The group stage at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup is in the books, which means that the tournament is over for some teams but just starting for Team USA.
As expected, the Americans breezed through their opening five games against groupmates Turkey, Dominican Republic, New Zealand, Ukraine and Finland. And they did so in dominating fashion, accumulating a massive points differential of plus-166.
Resounding winners of Group C, the Americans avoided the same side of the draw as Spain. But a couple of dangerous teams lie on Team USA's side that could pose trouble if it isn't at its best.
The group stage results are in, so take a look at how Team USA's road to the gold medal game looks now that the dust has settled.
|Round of 16||Date||Time (ET)|
|USA vs. Mexico||Saturday, Sept. 6||TBD|
|USA/Mexico vs. Dominican Republic/Slovenia||Tuesday, Sept. 9||TBD|
|Semifinals*||Thursday, Sept. 11||3 p.m.|
|Gold Medal Game||Sunday, Sept. 14||3 p.m.|
* Semifinal opponent will be winner of New Zealand-Lithuania and Turkey-Australia games
Note: Up-to-date bracket can be found at FIBA.com.
How They Got Here
|Aug. 30||USA 114, Finland 55|
|Aug. 31||USA 98, Turkey 77|
|Sept. 2||USA 98, New Zealand 71|
|Sept. 3||USA 106, Dominican Republic 71|
|Sept. 4||USA 95, Ukraine 71|
Nobody expected it to be perfect with this group, but Team USA has been more than dominant through the group stage.
Coach K's crew opened up play with a bang, routing Finland and outscoring the Fins 29-2 in the second quarter. Two quarters and a near-60-point win later, Team USA had plenty of momentum going into a tough Turkey matchup.
But apparently not enough, as the Americans were beaten soundly by the Turks in the first half to take a five-point deficit into the break. But Team USA's superior athleticism and size eventually shone through to propel them to another 20-plus-point victory.
Blowout wins have been the norm for Team USA, but the defensive lapses have been there—namely in defending other nations' quick guards. But strong play from bigs Kenneth Faried and Anthony Davis have been more than enough to negate any impact players on the other end.
Sharp-shooting guards like Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson gracing the roster might have indicated the team would be letting it fly from deep. But Krzyzewski explained to Team USA's official site after their final group-stage game how that's not the case as far as he can tell.
I think this team has been pretty balanced. We haven't really shot the 3 as much as our three previous teams and it just worked out that way. I think part of it is once we started hitting a couple of 3s, the inside opened and our guys were very unselfish.
This year's team in Spain seems to be getting it done a different way, but there's no doubt that it works. And when you have the amount of NBA talent that Coach K does on his team, that should be no surprise.
Road to Gold Medal Game
The Americans have been breezing through their competition so far in Spain, and that's not really going to change until late in the tournament.
After sweeping the group stage, Team USA is set to face the fourth-place finisher in Group D—Mexico, even though the Mexicans lost three of their five games and finished with a negative point differential.
The Americans' round-of-16 matchup could end up being easier than some of their group stage affairs, and the quarterfinals might not be much tougher.
Should Team USA cruise against Mexico, it would face either Dominican Republic or Slovenia next in the quarters. The U.S. has beaten both of those teams by at least 30 points each over the last week—Dominican Republic in the group stage and Slovenia in preliminaries.
The only time the Americans might get caught sleeping would be in the semifinals, where they could face Turkey or Lithuania. But considering Team USA already had a recent scare against Turkey and it will be playing for its tournament survival, overlooking an opponent isn't likely.
Like many could tell from the onset, Team USA isn't likely to be tested much at all until the big one.
After Spain beat its five opponents in the group stage by a combined 126 points, it's apparent that these two nations are on a collision course.
As long as both teams take it one game at a time and don't look too far ahead, the sheer amount of talent on the Spain and USA rosters will be enough to make for a 2012 Olympics rematch. At that point, it will be up to this young team full of inexperienced stars to beat a Spanish side nearly at full strength.