Friday, February 23, 2024

2023 FIBA Men’s Basketball World Cup Group A Preview

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The 2023 FIBA Men’s Basketball World Cup will get underway this Friday, August 25, with games being played in the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia for this year’s event. As is the case at most every international basketball event, Team USA is the heavy favorite at -125 to win it all, but the Americans finished seventh at the 2019 World Cup (where Spain beat Argentina in the finals) and are bringing a young team without much of any international experience, meaning the outcome of this year’s tournament is far from a certainty.

As such, a number of teams have hopes of making a run at the World Cup crown, while plenty of others are looking to take a stride forward with the best result in their country’s recent basketball history. That second group is where all of the teams in Group A are at as this year’s tournament gets set to begin, as Angola, the Dominican Republic, Italy, and the Philippines will battle for a place in the knockout rounds. All four countries are long shots in the tournament — Italy at +5000 has the lowest odds of the group — but a berth in the knockout rounds would mean plenty to each squad.

The group favorites are Italy, with the Dominican Republic not far behind with a large gap back to the host Philippines and then Angola as one of the tournament’s biggest underdogs (via DraftKings).

Italy -165
Dominican Republic +150
Philippines +1600
Angola +10000

Here we’ll look at some players to watch, the biggest game, and the full schedule for Group A.

Players to Watch

Karl-Anthony Towns (Dominican Republic): The biggest NBA star in this group is Karl-Anthony Towns, who is finally making his international tournament debut for the Dominican Republic. Towns immediately brings some name recognition to the squad, but this is a team that’s had a terrific past year prior to his arrival, beating Argentina twice in qualifiers and winning the Central American and Caribbean Games back in July. A confident team adding a star the caliber of Towns makes them a genuine threat in this group and a dangerous team to potentially run into on the knockout rounds — as shown by their win over Canada last week in a tune-up game.

Lester Quinones (Dominican Republic): Quinones, who plays on a two-way with the Warriors, likewise steps into the Dominican team looking to make an impact from the backcourt. He starred for the Dominican national team at the U18 Worlds in 2018, averaging 17.5 points per game, and had 12 points in their game against Spain last week as he looks to have a similar impact on the senior squad.

Simone Fontecchio (Italy): Fontecchio had a solid rookie season in the NBA with the Utah Jazz last year, as the 27-year-old forward made the move stateside, which kept him away from Italy for most of qualifying. However, when he was able to join the squad, he scored 20-plus in each of his three appearances with the national team in the qualifiers. He’s continued that strong play in the tune-up games, scoring 26 against Brazil last week, and has proven himself as a leader for this Italian side.

Nico Mannion (Italy): Mannion will be a familiar face to American college basketball fans and anyone who was particularly fond of the 2020-21 Warriors. While he now plays in Spain professionally, he has become a stalwart for the Italian national team, averaging 15 points per game on 40 percent shooting from three in eight qualifiers for theWorld Cup. Mannion’s shooting from the perimeter is a big part of Italy’s high octane offense, as they are the highest scoring team in the world this year.

Jordan Clarkson (Philippines): The former Sixth Man of the Year will take on the starring role for the host nation, as he joins the Philippines team for this year’s World Cup. Clarkson is a dynamic scorer and with his talents on the roster, the Philippines will hope to find their way to an upset or two in the group stage to delight their basketball-crazed fans with a surprising push to the knockout rounds.

Schedule/TV Info (all times EST)

Aug. 25
Angola vs. Italy, 4:00 a.m., ESPN+
Dominican Republic vs. Philippines, 8:00 a.m., ESPN+

Aug. 27
Italy vs. Dominican Republic, 4:00 a.m., ESPN+
Philippines vs. Angola, 8:00 a.m., ESPN+

Aug. 29
Angola vs. Dominican Republic, 4:00 a.m., ESPN+
Philippines vs. Italy, 8:00 a.m., ESPN+

Game to Watch

Italy vs. Dominican Republic: This is the game that figures to decide the group winner as it pits the two group favorites against each other. More importantly, the winner of this game should be a lock to make the knockout rounds, even if the Philippines go on a crazy run. Italy has designs on a real run in this tournament, coming off of a quarterfinals appearance at EuroBasket a year ago, but Karl-Anthony Towns will be the best player in this game and whether Italy can come up with an answer for the Timberwolves star big man will be fascinating to watch.

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