2019 FIBA World Cup Group C Preview
Enzo Flojo on Aug 27, 2019 08:56 AM
Spain's Marc Gasol, right, shoots over United States' Mason Plumlee during the first half of an exhibition basketball game Friday, Aug. 16, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
With less than 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 C, which will be hosted in Guangzhou, one of China's three largest cities and the capital of Guangdong province, where one former champion is hoping to restart their path to greatness.
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 Spaniards are locked, loaded, and smelling blood. Remember that Spain was the last team not named Team USA to win the World Cup, doing it in 2006 when they defeated Greece in the Final. They have also been doing well in their tune-up games, winning against Lithuania, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, and Dominican Republic, with the only blemish so far at the hands of the Americans.
Still, you'd be hard-pressed to find another team with as many big and accomplished names like what Spain has. We're talking about Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Juancho and Willy Hernangomez, Rudy Fernandez, and Sergio Llull. That's a star-studded, possibly world-beating team if I ever saw one, and looking at their draw, this team is projected to make it at least as far as the Quarter-Finals.
Armed with a ton of experience and NBA talent Salah Mejri, Tunisia seem ready to make some noise at the group stage. Recently, they are coming off a rousing win against upstart Japan, which happened after they beat some other solid teams like Poland and Jordan. They haven't had much luck against European sides in their preparation matches, though, so it's hard to imagine this team advancing further than the second round. Still, if the Tunisians manage to gain some momentum, their springing upsets is not an impossibility.
Dark Horse: Puerto Rico
I don't like the fact the Puerto Ricans fumbled against Croatia's U20 team in a tune-up contest, and I'm still sad that JJ Barea isn't around. I love the fact Renaldo Balkman has been recalled to the national team, though at 35 years old, he is surely not the spring chicken he used to be. This is a team that just lost, 61-90, against Senegal in one of their preparation games, and that is definitely a very ominous sign for a country that once made Olympic history by serving a 19-point beating to the United States. Dark days ahead for Los Gallos.
Team Melli actually kicked their preparations off earlier this month with aplomb, winning over Jordan, 82-70, and upsetting Russia, 91-84, but they have since been defeated by Greece (twice) and Hungary. There are some flashes of brilliance and some strong talents on this Iranian side like veterans Hamed Haddadi and Samad Nikkhah Bahrami, but we may be looking at the inevitable end of Iran's "golden generation" of hardcourt heroes. Frankly speaking, I just don't see them getting past the group stage unless either Tunisia or Puerto Rico really mishandle their opportunities.
Overall, Spain will have a breeze in this group, and they will be in the mix for the World Cup trophy. The other three seem relatively near each other's strength levels, and it may come down to a number of breaks of the games between them to decide who joins España in the next round.