The FIBA World Cup is set to take place in China at the end of next week. The tournament will act as qualification for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo and with the field expanding from 24 teams to 32, it will give more teams more opportunities to make a stronger case.
Qualified Teams for FIBA:
- 5 Teams From Africa (Angola, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia)
- 7 Teams From The Americas (USA, Canada, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Venezuela)
- 8 Teams From Asia and Oceania (China, Japan, Iran, Australia, South Korea, Jordan, Philippines, New Zealand)
- 12 Teams From Europe (France, Germany, Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Poland, Russia, Spain, Turkey, Serbia, Montenegro, Lithuania)
So why Serbia? Let’s take a trip down memory lane. In the last World Cup, dating back to 2014, Team USA met Serbia in the World Cup Final in Madrid, Spain. Serbia was dealing with a very difficult group with the likes of powerhouses of Spain, Brazil and France. Serbia did defeat Iran and Egypt but lost to all three teams accumulating 7 points (2 points for wins & 1 point for a lost) and advancing to the next round. In the round of 16, Serbia faced the winner of Group B Greece, who went undefeated knocking off teams like Argentina and Croatia in the process. An impressive 18 point win was the spark they needed. The next round, they faced an opponent they lost to before, Brazil. An eight point lost earlier in the tournament now turned into a 28 point blowout led by Milos Teodosic with 15 points. Serbia made their way to the Final Four of the World Cup. Serbia couldn’t avoid yet another FIBA Powerhouse in France, a familiar opponent from just a few games back. France won the 4th quarter by 3 points and ultimately winning the game 74-73. In the Semifinals, after 2 big wins, this time would be different. Serbia was in control for majority of the game, taking a 14 point lead into halftime, as well as a 15 point lead into the 4th. Serbia hangs on,behind Milos’ 24 points, with a 5 point win making the World Cup Final for the first time since winning Gold in 2002, who went by the country Yugoslavia that grace the names of Vlade Divac, Peja Stojakovic, and Vladmir Radmanovic. The question was who would Serbia be playing in the Finals? Of course that’s not really a question, as Team USA won every game by 20 or more points. This would be the case in the World Cup Final — Team USA won 129-96. Serbia took home Silver.
Nikola Jokic drafted by the Denver Nuggets in 2014, in the 2nd Rd with the 41st pick, with not a lot of expectations turned out to be one of the best picks this decade. In the 2016 Olympics, the world got to see his growth to stardom. Just 2 years removed from the 129-96 lost to Team USA in the World Cup, Serbia find themselves in the same group as them, with 2 other good teams France and Australia. In similar fashion, Serbia lost to Australia and France by 15 and 1 respectively, but what was so shocking is that Serbia almost upset Team USA who hadn’t lost an international game since the assembling of the Redeem Team. With the star studded team that the USA presents, they almost slipped through the cracks and if not for a off the rim shot by Bogdan Bogdanovic (Kings) would have took a L. Either way Jokic put on a show at a very young age — posting 25 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists in a nailbiting 94-91 lost.
Serbia still made the final round of 8 with another similar path of 2014 FIBA World Cup. Serbia escaped Croatia, then destroyed Australia, who they once lost to before and yet again find their way in another Final match with the Powerhouse of the USA. Very different outcome this time as USA wiped the floor with them coasting to a 3rd Straight Gold Medal winning by 30, leaving Serbia with another Silver Medal.
Internationally, basketball is getting better and better with a lot of new countries putting more and more teams in the NBA. Teams like Canada, Australia, Greece are all rising with their new talent. Serbia is right in the mix and with Jokic, arguably being the best big man in the league (averaging 20.1 ppg, 10.8 rpg, and 7.2 apg) has to chance to make a statement this upcoming World Cup. Losing Milos Teodosic would hurt for most teams but with a Top Ten player in the NBA and other NBA talent like Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nemanja Bjelica of the Kings, new Mavericks Center Boban Marjanovic, and former Bucks player Miroslav Raduljica it is easy to see why FIBA World Rankings have them ranked #2 in the World, only behind the United States.
Why do I believe that Serbia will take Gold? Well a lot has to do with their rise as a team but also what Team USA will look like come August 31st. After numerous All Stars dropped out to prepare for the NBA Season, what this USA team lack is an identity. Most times, USA gather the best talent and it can overcome any problems that occurs. Chemistry will play a huge factor for Team USA. While most international countries have been playing together since they were young (Serbia is no different) the United States, with as much talent as we have that’s just hard to do.
Since I’ve been watching international basketball, USA at any given moment has the best player on the court. When USA takeS on Nikola Jokic, this would not be the case. Without a superstar or go to guy as of now, Serbia has the advantages to finally capture Gold.
I’m not the only person who agree. Serbian coach, Aleksandar “Sasha” Djordjevic said in a interview, “Let’s let them play their basketball and we will play ours and if we meet, may God help them.” Sasha has shown no sympathy for “the Americans”, as he referred to them in his interview, claiming this is what happens to most European teams.
With plenty of teams and opportunities, this very well may be Serbia’s chance at obtaining Gold. Look for Nikola Jokic and Co. to finally get the job done and win it all.