MANILA, Philippines — Let’s get this out of the way: if Team USA and Canada win their next three games, they will meet in the semifinals of the FIBA World Cup.
It’s the matchup everyone wants to see, and, if it happens in the semifinals instead of the finals, it might overshadow the championship game. But there is a lot of basketball to be played, beginning Friday with second-round games in Manila, Japan, and Indonesia.
Records from first-round games carry over, but point differential does not. Tie breakers start with head-to-head records, followed by point differential. The top two teams from each group advance to the quarterfinals.
The No. 1 team from Group I would face the No. 2 team from Group J; the No. 2 team from Group I would play the No. 1 team from Group J in the quarterfinals. On the other side, it would be the No. 1 team from Group K against the No. 2 team from Group L, and the No. 2 team from Group K against the No. 1 team from Group L.
Got it? Good.
Below is a look at the remaining 16 teams, by group, in the 2023 World Cup.
GROUP I (Manila)
Results: (W) 105-63, China; (W) 99-74, Puerto Rico; (W) 115-83, South Sudan
Scouting report: Even without Nikola Jokić, the Serbians have looked like one of the best teams at the tournament. It is of course scary to consider what might’ve been with arguably the best player in the sport in uniform, but, Bogdan Bogdanović has been awesome anyway with 18.0 points, 5.7 assists, 2.0 steals, and shooting 43.5 percent from 3-point range. Equally impressive, or perhaps more so, because he doesn’t have Bogdanović’s track record, is Nikola Jović from the Miami Heat. He’s second among Serbians in scoring at 17.0 per game and shooting over 66 percent from deep. Serbia is right behind Canada and the US in overall scoring (104.7 ppg). Stefan Jović is second among all players with 8.3 assists per game.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC (3-0)
Results: (W) 87-81, Philippines; (W) 87-82, Italy; (W) 75-67, Angola
Scouting report: They are among the biggest surprises of the World Cup. Winning that first game against the Philippines, in Manila, with 38,000 people in the crowd, should count double. This is the DR’s first World Cup, and it is in prime position to get all the way to the Elite 8. Karl-Anthony Towns is a major reason why. He’s averaging 19.3 points and 7.7 rebounds, numbers held down by the massive foul trouble he endured in the last game that kept him out for much of the second and third quarters against Angola. Andrés Feliz, a 6-foot point guard, is the DR’s second-leading scorer at 17.7 points and averaging 5.0 assists.
Results: (W) 81-67, Angola; (L) 82-87, Dominican Republic; (W) 90-83, Philippines
Scouting report: Simone Fontecchio, coming off his rookie season with the Utah Jazz, leads Italy in scoring at 16.7 ppg. He shoots a whopping eight 3s per game (remember, only 40-minute game clocks), and those shots aren’t quite falling yet. If they do, look out. The Italians have one of those prototypical European programs in which most of the players have played together for years, and, therefore, are highly competitive without a plethora of NBA men on the roster. Italy is shooting under 30 percent as a team from 3.
PUERTO RICO (2-1)
Results: (W) 101-96, South Sudan; (L) 77-94, Serbia; (W) 107-89, China
Scouting report: Tremont Waters, formerly of the Boston Celtics and born in New Haven, Conn., leads the entire tournament at 8.7 assists per game to go with his team-best 16.7 ppg. He’s shooting 36 percent from 3-point range on 8.3 attempts, and this is something the Puerto Ricans do well overall — shoot the long ball. They’re shooting 41 percent as a group. Puerto Rico’s starting five is strong (all five are averaging in double figures), but it gets very little production from the bench. Ismael Romero is a 6-8 center averaging 14 points and eight boards.
GROUP J (Manila)
Results: (W) 99-72, New Zealand; (W) 109-81, Greece; (W) 110-62, Jordan
Scouting report: Anthony Edwards leads the Americans in scoring at 16.3 ppg, which is no surprise. What IS a surprise is Josh Hart, at 6-5, being seventh at the World Cup (and first on Team USA) in rebounding at 9.0 rpg. The Americans are second at the World Cup in team scoring (106.0 ppg) and lead the tournament in blocks (6.7 rpg). They have remarkable depth and have blown past teams that had otherwise kept the game close with a high-octane bench led by Tyrese Haliburton (8.3 points, 4.0 assists, 1.3 blocks) and Austin Reaves (11.7 points, team-high 4.3 assists). The Americans have balance, with five players averaging in double figures for points, including Jaren Jackson Jr. with 11.0 points and 1.7 blocks.
