Heading into the 2019 FIBA World Cup, Team USA was the odds-on favorite to bring home the gold medal, despite a roster lacking its usual star power. Serbia, led by Nikola Jokic, was considered the challenger with the best chance to knock off the Americans.
When the single-elimination portion of the tournament got underway, the two powerhouses appeared to be on track to meet in the semifinals. Two days later though, both USA and Serbia have been eliminated from medal contention and will instead meet in the loser’s bracket, with both clubs unable to place higher than fifth.
With the presumed top two teams in the tournament now eliminated, the World Cup is wide open, with a handful of programs very much in the mix for the gold. Here are the four remaining contenders:
Australia: The Boomers weren’t exactly dominating the early rounds of this tournament, but they managed to win all five of their round-robin games despite a modest point differential of +42 (the third-best mark in their second-round group of four teams). Led by NBA players like Patty Mills, Aron Baynes, and Joe Ingles, Australia beat the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals and will now face Spain in the semifinals.
Spain: Once considered the top international threat to Team USA, Spain had lost some talent – including longtime center Pau Gasol – entering this year’s event. But Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Juan Hernangomez, and the rest of the Spaniards have had an impressive run in China this month, winning all six games they’ve played, including an upset over Serbia and a fairly comfortable win over Poland in the quarterfinals.
Argentina: They don’t have a single current NBA player on their roster, but the Argentinians have been as dangerous as ever in this year’s World Cup, compiling a 6-0 record that includes an impressive quarterfinal victory over Serbia. Former NBA players like Luis Scola, Patricio Garino, Nicolas Laprovittola have helped lead the way, with EuroLeague point guard Facundo Campazzo dishing out 8.0 assists per game.
France: Of the remaining contenders, France is the only team that has lost a game in the World Cup, having fallen to Australia by a single basket in the second round. However, the French squad is also the only team that knocked off the U.S. in the tournament, and will look to carry that momentum into a semifinal showdown with Argentina. NBA veterans Rudy Gobert and Evan Fournier have been France’s anchors, with Nicolas Batum, Frank Ntilikina, and Nando De Colo also playing key roles.
What do you think? Which of the four remaining teams do you think will win two more games and take home World Cup gold?
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