2019 FIBA World Cup Group B Preview
Enzo Flojo on Aug 26, 2019 06:59 PM
Spanish Liga Endesa Finals MVP Facundo Campazzo is expected to be one of the leaders for Argentina, which is the favorite in Group B of the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China (photo courtesy of FIBA.com).
With just about a week to go before action tips off at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in 8 different Chinese cities, it's time to look at each of the groups, gauge the teams' respective depths, and project how they will fare on the biggest stage of international basketball.
Here we will look at Group B, which will be hosted in Wuhan, the most populous city of Central China, where a pair of traditional basketball powerhouses are looking to dominate the competition.
Note: In each of these group previews, the teams will essentially be ranked based on their confirmed rosters/pools and their most recent tune-up game results.
The Argentines are poised to be not just the best team in their group but perhaps the best team from Groups A and B that will enter the Quarter-Finals. The most familiar name on coach Sergio Hernandez's roster will be former Houston Rocket Luis Scola, who at 39 years old, is among the oldest players in the World Cup. Forming a terrific tandem with him will be prolific point guard Facundo Campazzo of Real Madrid, who in his prime, should be one of the team's main stars. The 28-year-old, after all, wasn't named Spanish Liga Endesa Finals MVP for no reason.
This is a team with a rich tradition, having won the first ever World Cup in 1950 and famously finishing a close second in 2002. This unit is coming in hot, winning the 2019 Pan-Am Games, too.
Russia is ranked #10 in FIBA's World Rankings for Men, and though they haven't created as much fanfare as other teams, this is a squad that will contend. Despite being drawn with a bit of a stronger Argentine quintet, the Russians are still favored to advance as far as the Quarter-Finals owing much to the weakness of the other teams in Group A, which they will face in the second round. 6'8" wingman Sergey Karasev of BC Zenit Saint Petersburg will likely be their top gunner along with CSKA Moscow big man Semen Antonov.
Dark Horse: Nigeria
I want to be super high on Nigeria because of their NBA pedigree, but their inexperience at advancing deep and their off-court distractions may be enough to neuter their innate talent. Portland Trail Blazer Al-Farouq Aminu will be the face of D'Tigers in China, and he should be backstopped by San Antonio Spur Chimezie Metu and Minnesota Timberwolf Josh Okogie. The soon-to-be-21-year-old Okogie, in particular, is built to be a star. He actually represented Team USA in the 2017 FIBA U19 World Cup before being cleared to join Nigeria this year. Coach Kevin Burleson has such a deep roster at his disposal, but the big question is can they have enough focus to harness all that potential and parlay it into something truly special?
Underdog: South Korea
The Koreans were certainly one of the most impressive teams at the Asian Qualifiers, but that didn't help their fortunes at the World Cup Draw. Now the traditional East Asian powerhouse will face staggering odds against top 10 teams Argentina and Russia as well as loaded Nigeria. Former PBA import Ra GunA proved to be a great addition to the national team, but when ranged against bigger, better foes, he may seem pedestrian. This is a team led by some of the country's top veterans along with a sprinkling of rising stars, but even that may not help their cause of advancing past the group stage.
Overall, Argentina and Russia are the easy picks to advance from Group B, though Nigeria can't be overlooked. The Koreans are really the odd men out, and only a miraculous string of performances will help them alter their fates.