FIBA World Cup 2014: Outlook and Predictions for Groups

Tim Keeney@@t_keenContributor IAugust 29, 2014

LAS PALMAS, GRAN CANARIA, SPAIN - AUGUST 26: Derrick Rose #6 of the USA Men's National Team defends the ball against the Slovenia National Team on August 26, 2014 at Gran Canaria Arena in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Spain. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
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There will be no waiting until October or November this year: Your thirst for basketball will be quenched by September. 

The 2014 FIBA World Cup is on the horizon. Sure, it's not quite on the level of the Olympics in terms of player participation, but it's an important tournament—the winner automatically qualifies for the 2016 Summer Games—and will feature many of the world's best players and teams. 

Let's take a closer look at the countries headed to Spain, and how they'll fare in group play. There are six teams in each group and the top four teams from each advance to the elimination round.


Group A

2014 FIBA World Cup: Projected Group A Order
Top 4 Advance to Knockout Rounds

Four of the world's top 11 ranked teams—Spain, France, Brazil, Serbia—reside here, making it basketball's version of the "Group of Death." Heck, even Iran, which won the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, would be a sleeper to watch in any other group. 

Of course, even with so much talent, Spain is the obvious choice to finish at the top. With arguably the best frontcourt in the tournament in Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, and a pair of table-setting guards in Jose Calderon and Ricky Rubio, Juan Antonio Orenga's team is absolutely stacked.

Playing at home, the Spaniards are right there with the United States as tournament favorites. Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix put it simply:

The fight for second in the group will be a compelling one between Brazil and France. Nicolas Batum is the best player between the two teams, but with Tony Parker absent, the Brazilians have the slight advantage.

Rudy Gobert is important for the success of this young French squad, but he's going to be stifled by Anderson Varejao and Nene down low. 

Serbia will finish fourth. 


Group B

2014 FIBA World Cup: Projected Group B Order
4Puerto Rico
Top 4 Advance to Knockout Rounds

Although this group isn't nearly as deep, it does feature Argentina and Greece, teams that are both ranked top five in the world. 

Even without Manu Ginobili, the Argentines can be dangerous. Pablo Prigioni and Facundo Campazzo are a nice mix of steady veteran and burgeoning youngster in the backcourt, while Luis Scola provides a fundamental post presence. 

Greece, meanwhile, is built around the Milwaukee Bucks' tantalizing star Giannis Antetokounmpo. At 6'10" with go-go-gadget arms and point guard skills, the "Greek Freak" is built for international competition.

Argentina and Scola looked horrendous in a recent 30-point loss against Spain. I'll take Antetokounmpo and Greece to top the group. 


Group C

2014 FIBA World Cup: Projected Group C Order
1United States
3New Zealand
4Dominican Republic
Top 4 Advance to Knockout Round

Obviously, it's the United States and everyone else. 

The overarching theme of the summer was the resignation of major stars, and the Americans will be without LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Chris Paul and several others. But it doesn't matter. 

They have electric scorers in James Harden and Steph Curry, Anthony Davis is an all-around monster who has quickly established himself as the team's most important player and as always, they are on another level athletically. 

More importantly, the defense, which was a concern, has been ctrl+alt+delete during the exhibition warm-ups, as's John Schuhmann noted:

"I'm excited about the 12 players selected and feel we have excellent versatility and the makings of a really good defensive team," head coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters, via the Boston Herald.

Turkey, ranked seventh in the world, should finish second the group behind Omer Asik and Co., while it will be an interesting battle for the remaining two spots. 

We'll go with New Zealand and Dominican Republic, who both have a nice blend of youth and experience. 


Group D

2014 FIBA World Cup: Projected Group D Order
6South Korea
Top 4 Advance to Knockout Round

Lithuania is ranked No. 4 in the world behind a couple of talented big men in Jonas Valanciunas and Donatas Motiejunas, but it's hard not to like this Australia squad. 

In the backcourt, Dante Exum is incredibly talented, while Matthew Dellavedova is a pick-and-roll maestro and solid defender who impressed as an underrated rookie with the Cleveland Cavaliers last year. Down low, Cameron Bairstow and Aron Baynes are a couple of bruisers who will give teams fits, while Brock Motum proved to be a talented scorer at Washington State. 

Bleacher Report's D.J. Foster offered great praise to the Boomers:

Slovenia is going to go as far as Goran Dragic takes it, and No. 3 in the group feels right. Mexico, behind Gustavo Ayon and the defensive pest Jorge Gutierrez, are better than Angola and South Korea.