Here is a match up analysis and recap of the games for the top teams in the tournament. There have been some surprises so far, but overall the US team is still the odds on favorite at this point. For those of you who made dark horse bets on Brazil, Lithuania, and Serbia — Congrats. All three are looking like they have a legitimate shot at winning this thing. That said, let’s breakdown the matchups with some picks now that the tournament is rolling and pool play is through. All FIBA betting lines for this article were taken from Bookmaker and Bodog.
Wins: Croatia, Slovenia, Brazil (by 2), Tunisia, Iran
Next Opponent: Angola (MON, SEPT 6th)
Betting Line USA -35
The US has been brilliant so far, despite close games to Spain during exhibition play and another to Brazil in pool play. This is mainly due to the stellar play of Kevin Durant, who has been starting at power forward, as he looks to be a great 4 man in international play. Derrick Rose has been clutch and starting him next to Billups in the backcourt appears to have been a wise move by Coach K. Really, at this point, it seems the only thing that can beat the US is the US themselves. They have the most talented team in the field, it’s just a matter of them playing as a cohesive unit and gelling together. This game against Angola should prove to be a ridiculous blowout, probably in excess of 40 points.
Original Odds: 40/1
Wins: New Zealand, Canada, Spain, France, Lebanon
Next Opponent: China (TUE, Sept 7th)
Betting Line Lithuania -14
Lithuania is one of only two undefeated teams in the tournament, and they have done it against top teams such as Canada, Spain, and France. It’s looking like the original 40/1 odds may have been the biggest bargain so far. China seems to be quite a pushover this year with a 1-4 record, the sole win against woeful Ivory Coast, and even then, only by 10 points. I guess that is what happens when Yao is removed from the equation. Lithuania should make short work of China and win by at least 35 points. Probably more, considering they lost to Turkey by 47, and Turkey is hardly a contender in this tournament.
Wins: Angola, Jordan, Australia, Argentina
Next Opponent: Croatia (SAT, Sept 4th)
Betting Line Serbia -8
Serbia has taken care of business, but mainly against mediocre opponents. Their win against Argentina was no small feat, but Angola, Jordan, and Australia are all perennial pushovers. Croatia’s only wins have come against Slovenia and Iran, with the other three games being blowouts, so this one shouldn’t really be close either. I am guessing it is between 15 and 25 point blowout.
Original Odds: 25/1
Wins: Germany, Australia, Angola, Jordan
Next Opponent: Brazil (TUE, Sept 7th)
Betting Line Argentina +3
This upcoming game against Brazil should be an exciting and widely watched game. Both Brazil and Argentina have fielded tough teams for this tournament and Brazil took the US within 2 points of winning. Argentina, despite being without star guard Manu Ginobili, has benefitted from some ridiculous play by Luis Scola. Through the first four games, Scola was averaging 28 ppg and scored 30+ in three of the four wins. His combination of inside skills coupled with a mid range jumper allows him to be very effective, especially in international play. This game should be close, but I think Brazil will edge them out by less than 5 points.
Original odds: 50/1
Wins: Tunisia, Croatia, Brazil, Iran
Losses: USA (by 22)
Next Opponent: Australia (SUN, Sept 5th)
Betting Line Slovenia -6
Goran Dragic is leading the way for a Slovenian team which has surprised everyone so far. The win against Brazil was pretty impressive, and other than the fact that they failed to give the US a game, there would be reason to believe that they have a shot at winning this tournament. In addition to Dragic’s strong play, Bostjan Nachbar, a former player for the NJ Nets, has appeared strong too and, like Dragic, has a great outside shot. Slovenia has been working it around the perimeter, trying to find open threes, and it has been an effective strategy, except against the US, as they are one of the quickest teams to rotate to shooters. They shouldn’t have much of a problem disposing of Australia, who is without Andrew Bogut. I would expect a 20 point win.
Wins: China, Puerto Rico, Ivory Coast
Losses: Turkey & Spain
Next Opponent: Spain (SAT, Sept 4th)
Betting Line Greece +7.5
Greece has appeared pretty strong so far, even if their three wins did come against poor teams. They only lost by four to Spain in their first meeting, so this is their opportunity at some revenge. Vassillus Spanoulis is leading Greece with 14 ppg, and Bourousis is averaging 12.4 ppg and leading them in rebounding with 6.8 rpg. I don’t think they are going to be able to overtake Spain, however, especially in light of the fact that they lack any guards with the speed necessary to cover Ricky Rubio, who should have his way at getting into the paint. I think this game will be a wider margin than the first meeting, with Greece losing by between 7 and 11 points.
Original Odds: 50/1
Wins: Spain, Lebanon, Canada
Losses: Lithuania, New Zealand
Next Opponent: Turkey (SUN, Sept 5th)
Betting Line France +10
Turkey has proved to be a pretty decent team, all said and done. But France upset Spain and notched an impressive victory over a surprisingly good Canadian team. The loss to New Zealand is a bit perplexing, however, and it leads me to believe that this team might not be as good as they appeared in the victory against Spain. France lacks any good outside shooters, which is an utter necessity in international basketball. I am expecting Turkey to beat France and win by about 8 or 9 points.
Wins: Iran, Tunisia, Croatia
Losses: USA, Slovenia
Next Opponent: Argentina (TUE, Sept 7th)
Betting Line Brazil -3
Brazil really made waves when they took the US down to the wire. Both of their losses have come to two of the better teams in the tournament, and as mentioned I favor them over Brazil.
Original Odds: 7/2
Wins: New Zealand, Lebanon, Canada
Losses: France & Lithuania
Next Opponent: Greece (SAT, Sept 4th)
Betting Line Spain -7.5
Spain, by all accounts, has been a disappointment. However, that was in pool play. Now that the stakes are higher, I expect Fran Vasquez and Ricky Rubio to rebound from sub par performances. The original odds were still good, and a bet on Spain was not a bad decision. France lucked out in what was probably their best performance ever, against an off night for the Spanish team, and Lithuania is undefeated this year, surprising everyone. This game with Greece will not be easy, however. Greece is a tough team to gauge at this point since their three wins all came against horrible teams. Still, I expect Spain to turn it up a notch and win this game by between 12 and 15 points.