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FIBA World Cup Basketball: Group A Through Group D Roster Analysis and Futures Odds

FIBA Basketball World Cup China 2019 Logo At Cadilac Arena In Beijing

The 2019 FIBA World Cup is too massive an event for’s sports blog to publish 1 gigantic catch-all preview and call it a day.

NBA junkies will quickly catch onto the fact that Group A does not include Team USA and its roster of National Basketball Association studs – nor does Group B, Group C, or Group D.

The United States has drawn a lot with Turkey in Group E, a match-up we’ll be looking at in the next FIBA World Cup post. But in a way, no matter what national teams are mentioned, all World Cup previews are about the Stars & Stripes.

Any time a fantastic collection of NBA cagers and coaches shows up to an international hoops tourney, they’re going to dominate the headlines…and betting boards. Everyone is searching for the team with enough upside to potentially beat the USA in the medal round.

Heck, look at some of the futures markets on strong basketball nations to win – not simply to prevail in their Group – at the upcoming showdown in China. You can imagine Team USA as a giant’s hand pushing all other contenders’ lines-to-win longer, including Serbia (+900), Australia (+4000) and Argentina (+8000). All of those odds might be represented in 3 digits only if the U.S. Men’s Basketball Team wasn’t about to stomp through the Orient.

Compare USA Basketball’s (-800) World Cup futures odds with the pre-tournament line of (+250) for the USWNT prior to the FIFA World Cup in France. As the women’s soccer gala wore on, it was evident that the Yanks were solid moneyline favorites against any opponent the bracket threw at them. Bettors who got in the USA market at 2.5-to-1 were already feeling grand on Matchday 2.

Basketball betting sites are more prepared for Red, White, and Blue glory on hardwood, giving James Harden and the Americans an (-800) futures line to prevail in a 3rd straight FIBA World Cup.

FIBA Group Stage Futures Odds: Favorites, Contenders and Sleepers

Hoops handicappers can take refuge in the FIBA groups which do not include Gregg Popovich’s fresh incarnation of Team USA, giving us a chance to gamble on some evenly-matched tip-offs instead of picking a long-shot and hoping for a miracle.

Of course the United States can lose a basketball tournament even with full NBA participation. That was demonstrated to the world at the Athens Olympics and in World Cups prior to the USA’s current reign of dominance.

But a reign of dominance is what it is, giving us an excuse to look for some Group Stage futures favorites and sleeper picks that will not have to out-play Andre Drummond or Anthony Davis to finish with the best record of 4 teams after 3 matches in China. Who are the division killers, and who might be vulnerable to the upset on August 31st?

Scroll down for Group-winner gambling odds from Bovada Sportsbook and our exclusive analysis of 16 national teams at Earth’s basketball championship.

Group A

Poland (+110) Odds-to-Win Group A at Bovada Sportsbook)

Poland is only ranked 25th in the world in men’s basketball. Biało-czerwoni has not reached a FIBA World Cup since 1967 or played in the Summer Olympics since 1980.

So why are the Poles suddenly a trendy, sexy wager to win Group A at just a dime-on-a-dollar longer than (Even)?

Head coach Mike Taylor could be 1 reason. The skipper has guided Poland to steady improvement on the court since 2014 and took the squad to the Round of 16 at the 2015 EuroBasket.

Veteran center Maciej Lampe is another. He led the squad through an impressive round of qualifiers with a 14.4 point and 7.2 rebound average.

That highlight-reel music sounds like something the Russian guards boogied-down to in Red Dawn.

Finally, Poland’s popularity as a Group A future could come down to gamblers sensing weakness in the co-favorites.

China (+150)

The Chinese have traditionally dominated in Asia, winning 14 out of 16 FIBA Asian Championships from 1975 to 2005. At the Summer Olympics and other international contests the squad as folded-up a few too many times for comfort in elimination contests…even when Yao Ming has patrolled the paint.

Injuries have been a recent issue, but a young crop of rising stars has supporters hopeful for a bright future. 6’11” center Zhou Qi put up a monster 25.5 point and 10 rebound average in a pair of FIBA qualifiers and has experience playing against NBA ballers, having spent time with the Houston Rockets. 31-year-old tower Yi Jianlian is the crafty veteran of the Chinese big men, a player who has appeared on several NBA rosters and starred in the CBA.

Former FIBA workhorse Li Nan was appointed head coach in 2017 and is clearly competent. I’m concerned about the depth at guard and other shooting positions, but I’m still liking China over Poland in Group A.

