With Group B. It was a case of what you expected. USA topped the group, Iran and Tunisia headed home. It was mainly a story of where Slovenia, Brazil and Croatia would finish up.
In the end, it was Slovenia who won that triple-threat match.
Istanbul was a group with a lot of questions to be answered before the tournament started. 99.9% of those questions were: How would the USA get on? The answer to that question? There isn’t one, yet. Apart from the thrilling game with Brazil, they haven’t been tested properly on a constant basis – and I think that will come.
For me, this is a good, young USA squad; they are an exciting group of players that have a lot to prove. An average age of just 24 years shows how young the team is. But with blowouts against Croatia, Slovenia, Iran and Tunisia – and possible blowouts against Angola, there might be a chance that this team might not be prepared for a tough match-up in the later rounds.
Why, you ask? For me, they are too one dimensional. They rely heavily on their three-point threat and, after watching their five group games – they are soft. USA has no slasher, someone who will drive to the hoop, draw a foul, and get the opposition big men into foul trouble. They are a predictable three-point shooting team – and the teams that will be much better than the sides that the States have faced will know this.
They are nothing special from the land of plenty either.
There is no doubt that the United States have the best one-one-one players in the World Championships – but as a team, there are still question marks, I’m afraid. We will see what they truly made of, as this tournament progresses.
Slovenia have been a joy to watch, the only problem they had against the United States was that they tried to play USA brand basketball. There was only one outcome in that story. If Slovenia had played their well-drilled, quick-passing yet methodical style basketball – they would have challenged the States – no question. As a writer with a close relationship to Slovenia, I was disappointed with their effort.
For Mehmet Becirovic’s men now, it’s a case of how well they can perform, when it really matters? Australia is too close to call for me. If they can get Goran Dragic, Premoz Brezec and young Miha Zupan firing on all cylinders – the pendulum could swing in the Slovenians way.
Brazil will look back on this group, and will have said to themselves that they could have done better. With the talent they have – they should have finished second, and will be disappointed that they didn’t top the group.
It won’t be the loss against the United States they will be most disillusioned over. It will be the loss to Slovenia. That loss cost them second place – and if they bow out to bitter rivals Argentina. They will look at the Slovenia game, as the game that cost them.
Unless they blow a 20-point lead against Argentina and lose, of course.
Iran and Tunisia sadly were in Istanbul to make up the numbers. It was a great sight to see Tunisia’s players get a standing ovation at the end of their final game with the States. They might have lost all five encounters, but they have nothing to be ashamed of.
Same with Iran. I enjoyed getting to know two Iranian journalists whilst in Istanbul, and despite Hamed Hadadi (NOT Ehadadi) carrying the load for the two-time Asia Champions, Iran put up a great fight, and I hope that this isn’t the last we have heard of them in basketball events.
Great fans as well. Loud and proud – and very colourful.
The CSKA Moscow cheerleaders brought many highlights to the tournament as well, but if I spoke about them – my journalism career would be marred for serial perversion. So, I’ll hold back.
John Hobbs for TalkBasket.net