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Team USA’s path to gold at the 2019 FIBA World Cup: Giannis, Nikola Jokic, Marc Gasol could potentially stand in the way

Team USA basketball has been on a long run of success following some down years in the mid-2000s, but there’s some speculation that their winning ways could come to a screeching halt in the upcoming 2019 FIBA World Cup. A lack of star power and a shaky run of tune-up games, which included a loss to Australia, has the Americans looking as vulnerable as they have in years.

That being said, they’re still the favorites to come away with the gold medal at the World Cup, albeit by a much narrower margin than they’re accustomed. Tournament competition tips off on Aug. 31, with Team USA’s first game coming on Monday, Sept. 1. 

To get an idea of the path they’ll have to face to win the tournament, here’s a look at Team USA’s first-round opponents, along with the potential teams they’ll match up against if they manage to advance all the way to the final.

*Odds as of Aug. 24 via Westgate Las Vegas Super Book

FIRST ROUND (GROUP E)

Sunday, Sept. 1: Czech Republic vs. Team USA

Czech Republic’s odds to win FIBA World Cup: 1000/1

Team USA isn’t expected to run into much opposition in their first game of the World Cup against the Czech Republic. Their only current NBA player is recent Chicago Bulls acquisition Tomas Satoransky, whom the Americans will likely harass with their bevy of long, rangy defenders. The Czech Republic hasn’t won a medal at a FIBA basketball event since 1980.

Tuesday, Sept. 3: Turkey vs. Team USA

Turkey’s odds to win FIBA World Cup: 250/1

Gone are the glory days of Mehmet Okur and Hedo Turkoglu, but Turkey boasts a solid international squad in 2019, thanks to NBA players Ersan Ilyasova, Cedi Osman and Furkan Korkmaz. While not exactly a powerhouse, Turkey should pose the biggest challenge in Team USA’s opening group.

Thursday, Sept. 5: Team USA vs. Japan

Japan’s odds to win FIBA World Cup: 2000/1

Japan’s roster has two NBA players in Washington Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura, a Gonzaga product, and Memphis Grizzlies forward Yuta Watanabe, but they’re a long shot to come out of the group.

SECOND ROUND (GROUP K)

The top two teams from Team USA’s first-round group (Group E) will advance to play the top two teams from Group F in the second round. According to the odds, the two most likely teams to advance from Group F are Greece and Brazil, so that’s what we’ll assume when looking at the path for Team USA.

Saturday, Sept. 7: Brazil vs. Team USA

Brazil’s odds to win FIBA World Cup: 250/1  

Brazil has performed well in international competition over the past decade, and they’re led by former NBA standouts Leandro Barbosa and Anderson Varejao. Also on the roster are current NBA players Cristiano Felicio of the Chicago Bulls and Bruno Caboclo of the Memphis Grizzlies. They’ll provide a solid matchup for Team USA should they get that far.

Monday, Sept. 9: Greece vs. Team USA

Greece’s odds to win FIBA World Cup: 10/1

Any team that features the MVP of the NBA is going to be a tough matchup, and Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is easily the most imposing player in the tournament. He’ll lead a Greece squad which has the third-best odds to win the World Cup, and will be flanked by his brother and Bucks teammate Thanasis Antetokounmpo, along with former NBA players Georgios Papagiannis, Nick Calathes and Kostas Papanikolaou. This will be a game you don’t want to miss.

ELIMINATION ROUND

The top two teams from Group K will advance to the single-elimination bracket, starting with the quarterfinals. Again, we’ve predicted Team USA’s opponents assuming the Americans win Group K, and taking the top teams in terms of odds from each of the other groups.

Quarterfinals — Wednesday, Sept. 11: Australia vs. Team USA

Australia’s odds to win FIBA World Cup: 30/1

Skeptics of Team USA had their wildest suspicions realized when Australia snapped the Americans’ 78-game winning streak by pulling out a 98-94 exhibition win in Melbourne on Aug. 24. If the teams do end up meeting in the quarterfinals, the Aussies will have plenty of confidence and Team USA will have revenge on the brain. San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills was a thorn in the Americans’ side, dropping 30 points in their exhibition win, and he’ll be complemented by fellow NBA players Joe Ingles, Matthew Dellavedova, Aron Baynes and Andrew Bogut.

Semifinals — Friday, Sept. 13: Spain vs. Team USA

Spain’s odds to win FIBA World Cup: 20/1

Team USA handled Spain in an exhibition in mid-August, but they’re a notoriously tough matchup for the Americans — and everyone else, for that matter. Led by NBA players Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Willy Hernangomez and Juancho Hernangomez, Spain has a complete roster capable of getting hot from 3-point range and taking over a game. Team USA had memorable wins over Spain to win Olympic gold medals in both 2008 and 2012, and while the stakes and star power might not be as great this time around, it would likely be another matchup to remember.

Final — Sunday, Sept. 15: Serbia vs. Team USA

Serbia’s odds to win FIBA World Cup: 2/1

A close second to Team USA in terms of gold medal favorites, Serbia is a deep and talented squad led by breakout NBA star Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets. They have plenty of strong NBA talent outside of Jokic as well, including Sacramento Kings teammates Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nemanja Bjelica, Philadelphia 76ers big man Boban Marjanovic and former Los Angeles Clippers point guard Milos Teodosic. If both teams make it to the final, there’s a good chance that Serbia could walk away with the gold medal.

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