Venezuela (+400)

The Venezuelan team earned its most noteworthy accolades in recent history by prevailing in the 2015 FIBA AmeriCup. Venezuela qualified for the 2016 Olympics but failed to advance to the medal round thanks to a 44-point massacre at the hands of the United States.

Argentinian coach Fernando Duró will lead Venezuela on the international stage for the 1st time and will have the 1-2 punch of the Vargas brothers at his disposal. Perimeter shooter José Vargas averaged 11.2 points and 4.3 rebounds in FIBA Americas qualifiers, while 5’11” Gregory Vargas is a heady point guard with the ability to drive the lane.

The former Vargas’ advanced age of 37 could be a stamina factor late in the tournament. Venezuela is matched against upstart Poland in the squad’s opening round-robin tip.

Ivory Coast (+3300)

Head coach Paolo Povia will lead Ivory Coast to its 1st FIBA World Cup since 2010 and only the 4th appearance in team history. Ivory Coast is struggled to 14th place in the 2017 AfroBasket, making the nation’s upcoming bid in China something of a redemption story.

6’5” shooting guard Charles-Noe’ Abouo led the team through a dramatic qualifying campaign.


Group B

Argentina (-120) Odds-to-Win Group B at Bovada Sportsbook)

“El Alma Argentina” is a dynamic program full of NBA talent, even reaching a #1 Men’s ranking after the 2008 Olympics. When Team USA struggled in Athens, it was Argentina that landed the knockout blow to the Americans before beating Italy to mount the highest Olympic podium.

(-120) group-winner odds is a slight surprise given the Las Vegas obsession with recent trends, however, as the national squad has hit a rough patch in recent years, finishing 11th place at the 2014 FIBA World Cup and well out of the medals at the 2016 Olympics.

Argentina power-forward Luis Scola is an NBA veteran and a member of the CBA’s Shanghai Sharks. Scola was a steady scoring threat in qualifiers. PG Facundo Campazzo has been a stellar distributor of the rock.

Russia (+150)

Sergei Bazarevich took over the Russian team in 2016 after several years of turmoil within the organization. Russia took home bronze at the 2011 EuroBasket and 2012 Olympics but failed to qualify for the 2014 FIBA World Cup or the 2016 Olympics.

Prospects seem bright for rapid improvement. Standout guard Alexey Shved has been electric for Khimki of the EuroLeague and VTB United League. 6’9” center Joel Bolomboy earned his way onto multiple NBA rosters before heading to play in Moscow, not unlike former NHL standout Mikhail Grigorenko.

Nigeria (+600)

Head coach Alexander Nwora led the Nigerian national team to a 2nd place finish at the 2017 AfroBasket, which was only a disappointment because Nigeria won the event in 2015. Perhaps those “trends” have made an impact on handicappers as the squad enjoys 6-to-1 odds to finish atop the round-robin.

20-year-old NCAA baller Jordan Nwora was a money man during qualifiers with a 21.7 point and 8 assist average in 3 performances.

Oh, and yes, the HC is Jordan’s pappy.

South Korea (+1500)

Ra Gun-ah (born Ricardo Ratcliffe) has been a sensation for South Korea with a 26.7 point and 12.5 rebound average during FIBA Asian qualifiers.

(That play-by-play call beats the communist propaganda music in the former clip by just 1 or 2 infinities.)

Former South Korean player Hur Jae took over as head coach in 2016 and will hope to improve on the team’s 23rd place finish at the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

South Korea must open against powerful Argentina at Wuhan Gymnasium.


Group C

Spain (-10000) Odds-to-Win Group C at Bovada Sportsbook

Spain would always be a favorite to win its Group Stage division at the World Cup based on the national team’s past success and bevy of NBA and European talent.

But it helps when you rock and roll through the qualifiers, too.

Currently ranked #2 in the world behind the Stars & Stripes, the Spanish squad was stupendous throughout an unbeaten run to the dance. Spain was crowned champion at the FIBA World Cup as recently as 2006, and bookmakers are taking no chances with a “troll” futures line of 1-to-100 on the overwhelming Group C favorite.

Play-making PG Quino Colom led the team during qualifiers, but Marc Gasol is coming off an NBA title run and will play in China regardless, to his everlasting credit. That’s just another factor helping Spain to those microscopically-short payoff odds against Puerto Rico, Iran and Tunisia.

Head coach Sergio Scariolo has led Spain to 3 EuroBasket gold medals and medal-winning Olympic bids in 2012 and 2016.

Puerto Rico (+1100)

Puerto Rico has been a consistent participant at the FIBA World Cup, but carries an all-time best 4th place finish and finished out of the top 15 on the last go-around.

