Lost in the furore of the return of College Football (#GoDucks), believe it or not, there’s actually some meaningful(ish) basketball being played tomorrow. That’s right, it’s the Not-Olympics, the FIBA World Cup of Basketball! So while most of America will be separating into ravenous packs of alumni, crowning a Heisman winner after one week of action*, and discussing all things Nick Saban, the actual freakin’ USA will be kicking off their Spanish crusade to be named World Champions on September 14th.
The Artist Formerly Known As Netw3rk, Jason Concepcion, handily provided a primer over on Grantland today to whet your appetite, with the games actually starting in earnest from 4.30 AM ET(!) tomorrow morning. Starting things off in Seville, it’s a heavyweight fight between Croatia and the Philippines, featuring first-round stash Dario Saric and after some political wrangling, Andray Blatche. At the same time, Ukraine will take on the Dominican Republic in Bilbao, and an hour later, live from Gran Canaria it’s the game of the day – Angola vs. Korea. Stick with it, I promise it will get better.
The actual game of the day should actually be at 11 AM ET, with Brazil and France locking horns in a meeting which will include some legitimate NBA talent – just not Tony Parker. Finally, The USA will then provide the nightcap to the opening slate of action, with Mike Krzyzewksi’s semi-first choice squad playing Finland at 9.30 PM local time (3.30 PM ET).
Despite them theoretically being the tournament favourites, plenty of questions yet hang over the USA team. Will James Harden‘s newfound leadership skills fill the void left by Kevin Durant to mental fatigue/ongoing shoe contract negotiations? Is Derrick Rose DERRICK ‘EFFIN ROSE again**? Can Andre Drummond make two consecutive free throws? If Anthony Davis gets in foul trouble, will Demarcus Cousins and Mason Plumless be able to hold down the middle in the international format? How badly will Steph Curry’s butter-like defense be exposed by the hot knife that is Finnish guard play?
Thank God there’s a couple of weeks before the inevitably testing Spain game to resolve these tough questions. Until then, enjoy the show.
** Despite my Pac-12 allegiance, I’m rooting for Myles Jack. A linebacker and running back? Conference Offensive and Defensive Freshman Player of the Year as a true freshman? How can you not love this guy?
* All signs point to yes so far. Missed you D-Rose.