The United States national basketball team has high expectations for the 2014 FIBA World Cup, but they will have to prove themselves on the court.
After winning the 2010 tournament and dominating the past couple of summer Olympics, it is clear Team USA is the most talented squad in the field. However, injuries and declined invitations have forced the squad to play without many of the best players the nation has to offer.
While there is still plenty of skill on the roster between Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, Stephen Curry and others, head coach Mike Krzyzewski will have a tougher job than in past tournaments.
The better opponents will come in the knockout stage, but the American must first make it through these group-stage battles in Bilbao, Spain.
When: August 30 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Watch: ESPN, ESPN3
One of the big questions with this team is which player will start at point guard. Both Irving and Rose have showcased plenty of ability in the exhibitions and are capable of running the offense to perfection.
Krzyzewski explained before the latest game against Slovenia, "We'll see as [the] thing goes on. We might alternate 'em. Both of them are going to play significant minutes," via ESPN's Marc Stein.
While it is fine putting every player on the court in the exhibition games, the start of the tournament will be a chance for the coaching staff to shorten the bench and give increased minutes to the players who are really expecting to make an impact. Even though both Rose and Irving will play, one of them should clearly get the majority of playing time.
Finland has a quality backcourt with solid defensive players, which should make this first game a good test for both of these star players.
Date: August 31 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Watch: ESPN, ESPN3
Although Turkey does not have many familiar names on the roster, this is one of the best teams in the tournament and could be the United States' toughest test in the group stage.
Turkey went all the way to the finals of the 2010 World Cup before losing to USA, and Omer Asik leads a strong frontcourt that can challenge the younger Americans. The good news is Anthony Davis is looking as good as ever, coming through with a strong all-around performance against Slovenia:
Line of the Night: @AntDavis23 18 pts, 11 rebs, 4 stls, 4 blks, 0 fouls, 0 TOs, W (in 18 minutes)— Chris Palmer (@ChrisPalmerNBA) August 27, 2014
Nate Duncan of Basketball Insiders also noted how well Davis played on the defensive end:
I seriously cannot express how good AD has been defensively in this game. Amazing on P&R, tons of steals and blocks.— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) August 26, 2014
Date: September 2 at 11:30 a.m. ET
Watch: ESPN2, ESPN3
New Zealand does not represent a huge challenge in this tournament, but there are a few players from the college ranks capable of creating some surprises.
With the young lineup, the biggest thing the United States has to worry about is endurance. Many of the American players have a lot of mileage on their legs already in their career and might struggle to keep up in a fast-paced game.
As a result, this might be a good opportunity for Krzyzewski to showcase his bench. Versatile players like Klay Thompson and DeMar DeRozan might become more valuable in this game to keep the starters fresh for the first of three games in a row.
Date: September 3 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Watch: ESPN2, ESPN3
The United States had no problem against the Dominican Republic the last time out:
Team USA dominates Dominican Republic in FIBA World Cup tune-up, 105-62. pic.twitter.com/FqgoDsCNoL— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 21, 2014
Considering there is no ringer on the way, it is hard to imagine the Dominican Republic coming back with a performance any better this time around.
The one thing they have going for them is good guard play behind Edgar Sosa and Francisco Garcia. This quick duo have a chance to get into the lane against sub-par defenders like James Harden and Curry. If they can hit their shots, they can expose a weak part of the American lineup.
That being said, the United States should have more than enough offense to survive this battle.
Date: September 4 at 11:30 a.m. ET
Watch: ESPN2, ESPN3
The Ukraine is ranked 45th in the latest FIBA World Rankings, which does not bode well for their chances in a 24-team tournament. The only NBA player on the roster is Viacheslav Kravtsov, who has played in 45 games over the past two years.
While it is important not to overlook anyone at this level, the United States should be able to easily come through with a victory in the final group-stage match.
