FIBA Tourney Tips Off this Weekend

by Joe Gabriele
Cavs.com Beat Writer

This weekend, after weeks of preparation and practice, the FIBA World Cup finally tips off in Spain.

Three Cavaliers will compete in the tournament – Kyrie Irving (USA), Anderson Varejao (Brazil) and Matthew Dellavedova (Australia). All three will be in action as play begins on Saturday, continuing on Sunday. Single-elimination begins on September 6, with the Championship game set for Sunday, September 14.

The 24-team Tourney starts on August 30 in four different cities in Spain – Granada, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Seville and the northern city of Bilbao, where Team USA takes on Finland. The elite eight, quarter- and semi-finals take place in Barcelona and Madrid and the Gold and Bronze Medal Games will be played in Madrid on September 14.

Of the 24 teams selected to play, two got automatic berths: Spain, the host country, and the United States, the Gold-medal winning team from the 2012 Olympics. Other countries qualifying are three FIBA Africa teams (Angola, Egypt and Senegal), three FIBA Asia teams (Iran, Philippines and South Korea), six FIBA Europe teams (France, Lithuania, Croatia, Slovenia, Ukraine and Serbia), two FIBA Oceania teams (Australia and New Zealand) and, finally, four Wildcard selections: Brazil, Finland, Greece and Turkey.

Team USA’s six-team bracket (Group C) includes New Zealand, Turkey, Finland, Ukraine and the Dominican Republic.

After crushing Slovenia, 101-71, in their final tune-up before tournament play, Kyrie and Team USA open up against Finland (3:30 p.m. ET). On Sunday, they take on Turkey, also at 3.30 p.m. ET.

On Saturday in Gran Canaria, Delly’s Australian squad faces off again Slovenia and take on the South Korean squad on Sunday. Varejao’s Brazilian team begins with France – which will be without the services of Tony Parker and Joakim Noah, and goes against Iran on Sunday in Granada.

Once again, the USA is the team to beat – carrying a 54-game winning streak (including exhibitions) that dates back to 2006 – in their Group C opener against the Finns. Even with several players pulling out, the U.S. still has the most talent, especially on the wings, and comes to Spain with the youngest team (24.08 years of age) since 1992.

The U.S. has plenty of talent, but not a ton of experience. James Harden and Anthony Davis are the only two players who participated on the Gold medal-winning team from the London Olympics, but Davis served as the 12th man on that squad.

Team USA should have a relatively easy run to the single-elimination round. Andy’s Brazilian squad is not so lucky – drawing the tourney’s “Group of Death” – Group A, which features the host team, Spain, which boasts a frontcourt of Marc and Pau Gasol, along with Serge Ibaka. But first, they’ll have to get past a tough French team that still features Nicolas Batum, Boris Diaw and Evan Fournier.

The Wild Thing may not log a ton of minutes in the tourney, but he still brings a ton of experience. The soon-to-be 32-year-old Varejao played in two previous FIBA World Championships (2010 and 2006) and also averaged 7.3 points and 7.0 boards for Brazil in the 2012 Olympics. In his myriad FIBA appearances, Andy’s averaged 10.2 points, 6.9 boards and 1.5 assists per game.

The Brazilians should still be a tough out – with Anderson complementing a front line that features Nene and Tiago Splitter.

After a rock-solid rookie season, Dellavedova – who left Summer League to begin training with his Australian squad – starts for the Boomers, who were dealt a tough blow when Patty Mills was sidelined with a shoulder injury. But they’re still loaded at guard – with Delly and top 5 draft pick, Dante Exum, suiting up for the Aussies.

Delly, whose squad opens against Slovenia, has averaged 7.3 points, 3.8 boards and 4.5 assists for his native land in his five FIBA competitions, including the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

After a pair of typically-stellar outings during exhibition play, Kyrie Irving moved into the starting lineup for Team USA, and he’ll likely play off the ball as well when Coach Krzyzewski brings in a healthy Derrick Rose to run the point. Either way, between Irving, Rose and Steph Curry, the U.S. can throw out any combination of dangerous point men.

It should be an interesting first six days of tournament play before things get really serious. In the meantime, wherever you’re watching – be it Cleveland or around the world – sit back and enjoy as the Wine and Gold’s triumvirate tip things off this weekend.

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