bit of an argument you might say). Anyway, Kristic looked old, past his prime, and almost immobile during the NBA season on Ok City... but he looks mobile and fresh now! Serbia is actually led by a lot of youngsters. Nonetheless, I have to assume Spain wins.
Slovenia vs. Turkey - 2PM EST - Turkey can't be stopped at this point. They also have the homecourt advantage, in case I didn't mention that earlier. Slovenia does have Goran Dragic, but that won't be nearly enough against all of the big-men of Turkey.
Russia vs. United States - 11AM EST - This will give most people a chance to see the Knicks newest center, Timo Mozgov. He started out slowly, but outside of his 1-point game against Turkey when he got in foul trouble. The Russians actually have an interesting coaching situation, which is something I talked about previously, as his name is David Blatt and he always has his team playing better than its talent level (i.e. they won a European championship unexpectedly once under Blatt). Nonetheless, the US should win, with few problems. If the US loses, the NY media will probably have Mozgov slated as an NBA All-star for this upcoming season.
Lithuania vs. Argentina - 2 PM EST - Linas Kleiza of Lithuania has been playing out of his mind! He's averaging 19.5 ppg, 7.2 rebs, and shooting 61.9% from the field. However, I think Lithuania's surprise amazing run will come to an end because Argentina has been sensational led by the one-two punch of Carlos Delfino (17.8 ppg, 5 rpg) and Luis Scola (30.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 61.7% FG%).
Saturday 9/11 - ? - 11AM EST-
Saturday 9/11 - ? - 2PM EST -
Spain vs. Turkey - Should be a colossal matchup.
United States vs. Argentina - Should be another great matchup.
Sunday 9/12 - 2:30PM EST -
The US took down Spain in the Olympics, albeit with Wade, LeBron, and company doing the damage. I'm not sure what will happen if the US were to make the finals and play against Spain or Turkey. The US is not a big team, so I'd imagine that playing Turkey would result in a loss. Spain also has Marc Gasol which would be superior to anything the US could throw at him. I'm forecasting the relatively easy draw thus far for the US (only being tested by Brazil) to result in a loss in the final game or in the semi-finals... and then all sorts of ESPN commentators hypothesizing on the reasons for the loss, how to prevent it, etc., etc., etc.
Granted, I think FIBA should have scheduled this tourney a week earlier than the start of the NFL season. Are they even trying to get viewers in the US???