We’ll take a brief look here at three of the favorites upcoming games.
SPAIN – Upcoming Opponents: Lebanon and Canada
The Spanish team, despite pushing the United States team to the very edge in a narrow loss during exhibition play, has surprisingly struggled so far since that game. After losing to underdogs Lithuania and France, it has become dubious as to whether the Spanish national team has what it takes to win the FIBA championships. It should become more lucid after they play Lebanon and Canada on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
Spain also lost to Lithuania. So there are strong doubts as to whether the strongly favored Spanish team can get it done this year. Not having Pau Gasol has undoubtedly played a large role, as their interior defense and scoring has been significantly weakened.
They face Lebanon next on Wednesday, a team that has been absolutely punished and obliterated so far. So while Spain has struggled, this game will give them a chance to regain some confidence and momentum. Expect a 30-40 point blowout.
Wrapping up pool play against Canada on Thursday will give them a chance to face a stronger team and possibly prove themselves to be the powerhouse they were considered to be coming into this tournament. Despite lacking Steve Nash, Joel Anthony and Lavon Kendall have anchored a strong Candaian defense. Anthony is averaging a team leading 11.7 ppg and Lavon Kendall is averaging 8.7 rpg. Expect Canada to give Spain all they can handle.
UNITED STATES – Upcoming Opponents: Iran and Tunisia
While remaining undefeated, the US team suffered a big scare Monday against Brazil. I stated in my preview article that Brazil made an excellent bet at 25/1 odds, and it looks like I was right. They took the US down to the wire and lost by a mere two points. Tiago Splitter, of the San Antonio Spurs, notched a double double (13 & 10) and Barbosa put up 14 points. Kevin Durant led the way for the US, scoring 27.
Iran and Tunisia do not bring the same level of play that the Brazillian team brought, however, and should both prove to be easy blowout wins.
In fact, Iran finally won their first international game…against Tunisia. The star and only really good player on Iran is Hamed Haddadi of the Memphis Grizzlies. Standing 7-2 with a massive frame, he will probably punish the US on the interior, since the only 7 footer is Tyson Chandler and they have been starting Lamar Odom at center. While Haddadi will probably have a 20+ point game, the US will win by at least 30.
Tunisia also presents absolutely no threat and should be another easy victory. Brazil beat Tunisia by 16, and took the US to the wire, so a 20 point spread sounds about right.
BRAZIL – Upcoming Opponents: Slovenia and Croatia
Brazil showed their strength against the US, taking them down to the wire and only losing by two. Slovenia is 2-1, their sole loss also having come to the US (99-77). Former NBA player Bostjan Nachbar and current Suns backup Point guard Goran Dragic have led the way for Slovenia. It will be up to Barbosa, Neto, and Alex Garcia to keep the strong Slovenian backcourt in check. This should be a good match, but I do expect Brazil to prevail, probably by less than 10 points.
Croatia is 1-2 and lost to the US and Slovenia teams, while winning against Iran. The loss to Slovenia was a narrow one, 91-84, so Croatia has the potential to give Brazil a tough game. Roko Ukic leads Croatia in scoring at 11.7 ppg, and Marko Tomas has looked strong inside. However, Tiago Splitter is arguably one of the best big men in the tournament and should be able to keep Tomas in check. I expect Brazil to win this by less than 10 points, and the game will be very similar to the Slovenian game, with the minor exception of Croatia having a stronger interior game.