2019 FIBA World Cup Group H Preview

Enzo Flojo on Aug 30, 2019 07:04 AM
2019 FIBA World Cup Group H Preview
Australia's Patty Mills celebrates after shooting a 3-pointer during their exhibition basketball game against the U.S in Melbourne, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

With just about a day before action tips off at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in eight 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.

Finally, we're in the last group, which will be playing its games in the industrial city of Dongguan. Otherwise dubbed as the "Group of Death," Group H includes three "powerhouse" teams: 6th-ranked Lithuania, 11th-ranked Australia, and 23rd-ranked Canada. The fourth team is AfroBasket's Senegal. 

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.

Favorite: Australia

I know Lithuania is ranked higher in the FIBA World Rankings, but my biased self cannot help but pick the Boomers to top Group H. Despite not having Ben Simmons to pilot their craft, the Aussies still have a host of NBA talents to drive their machine forward and upward. 

Patty Mills, in particular, has been absolutely terrific, especially in their huge win over Team USA several days ago. Fellow guard Matthew Dellavedova has been solid, too, together with Utah's Joe Ingles, Golden State's Andrew Bogut, and Boston's Aron Baynes. The late addition of Brooklyn Nets swingman Mitch Creek is also a good cushion as Jonah Bolden of the Sixers also backed out. 

It won't be easy for Australia to advance, but when their game is on, nobody in this group can stop them.

Contender: Lithuania

Whereas Australia is a bit of a boom-or-bust team, you know what you're getting with the Lithuania. Lietuva did well in a win over Czech Repbulic, 82-79, to finish off their series of tune-up matches, where they beat all their opponents save for title contenders Serbia and Spain. The Lithuanians will likely face either of those teams in the Quarter-Finals, so they should be in good shape both in the group stage and the second round. 

Spearheading their charge will certainly be Memphis big man Jonas Valanciunas and Indiana forward Domantas Sabonis, while they should also get a lot of help from the perimeter trio of Marius Grigonis (BC Zalgiris), Mantas Kalnietis (Lyon ASVEL), and Mindaugas Kuzminkas (Olimpia Milan). This is an elite team, make no mistake, but in a group with a couple of other elite teams, Lithuania for me, is good for #2.

Dark Horse: Canada

In an ideal world, Canada would be among the podium contenders and perhaps even have the best shot at upsetting Team USA had all their NBA guys been around, but of course, we know that's no longer possible. Despite that, Canada hasn't been too shabby in its tune-up matches. Very recently, they defeated New Zealand (twice), Australia, and Nigeria. 

And well, Canada still does have some NBA talent propping the team up. Khem Birch of the Orlando Magic is around, as are Chris Boucher and O'Shea Brissett of champion team Toronto, and if all pans out, Cory Joseph may yet show up in China to boost the team's stock even more. Still, given the depth of Australia and Lithuania, Canada may be the odd-man-out here in Group H.

Underdog: Senegal

Honestly, if the Senegalese were in any other group, they could contend and maybe even advance, but being in the Group of Death, they have very little chance to notch even a single win. Thre is talent here with Maurice Ndour, former PBA import Hamady Ndiaye, and Mouhammad Faye, but not nearly enough to finish in the top two.

Overall, it's a three-way battle to advance here, and what a battle it will be. Canada still has a chance to advance, yes, but the smart money bets remain to be Australia and Lithuania in my book.

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