FIBA Predictions: International Basketball Betting Odds and Picks
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 8/25/2010
The FIBA World Championships begin this week. While nowhere near as big in popularity and attention as soccer’s World Cup, the World Championships are also every four years and share similar qualification and scheduling formats to determine a winner.
The FIBA tournament may only be held once every four years, but coupled with the quadrennial Olympic men’s basketball tournament, an international basketball champion is decided every two years.
The biggest difference between the Olympics and the World Championships is that the United States dominance on the basketball court is limited only to the Olympics. The United States has won 13 gold medals in the Olympics; no other country has more than two. The United States has won three gold medals at the World Championships, but so have Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, and the U.S. has not won since 1994.
This year’s tournament is hosted by Turkey and starts Saturday, Aug. 28. It lasts more than two weeks with the gold medal game taking place on Sunday, Sept. 12, or what is better known in this country as NFL Week 1.
The automatic qualifiers, host nation Turkey and 2008 Olympic champions USA, are joined by 22 other qualifiers who advanced through continental qualifying tournaments. The teams were then drawn into four six-team groups. Group play begins on Saturday with teams playing five games in their group; once again each opponent and the top four teams advance to the Round of 16 where it is single elimination.
Here is a breakdown of countries to keep an eye on in the tournament as well as my FIBA predictions with odds to win the gold medal in parentheses. Odds are courtesy of BetUS.
United States (-200)
They may not dominate this tournament like they do the Olympics, but it’s tough not to make the United States the favorite going in. Their roster consists of all NBA talent, the only country who can say that. Guards Derrick Rose, Chauncey Billups and Stephen Curry made the final 12-person roster as did wing players Kevin Durant and Rudy Gay and the front line will be headlined by Lamar Odom and Andre Iguodala. A ‘dream team’ this is not; there are no Boston Celtics after Rajon Rondo withdrew from the team, Odom is the only member of the defending champion Lakers and the big three of Miami are also noticeably absent.
The United States should have no problem winning its group with only Brazil expected to put up a fight. If the brackets hold true to form USA and Spain could be on a collision course in the semifinals.
Spain finds itself in a particularly tough group with capable teams like France, Canada and Lithuania. That bodes well for the Spaniards as every team likes to get tested early on and considering four teams make it out of the six-team group not advancing is nearly mathematically impossible.
The defending FIBA champions will be without one of the heroes of 2006 World Championships, point guard Jose Calderon. He was also important in the 2008 Olympics when Spain gave the USA its toughest two games of the tournament. Remaining a favorite even without a star player is a luxury only Spain and the USA have in this tournament. Spain still has Ricky Rubio, Rudy Fernandez and 2006 FIBA MVP Pau Gasol. The Spaniards will look to continue an unprecedented run of international success for its country, which has seen the soccer team, Rafael Nadal and Alberto Contador represent its country triumphantly on the biggest stages.
The fourth ranked team in the world according to FIBA, Greece is always dangerous in international competition. What Greece lacks in household names it more than makes up with experience and a team chemistry that is second to none. The chemistry comes from the fact that nearly the entire roster plays professionally in the country and seven members on the international team play on club league powerhouse Pathaniakos.
The roster that has helped Greece to silver at the 2006 FIBA championship and bronze last year at Euro Basket is intact with the likes of Vassilis Spanoulis, Atonis Fotsis, Nikos Zisis and Dimitris Diamantidis. Those names may not sound familiar, but on the international stage they are well known. Greece also has a new addition, a more familiar one for collegiate basketball fans, in Nick Calathes, a former Florida Gator.
According to the brackets and the oddsmakers, Greece is the most likely of opponent for the USA in the Gold Medal game. The odds of a USA/Greece matchup happening are +250.
The top-ranked team in the world according to FIBA, Argentina will find it an uphill climb just to win its group that also features Serbia. Argentina won Olympic gold in 2004, but the No. 1 ranking does not make much sense considering they only finished with a bronze at the 2008 World Championship.
The Argentines do have plenty of NBA talent on the team including Carlos Delfino, Andrew Nocioni, Luis Scola and Fabricio Oberto. The loss of Manu Ginobili really deals the team a blow. They can still win without Ginobili, but it is hard to imagine them getting through one of the big three, USA, Spain and Greece, without him.
The fifth-ranked team in the FIBA rankings is No. 1 when it comes to height. The average height of the team is 6-foot-8. This is a team nobody wants to play. They are tall but they also have one of the youngest teams in the field.
Most of these players in their early 20s dominated international competition on the youth level and some were around for a second-place finish in EuroBasket 2009. Seven-foot tall Nenad Krstic of the Oklahoma City Thunder is the top player for Serbia.
Serbia is a 16-point favorite in its opening game against Angola. Group A will very likely come down to Serbia’s game against FIBA’s top-ranked team, Argentina on Sept. 2, the final day of group play.
The Brazilians do have a past of success in this tournament although there have been no medals since 1978. This year Brazil brings with it the most talent it has had in recent memory. The Brazilians have their work cut out for them playing in the same group of the USA, but that also means if they were to survive through the knockout rounds, Brazil would likely avoid the USA until the championship game.
NBA stars Anderson Varejao, Leandro Barbosa and Tiago Splitter will need to step up now that Denver Nuggets big man Nene Hilario has withdraw from the tournament with an injury. Brazil is a huge 21-point favorite in its opening game against Iran.
You would think a country bearing the name of the greatest basketball player of all time would have a decent shot in this tournament. They’re more like the Michael Jordan of baseball. Jordan, the country, is ranked No. 38 by FIBA and shares the worst odds in the tournament along with Tunisia. Jordan opens the tournament as 15-point underdogs against Australia.
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