The 2014 FIBA World Cup gets underway on Saturday with a full slate of action. All 24 international teams that qualified for the showcase tournament will be in action for the start of the preliminary round, which will last five games.
There are four groups that each feature six teams. The top four in each pool after round-robin play will advance to the round of 16, which begins the knockout phase. The entire event will take just over two weeks, with the final slated for Sept. 14.
With that in mind, let's check out all of the important viewing information for Day 1. The schedule is followed by a breakdown and predictions for the most anticipated games on tap from the opening day of play in Spain.
|2014 FIBA World Cup - Day 1|
|Aug. 30||6:30 a.m.||Croatia vs. Philippines||WatchESPN|
|Aug. 30||6:30 a.m.||Ukraine vs. Dominican Republic||WatchESPN|
|Aug. 30||7:30 a.m.||Angola vs. South Korea||WatchESPN|
|Aug. 30||9:30 a.m.||Egypt vs. Serbia||WatchESPN|
|Aug. 30||10 a.m.||New Zealand vs. Turkey||WatchESPN|
|Aug. 30||11:30 a.m.||Australia vs. Slovenia||WatchESPN|
|Aug. 30||11:30 a.m.||Puerto Rico vs. Argentina||ESPN Deportes|
|Aug. 30||12 p.m.||France vs. Brazil||NBA TV|
|Aug. 30||2 p.m.||Mexico vs. Lithuania||WatchESPN|
|Aug. 30||2 p.m.||Greece vs. Senegal||WatchESPN|
|Aug. 30||3:30 p.m.||United States vs. Finland||ESPN|
|Aug. 30||4 p.m.||Iran vs. Spain||WatchESPN|
|Source: FIBA.com and ESPNMediaZone.com|
All televised games are also available via live stream at WatchESPN.
Predictions for Day 1's Top Games
Puerto Rico vs. Argentina
Argentina is the only country aside from the United States to win a gold medal at the Olympics since 1988, a feat accomplished in 2004. While this year's World Cup squad doesn't feature as much depth as that group and is without the emotional leader Manu Ginobili, it's still a threat to make a deep run.
The veteran quartet of Luis Scola, Leonardo Gutierrez, Andres Nocioni and Pablo Prigioni gives the squad a strong foundation of international experience. The biggest question is whether they will be able to score enough to keep pace with the top teams.
They should be tested right away by a Puerto Rican group led by the backcourt duo of J.J. Barea and Carlos Arroyo. It's an unheralded side that can't be overlooked after finishing second in the FIBA Americas Championship last year.
Since Puerto Rico is stronger on the perimeter, the onus will be on Scola to take control of the game in the post. He's used to playing a secondary offensive role in the NBA, but Argentina needs him to become a go-to option to have success on Day 1 and beyond.
Pick: Argentina by eight
France vs. Brazil
France and Brazil are in an extremely difficult Group A that also features Spain and Serbia. Barring unexpected success from Egypt or Iran both sides should safely advance, but seeding is crucial to avoid the top teams from the other pools.
Since Spain has the strongest roster and is playing on home soil, it should be able to secure the top spot. The other three teams would then battle for second, with this game potentially deciding which team ultimately gets second. Steven Loung of Sportsnet further highlights the group's strength:
Featuring four of the top 11 teams in the FIBA rankings in Spain (No. 2), France (No. 8), Brazil (No. 10) and Serbia (No. 11), Group A is definitely the strongest in the tournament.
France has a solid starting group led by Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw but is without Diaw's San Antonio Spurs teammate, Tony Parker. It will force the team to work more of an inside-out game with Diaw working as a key distributor like he did for the NBA champions in the playoffs last season.
The problem is the French squad doesn't feature as much outside scoring as the Spurs. It shifts the edge to Brazil, which should be able to protect the paint with the triumvirate of Tiago Splitter, Nene and Anderson Varejao to go along with a versatile group of guards.
Pick: Brazil by five
United States vs. Finland
In what's likely to become a far less competitive affair, the United States begins its journey with a clash against Finland. The underdogs will need to hope their international experience serves as a key factor because they can't match the Americans' talent level.
For the U.S., it's a great opportunity to continue building their rhythm after some successful exhibition contests. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski will probably rotate the lineup heavily to see which combinations are working best together.
Getting his players to adapt to the more rigid, systematic international game along with the mostly minor rule differences is always important in the early games of a tournament. Chris Kudialis of the News Observer passed along the coach's thoughts about that.
"As coaches, our mindset is that it's not our responsibility to change our players' games. But the way our players play in college and the NBA is a little different than FIBA," he said. "Basically, we need to adapt to a different style. It's an advantage other countries have over us: the continuity of playing with FIBA rules their entire lives, when our guys haven’t had the chance to do that."
It wouldn't be a surprise to see the game within striking distance into the halftime break. The United States should have enough firepower, led by Stephen Curry and James Harden, to pull away in the second half, though.
Pick: USA by 30