Wednesday is where the contenders begin to separate themselves from the rest of the field in group play at the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
Every squad has played in three games, and there is a full slate of 12 contests on tap. With the top four teams from each group advancing, picking up a victory on Day 5 of competition will be crucial, especially for the teams sitting at 1-2.
With all that in mind, here is a look at Wednesday’s schedule with broadcast information and predictions for each game.
|Matchup||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream||Predicted Winner|
|Philippines vs. Puerto Rico||7:30 a.m.||ESPN Deportes||WatchESPN||Philippines|
|Mexico vs. Australia||7:30 a.m.||ESPN3||WatchESPN||Australia|
|New Zealand vs. Ukraine||9 a.m.||ESPN3||WatchESPN||Ukraine|
|Egypt vs. Iran||9:30 a.m.||ESPN3||WatchESPN||Iran|
|Senegal vs. Argentina||11:30 a.m.||ESPN3||WatchESPN||Argentina|
|Turkey vs. Finland||11:30 a.m.||ESPN3||WatchESPN||Turkey|
|Slovenia vs. Angola||11:30 a.m.||ESPN3||WatchESPN||Slovenia|
|Serbia vs. Brazil||12 p.m.||ESPN3||WatchESPN||Brazil|
|Lithuania vs. South Korea||2 p.m.||ESPN3||WatchESPN||Lithuania|
|Greece vs. Croatia||2 p.m.||ESPN3||WatchESPN||Greece|
|United States vs. Dominican Republic||3:30 p.m.||ESPN 2||WatchESPN||United States|
|Spain vs. France||4 p.m.||ESPN3||WatchESPN||Spain|
We already broke down the top two games to watch Wednesday that feature the tournament’s powerhouses in the United States and Spain, so it’s worth looking at an under-the-radar contest that basketball fans should pay attention to on Day 5.
Serbia and Brazil are both 2-1 in Group A and tied with France for the second-best record. Everyone is looking up at mighty Spain (and it will stay that way), but this showdown between the Serbians and Brazilians is critical for positioning and to avoid some of the better teams in the knockout stages.
Thus far, Brazil narrowly edged out Boris Diaw and France 65-63, crushed Iran 79-50 and then got crushed itself against Spain, 82-63. Before we put too much weight on that outcome, it is important to note that the loss probably said more about Spain than Brazil.
Pau Gasol had his way with 26 points and nine rebounds, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka were also forces and Ricky Rubio and Rudy Fernandez took advantage of openings on the outside. There is simply nobody strong enough on paper to beat Spain except for the United States, and the Brazil game was over after the first quarter when Spain went ahead 30-14 and had the home crowd rocking.
In fact, that Spain victory over Brazil had everyone thinking about a potential showdown between Spain and the Americans, including Brazil coach Ruben Magnano, via John Schuhmann of NBA.com: “If they played each other, it would be a really interesting game.”
The good news going forward for Brazil is that the intensity wasn’t an issue even in a blowout loss, as Schuhmann pointed out:
Pau & Varejao getting into it. Spain coach yelling at the scorer's table. This game is pretty intense for pool play.— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) September 1, 2014
As for Serbia, it beat Egypt 85-64, lost a heartbreaker to France 74-73 that came down to the final play and bounced back with an 83-70 win over Iran. The Iran game may have been closer than expected, but the loss against France was nearly a victory over a team with some NBA talent.
Serbia will have its hands full Wednesday with the trio of big men for Brazil. Anderson Varejao, Tiago Splitter and Nene Hilario anchor the Brazilian roster and will control the boards in this one, but it is actually Leandro Barbosa who leads the squad in scoring at 10 points a game.
That Barbosa leads at only 10 a night is a testament to the depth on the Brazil side, as nobody is averaging more than 23 minutes a game in the early going. Theoretically, that will keep the players’ legs fresh as the grueling group-stage schedule winds down and we turn our attention to the knockout stages.
Serbia will counter with leading scorer Miroslav Raduljica, who is scoring 15.7 points a night. Don’t overlook Nemanja Bjelica either, who is posting averages of 12 points and a team-high 6.3 rebounds a game.
NBA fans may recognize Raduljica from his time as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks, where he played in 48 games last season and averaged 3.8 points a contest.
Even with Raduljica on the Serbia side, there is simply too much talent for Brazil. We are talking about NBA-tested players who need this victory to stay in contention for second place in the group.
A motivated combination of Varejao and Nene will be too strong on the boards and will also force multiple double-teams on the block. That will free up Barbosa for perimeter looks and penetration.
Serbia will be picking its poison all game, and that will eventually lead to a Brazil victory.
Prediction: Brazil 91, Serbia 77
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