If you need a break from all the college football Saturday, you can get your fair share of patriotism and hoops on ESPN.
The United States opens up the 2014 FIBA World Cup Saturday, and here is a look at the schedule and broadcast information for the game against Finland.
|Date||Matchup||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream|
|Saturday, Aug. 30||United States vs. Finland||3:30 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
This will be Finland’s first-ever appearance in the FIBA World Cup after it finished in a tie for ninth place with Belgium in last year’s EuroBasket. Along the way, Finland earned victories over Turkey, Russia, Slovenia and Greece and impressed a number of times on the floor.
Interestingly, there was a bit of controversy when FIBA announced Finland as one of the four wild cards early in February. Finland was No. 37 in the world at the time, while the other three picks (Greece, Turkey and Brazil) were Nos. 5, 7 and 10. Teams like China, Canada and Russia were left out.
It’s not as if there isn’t at least some talent on Finland, though.
Erik Murphy, who was drafted by the Chicago Bulls last season before getting waived in April, can shoot from the outside and stretch the floor from the forward position. He will also battle down low for rebounds.
Murphy was recently claimed off waivers by the Utah Jazz and then traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
While Murphy may be the most recognizable name on the Finland roster for NBA fans, he isn’t the player the Americans have to direct most of their defensive attention toward. That would be point guard Petteri Koponen, who uses his impressive ball-handling skills and quickness to attack the rim and create opportunities for his teammates.
Another player to keep an eye on is big man Hanno Mottola, who will challenge the red, white and blue down low and on the boards. He’s 37 years old and past his prime, but look for him to at least contend with Anthony Davis and company down low.
While Mottola, Koponen and Murphy will help keep Finland in the game for the first half, the United States is going to win this contest big based on talent alone. We are talking about a group of NBA superstars against a squad that only got in the World Cup with some controversy in the first place.
There is one thing in particular that will be worth watching for American fans even in a dominant win.
Derrick Rose’s knees are going to be tested early on in this tournament with five games in six days. He missed practice time and an exhibition with soreness, lost his starting role to Kyrie Irving (who will start Saturday) and hasn’t been that productive in limited minutes in the exhibition games.
It may seem like we’ve been down this road before, but until Rose makes it through an entire NBA season and playoffs health will be a concern.
Rose commented on the topic recently, via ESPN.com’s Marc Stein:
DRose after practice today: "I know the questions are going to come and [are] going to be there the whole year, so I can’t get tired of it"— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) August 29, 2014
Mike Krzyzewski still has serious depth in the backcourt with Irving, James Harden, Stephen Curry and DeMar DeRozan, so it’s not absolutely necessary that Rose plays at an MVP level. However, he is going to have to play some minutes with that schedule.
For now, Irving will start after scoring 13 points and dishing out two assists in the exhibition against Slovenia. By contrast, Rose scored three points and tallied one assist. Koponen will be a formidable test for Rose, and Coach K may give the Bulls star some extra minutes late in the contest if it is a blowout just to see if his knees hold up.
While a title at the World Cup may not depend on those knees, Chicago’s season certainly does.
Prediction: United States 101, Finland 75
Follow me on Twitter: