Play in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, hosted by Spain, will begin on August 30 with the preliminary round and conclude with the finals on September 13 and 14. The winner of the World Cup will automatically qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Below, we'll break down the schedule along with key matchups to watch. The full calendar can be viewed here.
The official draw was held on February 3. After the draw, which determined a team's group and then its position in the group, the divisions shook out as follows.
|Group A||Group B||Group C||Group D|
The United States landed a tough but winnable schedule in its group play. Turkey (No. 7) is the only other team in the top 10 of the FIBA rankings.
No. 2-ranked Spain, meanwhile, faces tougher opponents: No. 10 Brazil and No. 8 France. Spain's Ricky Rubio and Marc Gasol will have to square off against France's Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw if it plans to potentially face the United States in the finals.
Each phase of the tournament will occur as follows:
|Preliminary Round||Aug. 30-Sept. 4|
|Round of 16||Sept. 6-Sept. 7|
|Quarterfinals||Sept. 9-Sept. 10|
|Semifinals||Sept. 11-Sept. 12|
|Finals||Sept. 13-Sept. 14|
Changes to this year's format include two arenas for the finals, a contrast to 2010 when the finals occurred in just one arena. Another change has been made for 2014 that will impact the round of 16—rather than be held over four days with two matches per day, the round of 16 will be held over two days and the matches per day increased to four. The 2014 semifinals will be held over two days, the third-place playoff will take place the following day and the final the day after that.
A couple key matchups early on in the preliminary round could have key implications for the finals. Make sure to catch these games.
This matchup, scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 2 at 11:30 a.m. ET, will be the only one in Group C to include two top-10 ranked teams.
Team USA started Derrick Rose, Steph Curry, James Harden, Kenneth Faried and Anthony Davis in its exhibition game against Brazil on Aug. 16. It's not quite the group the United States could have had heading into the preliminaries, and it looks quite different than the 2012 Olympics team. There's no Kevin Love or Blake Griffin here, and after Paul George's leg injury and Kevin Durant's withdrawal, look for Harden to become a leader on this team.
"I love James," coach Mike Krzyzewski told CBS Sports' Ken Berger after the exhibition game. "We have a great, great relationship. And that communication between the two of us could translate to even better communication with the guys on the floor. ...Since Kevin left, he's asserted himself even more."
Team USA is undersized when held up against the top international teams. Turkey's team is developing the affectionate nickname "12 Giant Men." This rematch of the 2010 FIBA World Championship final will be must-watch television.
When Spain takes on France in the preliminary round Wednesday, Sept. 3, it will make for a clash of two powerhouses. Both ranked in the top 10, Gasol's Spanish team has been consistently competitive in recent years but has a string of close finishes, which include a silver medal in the 2008 Olympics, a sixth-place finish in the 2010 World Cup and another silver medal in the 2012 Olympics.
That second-place finish in 2012, behind gold medal-winning United States, means Spain will want to have a rematch in the 2014 FIBA World Cup finals. But to do that, it has to get through France.
Spain is stacked with star power, including Marc Gasol and his brother Pau, Rubio, Jose Calderon and Serge Ibaka. It has one of the best frontcourts in the tournament.
France suffered a loss after guard Nando de Colo injured his left hand in a tune-up game against Ukraine. He was replaced by Charles Kahudi, as USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt reported.
Charles Kahudi replaced Nando de Colo on France national team for FIBA World Cup, per federation.— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) August 18, 2014
Play in the preliminary round will open on Aug. 30. On that day, be sure to catch matchups between Puerto Rico and No. 3 Argentina as well as Mexico and No. 4 Lithuania.