This game will be the last chance for the Americans to work out the kinks before the single-elimination portion of the competition. As long as they play near their ability, though, this will not be a close game.
|Aug 30||Croatia vs. Philippines||6:30 a.m.||B|
|Aug 30||Ukraine vs. Dominican Republic||6:30 a.m.||C|
|Aug 30||Angola vs. South Korea||7:30 a.m.||D|
|Aug 30||Egypt vs. Serbia||9:30 a.m.||A|
|Aug 30||New Zealand vs. Turkey||10 a.m.||C|
|Aug 30||Austria vs. Slovenia||11:30 a.m.||D|
|Aug 30||Puerto Rico vs. Argentina||11:30 a.m.||B|
|Aug 30||France vs. Brazil||12 p.m.||A|
|Aug 30||Mexico vs. Lithuania||2 p.m.||D|
|Aug 30||Greece vs. Senegal||2 p.m.||B|
|Aug 30||United States vs. Finland||3:30 p.m.||C|
|Aug 30||Iran vs. Spain||4 p.m.||A|
|Aug 31||Dominican Republic vs. New Zealand||6:30 a.m.||C|
|Aug 31||South Korea vs. Australia||7:30 a.m.||D|
|Aug 31||Argentina vs. Croatia||7:30 a.m.||B|
|Aug 31||Serbia vs. France||9:30 a.m.||A|
|Aug 31||Finland vs. Ukraine||10 a.m.||C|
|Aug 31||Slovenia vs. Mexico||11:30 a.m.||D|
|Aug 31||Senegal vs. Puerto Rico||11:30 a.m.||B|
|Aug 31||Brazil vs. Iran||12 p.m.||A|
|Aug 31||Lithuania vs. Angola||2 p.m.||D|
|Aug 31||Philippines vs. Greece||2 p.m.||B|
|Aug 31||Turkey vs. United States||3:30 p.m.||C|
|Aug 31||Spain vs. Egypt||4 p.m.||A|
|Sept 1||Croatia vs. Senegal||6:30 a.m.||B|
|Sept 1||Iran vs. Serbia||9:30 a.m.||A|
|Sept 1||Argentina vs. Philippines||11:30 a.m.||B|
|Sept 1||France vs. Egypt||12 p.m.||A|
|Sept 1||Puerto Rico vs. Greece||2 p.m.||B|
|Sept 1||Brazil vs. Spain||4 p.m.||A|
|Sept 2||Angola vs. Mexico||7:30 a.m.||D|
|Sept 2||Ukraine vs. Turkey||9 a.m.||C|
|Sept 2||Australia vs. Lithuania||11:30 a.m.||D|
|Sept 2||United States vs. New Zealand||11:30 a.m.||C|
|Sept 2||South Korea vs. Slovenia||2 p.m.||D|
|Sept 2||Finland vs. Dominican Republic||3:30 p.m.||C|
|Sept 3||Mexico vs. Australia||7:30 a.m.||D|
|Sept 3||Philippines vs. Puerto Rico||7:30 a.m.||B|
|Sept 3||New Zealand vs. Ukraine||9 a.m.||C|
|Sept 3||Egypt vs. Iran||9:30 a.m.||A|
|Sept 3||Slovenia vs. Angola||11:30 a.m.||D|
|Sept 3||Senegal vs. Argentina||11:30 a.m.||B|
|Sept 3||Turkey vs. Finland||11:30 a.m.||C|
|Sept 3||Serbia vs. Brazil||12 p.m.||A|
|Sept 3||Lithuania vs. South Korea||2 p.m.||D|
|Sept 3||Greece vs. Croatia||2 p.m.||B|
|Sept 3||Dominican Republic vs. United States||3:30 p.m.||C|
|Sept 3||Spain vs. France||4 p.m.||A|
|Sept 4||Australia vs. Angola||7:30 a.m.||D|
|Sept 4||Senegal vs. Philippines||8 a.m.||B|
|Sept 4||Finland vs. New Zealand||9 a.m.||C|
|Sept 4||Brazil vs. Egypt||9:30 a.m.||A|
|Sept 4||South Korea vs. Mexico||11:30 a.m.||D|
|Sept 4||Ukraine vs. United States||11:30 a.m.||C|
|Sept 4||Iran vs. France||12 p.m.||A|
|Sept 4||Croatia vs. Puerto Rico||12 p.m.||B|
|Sept 4||Lithuania vs. Slovenia||3:30 p.m.||D|
|Sept 4||Turkey vs. Dominican Republic||3:30 p.m.||C|
|Sept 4||Serbia vs. Spain||4 p.m.||A|
|Sept 4||Argentina vs. Greece||4 p.m.||B|
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