I can’t look at the roster and explain why the Puerto Ricans are at 11-to-1 to beat Spain and prevail in Group C when they really ought to be closer to 15-to-1. Dallas Maverick point guard J.J. Barea is eager to suit up for the team, but he suffered from a torn Achilles Tendon during the NBA season and may appear tentative in the Group Stage.

Puerto Rico played well in an 8-point loss to a fair-to-middling Team USA roster in 2017.

Iran (+8000)

For merely an (+8000) price on the gambling board, Iran has been having notable success in Asia, winning 3 of the last 5 FIBA Asian Championships. The team competed in the 2010 and 2014 FIBA World Cups, with disappointing outcomes each time. (Finally, someone is looking at a trend in past versions of the actual World Cup.)

23-year-old guard Behnam Yakhchali was consistently impressive in qualifiers.

Tunisia (+10000)

A sleeper of sleepers at 100-to-1 Group C odds, Tunisia is a recent AfroBasket winner playing in only its 2nd FIBA World Championship. The debut ended with a 24th place finish in 2010.

Head coach Mário Palma has played a gigantic role in the program’s improvement, but don’t forget point guard Omar Abada who is reaching his prime at 26 and was all over the place in qualifying games.

Tunisia (½ unit, optionally bet to-advance (1st or 2nd group finish)

Group D

Serbia (-650 Odds-to-Win Group D at Bovada Sportsbook)

The bridesmaid of FIBA, Serbia has earned silver medals at the 2014 FIBA World Cup, 2016 Olympics, and 2017 EuroBasket. Coach Aleksandar Đorđević hopes to return the squad to its former gold medal glory of the 1998 and 2002 FIBA World Cups.

The “Eagles” will get a huge lift from the presence of Nikola Jokic, a 7-foot-tall 20-point man for the NBA’s Denver Nuggets. Jokic is a fabulous all-around power player who averaged a double-double in 2018-19.

Miloš Teodosić is another stud who is rested and ready to help his country finally break through for the gold. Is it ever worth gambling on a (-650) futures line?

Maybe not if your bet-limit is 100 bucks, but I can imagine some high-rollers anteing up on Serbia as a lock-down Group D favorite…especially if they haven’t glanced at Italy yet.

Italy (+350)

There is ample hardwood talent on the Italian roster.

NBA veteran Marco Belinelli will represent Italy after another stellar season with the San Antonio Spurs. His shooting threat will make things easier for power players on the inside, as will the dashing style of Amedeo Della Valle of Olimpia Milano who scored nearly 20 PPG in FIBA qualification play.

But there aren’t a lot of players with experience at the World Cup – or even coaches. Italy last reached the tournament in 2006, and coach Romeo Sacchetti will make his elite-level debut on 8/31.

I like the upside. A lot. If we’re looking for a Group D ‘dog, the national program that silver-medaled in Athens (finishing ahead of Team USA along with Argentina) isn’t a bad choice at (+350).

Philippines (+15000)

Interim head coach Yeng Guiao took over the coaching the Phillippines basketball squad in 2018. It’s typical of a wayward national program to continue to make changes even after its breakthrough success – the previous FIBA World Cup in 2014 saw the Pacific island nation make an appearance after 36 years away from the gala.

6’11” center Andray Blatche was a double-double machine during qualifiers.

Angola (+15000)

Every USA Basketball fan has to have a soft spot in her heart for Angola.

Angola was the unlucky team that drew Matchday 1 against the original “Dream Team” at the Barcelona Summer Games. Prior to tip-off, the head coach challenged the United States, saying that Magic Johnson, Michael Jordon, Karl Malone and other NBA Hall-of-Famers “do not play defense.”

The game began competitively – for about 5 minutes. Then Jordan and the Americans went on a near 40-0 run to embarrass the African cagers, who probably wished their coach would shut up.

Consider the pregame remarks of Karl Malone and Charles Barkley back-to-back:

Malone: “We don’t know much about Angola, but that’s the kind of team that scares you. Facing the unknown is a difficult challenge.”

Sir Charles: “They in trouble. They in serious trouble.”

Barkley was right.

Almost 3 decades later, Angola has established a reputation as 1 of the toughest African nations at the FIBA World Cup, making appearances in the last 4 events with a top 10 finish in 2006.

American skipper Will Voigt took over for Angola in 2017 after leading Nigeria to the AfroBasket title, while 6’9” center Yanick Moreira was a consistent low-post threat in qualifiers, averaging 12.8 points and 7.2 rebounds.

Group D PICK:
Serbia (5 units) or Italy (1 unit)