Two powerhouse basketball national teams—Argentina and Greece lead Group B of the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain. However, another top team in Croatia and dark horse squad Puerto Rico are looking to crash the party at the top and underdogs like the Philippines and Senegal aim for an upset or two in the basketball world championships held in Spain from Aug. 30 to Sept. 13, 2014.
The Argentines and Greek are ranked 3rd and 5th, respectively in the FIBA World Rankings and as such are considered the top favourites in the group, at least in the betting lines. However, both had to qualify for the worlds the hard way as Argentina finished 3rd in the FIBA Americas continental championship while Greece had to be chosen as a wildcard qualifier after completely struggling in the FIBA Europe continental championship with just 1 win in five games.
Meanwhile, Croatia landed 4th in the 2013 Eurobasket while Puerto Rico finished 2nd in the Americas tourney and both teams are considered legit contenders in Group B. The Philippines took silver in the Asian Championship while Senegal bagged bronze in African Championship to qualify for the World Cup.
Top Players to Watch in Group B of FIBA World Cup
Nick Calathes (Greece, 6’6” point guard) – The PG played last for the Memphis Grizzlies in the National Basketball Association (NBA) and will serve as the veteran presence for the relatively old Greek squad, which has an average age of 27 years old. The 25-year-old averaged 4.9 points and 2.9 assists in 71 games for the Grizzlies but has always improved statistics in international play with a bigger role for his national team. He averaged 9.2 points and 2.6 rebounds for Greece at the 2011 EuroBasket.
Renaldo Balkman (Puerto Rico, 6’7” power forward) – Controversial and undersized, Balkman has found his niche with the Puerto Rican NT with his constant energy and hustle on both ends of the floor. An NBA veteran who suited up for the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks from 2006 to 2012, Balkman took his act to the South American professional basketball leagues recently. Balkman led Puerto Rico to the silver finish in the continent with 18.7 points and 8.9 rebounds.
Maleye Ndoye (Senegal, 6’8” small forward) – A long-time member of the NT, Ndoye averages 11.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists for Senegal since his NT debut in 2005. At the 2007 FIBA Africa Championship, he logged in 15.2 PPG and recently at in the 2013 edition of the continental championship he averaged 10.0 PPG. Although he is already 34 years old, Senegal will look to Ndoye as one of the key contributors in their balanced offensive system.
Bojan Bogdanovic (Croatia, 6’8” shooting guard) – Recently signed by the Brooklyn Nets in the NBA, Bogdanovi exploded in the 2013 Eurobasket with averages of 17.1 points and 4.1 rebounds per game and was the leading scorer for his squad. Bogdanovic’s best games came against Slovenia (24 points on 2/5 3-point shooting) and Poland (23 points and 6 rebounds).
Gabe Norwood (Philippines, 6’6” small forward) – The former George Mason University (US NCAA) bench player has established himself as one of the most versatile players in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) the pro league in his home country. Norwood is expected to bring the same versatility on both ends of the floor as he will be tasked to contribute on offense and to contain the oppositions best offensive perimeter player.
Facundo Campazzo (Argentina, 5’10” point guard) - With an aging roster and already missing the services of veterans Carlos Delfino and Manu Ginobili, Campazzo at the point guard spot is not only expected to run the team but take a major load in scoring as well. The spitfire guard is a capable scorer as well being the second leading scorer for Argentina in the 2013 FIBA Americas with an average of 13.5 point per game—second in the squad next to Luis Scola’s 18.8 PPG.
Watch FIBA’s highlight videos of the top contenders for Group B below:
Members of Group B will play each other once for a total of five games in the initial round. The four teams with the best records advance to the Round of 16 knockout stage where they’ll meet national squads from Group A (Spain, Brazil, France, Serbia, Iran and Egypt).
FIBA World Cup Group B Schedule:
Aug. 30 (Saturday) Croatia vs. Philippines Puerto Rico vs. Argentina Greece vs. Senegal
Aug. 31 (Sunday) Argentina vs. Croatia Senegal vs. Puerto Rico Philippines vs. Greece
Sept. 1 (Monday) Croatia vs. Senegal Argentina vs. Philippines Puerto Rico vs. Greece
Sept. 3 (Wednesday) Puerto Rico vs. Philippines Senegal vs. Argentina Greece vs. Croatia
Sept 4 (Thursday) Senegal vs. Philippines Croatia vs. Puerto Rico Argentina vs. Greece
Which among Argentina, Greece, Puerto Rico and Croatia will live up to the billing as one of the top teams in the FIBA World Cup in Spain? Will Senegal and Philippines do enough to get a victory and maybe advance to the next round? The 2014 basketball world championships will begin play on Aug. 30, Saturday