Thursday, August 17, 2006

U.S.A. Bent on World Domination
2006 FIBA World Championship Preview

Lebron James threatens to incite riots if repreated victory by humiliation is not achieved in the 2006 FIBA World Championships... or something to that effect. We're not sure if its withdrawal, but we've come to anticipate this installment of the Worlds more than any other in recent memory. But then again, before the Dream Team, we'd really never heard of it. Ah, but how the world has changed. This Saturday, international roundball competition on its highest (sub-NBA) scale begins... and its an open field.

There are expectations for many teams, Argentina, Lithuania, Greece, even China, and there are statements of redemption to be made... mostly by the home team, er, the US, may or may not still be the favorite, but... I wouldn't bet the prize pig on 'em. Thus our preview... for what should prove to be a riveting two weeks of wacky-rules basketball and infuriating "international" officiating. That comes off sardonic, but we really do love it. Love to hate it.

First the pools:

Group A
Group B
Group C
Group D
Argentina (3)
Venezuela (20)
France (10)
Serbia & Mont. (2)
Lebanon (U)
Nigeria (U)
Spain (5)
Panama (34)
Germany (13)
Japan (25)
New Zealand (U)
Angola (17)
Lithuania (4)
Brazil (15)
Greece (8)
Turkey (18)
Australia (9)
Qatar (28)
USA (1)
Puerto Rico (11)
Italy (6)
China (14)
Senegal (30)

Listed also are the current international rankings... which as always mean less when weighted against the competitive level of their respective regions. Australia, for example, comes in with a no. 9 ranking, racking up points against such basketball luminaries as Fiji, Micornesia and the Marshall Islands... a list that reads like the "Coalition of the Willing." In fact, it appears, according to the archives, that the Aussies have never played anyone other than New Zealand in the FIBA Oceania championships and qualifiers... on any level. Sufficed to say, 9 might be a bit high for a team that lost to China taking sixth in the six-team Stankovic Cup tourney, but Boomers, Andrew Bogut and Brad Newley could be interesting. Anyway, to the groups...

Group A would appear to be the monster, seeing Serbia & Montenegro (2), Argentina (3) and France (10). The two unranked teams (FIBA's rankings ceiling at 75) almost ensure that all four ranked teams will advance--unless Nigeria's Julluo Nwoso has something to say about it.

Lebanon... probably won't win any games... but their participation at all should make a statement... of some kind... maybe political by nature... maybe not.

Groups C and D should be the most hotly contested with every team in each respective group ranked in the top 30--though we're not sure how Australia can delude belief of a 9th rank or China with a 14th... or for that matter Puerto Rico with an 11th when Brazil is at 15. The Brazilian nationals should probably be ranked ahead of the aforementioned after making a strong case with their solid play against the US in their recent friendly.

We still see the US taking this one, despite an inexperienced team (in international play), but--and I know its been said over and over, and our expectations have always been foolishly hinged upon it post-Dream Teams I & II--the talent level if too much. Bron-Bron, D-Wade and Melo?!? Lovely. But it perpetuates within us a hoary internal conflict of assembled talent vs. team familiarity and chemistry--granted, the US is trying to achieve the latter but they just got started. As occasional coaches in local youth leagues, it attacks our very sensibilities of talent vs. team. The statement for the US in the Worlds is not to regain glory--glory they got--but to prove that talent can equal team... and medals.

More to come on the World Chips. Stay tuned.

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