We aren’t that far off from dramatic, do-or-die games in the knockout stages of the 2014 FIBA World Cup. In fact, Thursday represents the final day of group play, and there are a full 12 games on tap.
Here is a look at the entire schedule for Day 6, including broadcast information and predictions for each contest.
|Matchup||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream||Predicted Winner|
|Australia vs. Angola||7:30 a.m.||ESPN3||WatchESPN||Australia|
|Senegal vs. Philippines||8 a.m.||ESPN3||WatchESPN||Senegal|
|Finland vs. New Zealand||9 a.m.||ESPN3||WatchESPN||New Zealand|
|Brazil vs. Egypt||9:30 a.m.||ESPN3||WatchESPN||Brazil|
|United States vs. Ukraine||11:30 a.m.||ESPN 2||WatchESPN||United States|
|South Korea vs. Mexico||11:30 a.m.||ESPN3||WatchESPN||Mexico|
|Iran vs. France||12 p.m.||ESPN3||WatchESPN||France|
|Croatia vs. Puerto Rico||12 p.m.||ESPN3||WatchESPN||Croatia|
|Turkey vs. Dominican Republic||3:30 p.m.||ESPN3||WatchESPN||Dominican Republic|
|Lithuania vs. Slovenia||3:30 p.m.||ESPN3||WatchESPN||Slovenia|
|Serbia vs. Spain||4 p.m.||ESPN3||WatchESPN||Spain|
|Argentina vs. Greece||4 p.m.||ESPN3||WatchESPN||Argentina|
It is also worth looking at the group standings as we enter such an important day of competition. The top four teams from each group advance to the next round, and seeding determines the next opponent for everyone.
|Group A||Team||Wins||Losses||Scoring +/-||Points|
|Group B||Team||Wins||Losses||Scoring +/-||Points|
|Group C||Team||Wins||W||Scoring +/-||Points|
|Group D||Team||Wins||Losses||Scoring +/-||Points|
Checking in on Uncle Sam: United States vs. Ukraine
While the Americans certainly have their sights set on an undefeated run at the World Cup, this game simply means more to Ukraine.
The United States already clinched a Group C title regardless of Thursday’s outcome, but Ukraine sits at 2-2 in a tie with Turkey and the Dominican Republic and one game ahead of 1-3 New Zealand and Finland. Seeding and a spot in the knockout stages could be on the line.
While Ukraine may be more motivated from the start, the red, white and blue will simply find a way to turn the switch to "on" when needed. That may be a kind way of saying we haven’t exactly seen consistent, 40-minute efforts yet from Team USA, but the Americans have been dominant when it is required.
They set the tone for the entire tournament with a 114-55 thrashing of Finland in the opener, overcame a third-quarter deficit to crush Turkey and went on a 22-0 run against the Dominican Republic in the second half of what was a close game.
Ukraine may get off to a fast start because of the desperation it will be playing with, but all the talent on the United States side will win out.
The main reason this game will not be that close is the advantage down low that Mike Krzyzewski’s squad enjoys. Kenneth Faried has been an absolute monster in Spain and is a blistering 29-of-36 from the field thus far. He has gotten out in transition with the guards and mixed in an array of post moves on the block.
The NBA pointed out just how effective Faried has been, while the NBA on ESPN provided a highlight from the win over the Dominican Republic:
Outside of Faried, DeMarcus Cousins was impressive Wednesday and finished with 13 points, five rebounds, two assists and a borderline-ridiculous six steals in a mere 12 minutes of action. He also hit all five of his field-goal attempts.
Anthony Davis also stuffed the box score with 10 points, seven rebounds and five blocks.
The fact that the Americans have been just unstoppable down low and also have Andre Drummond and Mason Plumlee in tow is a great sign going forward. The biggest concern entering the World Cup was the worry that the United States didn’t have the size to deal with the frontcourts of Spain and possibly even Brazil, teams which feature players like Pau Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, Anderson Varejao, Tiago Splitter and Nene.
Instead, the big men have been the team’s strength and likely will be again Thursday.
Unselfishness has also been key on a team full of superstars, as James Harden pointed out to Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press (h/t Alex Risen of wtvq.com): "We've got 12 guys that can score the basketball at any given moment, and tonight and every other night the focus is defense, and whoever scores the basketball, it's USA points."
While the focus has been on the big guys, the guards will have their hands full Thursday against Ukraine’s Eugene Jeter.
Jeter is leading his team in points with 16 a night but is also dishing out 5.8 assists a game. The 5’11” point guard sets himself and teammates up for success by beating defenders with an explosive first step and drawing help into the lane.
If nothing else, the American guards can use this matchup as a warm-up for what could be a showdown with Ricky Rubio down the road if Team USA plays Spain.
Although Jeter could create some problems, Ukraine will have no answer for the Americans down low. The undefeated streak will continue.
Prediction: United States 98, Ukraine 74
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