After one month of exhibition games and roster cuts, the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup begins in earnest on Saturday with a full slate of games. The last game of the day features Spain and Iran.
Spain is the host country for the event, with 24 teams around the world fighting to win the tournament and secure a spot in the 2016 Summer Olympics to be held in Brazil. Not that the home-town team needed extra incentive to put in a good performance, it certainly has one.
Iran, on the other hand, is looking to vastly improve on its 19th-place finish at this event in 2010. It's also looking to qualify for the Olympics for just the second time in the last 22 years, with 2008 being its most recent appearance on the grandest stage in the world.
Here is a preview for the Spain-Iran clash, including where and when to watch the game.
Where: City, Arena, Granada
When: Saturday, August 30
Start Time: 4 p.m. ET
Live Stream: ESPN3.com
Rosters for both teams can be found at FIBA.com
|Iran 2014 FIBA World Cup Roster|
|C||Rouzbeh Arghavan||Zob Ahan Esfahan, Superleague|
|PG||Sajjad Mashayekhi||Mahram Tehran, Superleague|
|SG||Behnam Yakchali||Petrochimi Bandar Imam Harbour, Superleague|
|PG||Mahdi Kamrani||Petrochimi Bandar Imam Harbour|
|F||Arsalan Kazemi||Petrochimi Bandar Imam Harbour, Superleague|
|PF||Oshin Sahakian||Mahram Tehran, Superleague|
|F||Arman Zangeneh||Mahram Tehran, Superleague|
|SG||Hamed Afagh||Petrochimi Banar Imam Harbour, Superleague|
|C||Asghar Kardoust||Kazma, D1|
|SF||Mohammad Jamshidi||Azad University Tehran, Superleague|
|SF||Samad Nikkhah Bahrami||Mahram Tehran, Superleague|
|C||Hamed Haddadi||Mahram Tehran, Superleague|
This game is a mismatch, whether you look at it on paper or in practice. Spain is one of the best teams in the world, a threat to at least a medal at the Olympics and featuring NBA stars like Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Jose Calderon and Serge Ibaka.
Even in the exhibition games, Spain was one of the two best teams in the world. It went undefeated in eight games, winning by an average margin of 18.5 points. The United States was the only other team without a loss (4-0).
Rob Mahoney of SI.com listed Spain as America's biggest threat to a title, citing its impressive size inside as the main reason:
Spain is loaded, topped by the ridiculous frontcourt triumvirate of Memphis' Marc Gasol, Chicago's Pau Gasol and Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka. Those three could anchor a perfectly solid World Cup team on their own, but Spain has the luxury of surrounding them with a quality group of perimeter players.
Iran doesn't have the luxury of boasting established NBA stars like Spain, though center Hamed Haddadi can be a problematic post presence for Spain. He's just 29 years old and listed at 7'2", 254 pounds. No one on the Spanish squad can match that size, though he was never able to make good use of it in five NBA seasons.
Also, the Iranian team isn't efficient on either side of the ball. In 18 preparation games, they have averaged 70.2 points and allowed 70.3 points per game. It's the very definition of a .500 team, which is why their 8-10 mark in those exhibition games isn't a surprise.
Unless Spain isn't motivated, for whatever reason, to win this game and Iran can get out to a big lead early, there's no reason to expect an upset. The game is in Spain, so there will be a home-court advantage and the Spanish team has been on fire.
Prediction: Spain 101, Iran 75