The 2014 FIBA World Cup will waste no time heating up this summer. Every team will take the court during the tournament's second day in Spain.
As every squad looks to navigate through group play, there's a wide assortment of drama to monitor throughout the bracket. This early in the tournament, teams are still toying with the formula to pinpoint the most fruitful lineup and playing time allotments.
Twelve games stretching through all four groups will close out August in style on Sunday. Here's a look at the Sunday's full schedule.
Day 2 Schedule
|Dominican Republic vs. New Zealand||6:30 a.m.||WatchESPN||C|
|South Korea vs. Australia||7:30 a.m.||WatchESPN||D|
|Argentina vs. Croatia||7:30 a.m.||NBATV||B|
|Serbia vs. France||9:30 a.m.||NBATV||A|
|Finland vs. Ukraine||10 a.m.||WatchESPN||C|
|Slovenia vs. Mexico||11:30 a.m.||WatchESPN||D|
|Senegal vs. Puerto Rico||11:30 a.m.||WatchESPN||B|
|Brazil vs. Iran||12 p.m.||NBATV||A|
|Lithuania vs. Angola||2 p.m.||WatchESPN||D|
|Philippines vs. Greece||2 p.m.||WatchESPN||B|
|Turkey vs. United States||3:30 p.m.||ESPN||C|
|Spain vs. Egypt||4 p.m.||WatchESPN||A|
Author's personal predictions
Team USA immediately reminded the world that, with or without LeBron James and Kevin Durant, they're a force to be reckoned with.
In their opening World Cup match, the U.S. obliterated Finland, holding them to a two-point second quarter during a 115-54 slaughtering. As noted by the team's official Twitter page, the young squad dominated in a group effort.
The U.S. and Chicago Bulls have to be ecstatic to see Derrick Rose look like vintage Derrick Rose. He rose to the rim for a vicious dunk, courtesy of NBA on ESPN.
Despite missing most of the past two seasons with significant knee injuries, the former MVP made the 12-man roster over budding stars Damian Lillard and John Wall. He needs to play at his full ability to warrant that questionable choice.
Two years ago, Team USA lacked a dominant big man during their Olympic run, creating a layer of vulnerability against larger opponents such as Spain. This year, however, they have their low-post stud in Anthony Davis.
The 21-year-old leaped to stardom during his sophomore season, ranking fourth in Player Efficiency Rating (PER), via ESPN. He sports the highest PER among anyone suiting up in Spain.
ESPN's Tom Haberstroh (subscription required) noticed a stronger Davis this summer, which could spell doom for everyone else.
If you've watched the early FIBA play, Davis is visibly stronger, too. Word from the Pelicans is that he's added about 15 pounds of muscle (the NBA standard) and his shoulders are noticeably thicker these days as he packs on the weight. Seemingly every other Davis basket in FIBA action has been an and-one opportunity where opponents have no choice but to foul him. That might not have happened two years ago when he looked like a puppy finding his way.
Without any top-tier superstars on Team USA, Davis could be the difference-maker, especially combating Spain's lengthy trio.
Blessed with a dominant frontcourt of Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka, Spain lingers as Team USA's top challenger for first place. Those men prompted Mike Krzyzewsk to keep Kenneth Faried and Mason Plumlee around for a potential, and probable, first-place showdown.
Spain registered a blowout victory as well on Saturday, smashing Iran, 90-60, behind 33 points from Pau Gasol. They did so without Ibaka, who sat out the game with what he later told NBA.com's John Schuhmann was a tight hamstring.
Ibaka says he started feeling a little tightness in right hamstring yesterday. Said he'll see how he feels tomorrow to see if he can play.— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) August 30, 2014
Ibaka: "It's a hamstring, so you need to be careful."— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) August 30, 2014
Losing Ibaka for any stretch of time would be a major blow, as Spain is geared up for a long run behind him, the Gasol brothers, Jose Calderon and Ricky Rubio.
Who will win the 2014 FIBA World Cup
If anyone is going to break up the U.S-Spain finals, it's Brazil, but they didn't make a strong case on Saturday when they overcame a shaky performance to narrowly beat a Tony Parker-less France.
Brazil shot 38.7 percent from the floor and nearly cost themselves a victory by missing 10-of-24 free-throw attempts. Yet they received strong work on the glass from NBA pros Nene Hilario and Anderson Varejao, who combined for 17 boards.
Marcelinho Huertas did his part with 16 points. Now Brazil needs Leandro Barbosa to catch fire while the big men show more offensively. Barely beating France when Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw went a combined 2-of-10 from behind the arc is not a good omen.
If the opening round of games was any indication, expect favorites USA and Spain to realize the prevailing premonition of a championship clash.