Results: (W) 93-67, Egypt; (W) 96-66, Mexico; (W) 91-71 Montenegro
Scouting report: Jonas Valančiūnas is averaging a double-double (13.7 ppg and 10.0 rpg) and is fourth at the Cup in rebounds. Rokas Jokubaitis is a 6-4 guard for FC Barcelona who’s averaging 12.0 points, a team-high 5.3 assists, and shooting 57 percent from 3-point range (don’t get too excited, he’s averaging about two attempts). Mindaugas Kuzminskas is a 6-9, versatile wing averaging 12.7 points and blocking 1.0 shots per game. The Lithuanians, with six players at least as tall as Kuzminskas, are second behind USA in blocks and mashers on the glass (48 rebounds per game, leads the tournament). If they aren’t guarded at the 3-point line, where they are shooting nearly 40 percent as a team, then they have the inside-outside game to be dangerous.
Results: (W) 91-71, Mexico; (W) 89-74, Egypt; (L) 71-91, Lithuania
Scouting report: Nikola Vučević is their man, averaging 20.7 points (seventh at the Cup), 7.0 rebounds, and is tied for the tournament lead at 2.0 blocks per game. Kendrick Perry, born in Ocoee, Fla., and one of the greatest to ever play at Youngstown State in Ohio, averages 13.3 points, leads the team with 5.3 assists, and shoots five 3s a game. Nikola Ivanović, a 6-3 guard, is their third-leading scorer at 10.0 ppg and a 3-point threat (35 percent). Marko Simonović is a 7-footer averaging 5.7 boards. This is Montenegro’s first second-round appearance in a World Cup.
Results: (W) 92-71, Jordan; (L) 81-108, USA; (W) 83-74, New Zealand
Scouting report: The Grecians needed a win on Wednesday to advance, so they have the juice of winning with their backs against the wall. They’re a tradition-rich program, however, playing without Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee surgery) obviously makes life tougher. Greece’s top scorer is Giannoulis Larentzakis (15.3 points), but keep an eye out on 7-2 center, and former Sacramento Kings draftee, Georgios Papagiannis (11.0 points, 5.7 boards, 2.0 blocks – tied with Montenegro’s Vooch for the lead). USA’s Jaren Jackson Jr. said Papagiannis is skilled, has good touch on his shot and is a big body to handle in the post. He gives the Greeks a chance to neutralize Valančiūnas and/or Vučević, at least a little. Thomas Walkup, of Stephen F. Austin acclaim, is tied for fifth in the tournament with 7.7 assists per game.
GROUP K (Okinawa, Japan)
Results: (W) 100-85, Venezuela; (W) 88-67, Georgia; (W) 92-77, Cape Verde
Scouting report: So…the best player in the tournament is … playing like the best player in the tournament. Luka Dončić, folks, leads the Cup in scoring at 30.0 points per game and is getting to the foul line an astounding 14.3 times per contest, which also leads the tournament. Dončić is also averaging eight rebounds, seven assists, three steals — the latter also is tops at the Cup. Dončić didn’t play in the exhibition against the USA in Malaga, Spain, and it’s barely worth mentioning that the Slovenians are a much (much) different team with him. Klemen Prepelič, listed as a 6-4 point guard, is second on the team with 17.0 ppg.
Results: (W) 81-63, Japan; (W) 85-82, Australia; (W) 101-75, Finland
Scouting report: Dennis Schröder is having a whale of a tournament, averaging 19.7 points (tied-8th at the Cup), 5.7 assists, 2.0 steals and 31.7 trash talks per game. The Wagner brothers of the Orlando Magic, Mortiz and Franz, are averaging double-digit points and giving Germany help on the glass. Daniel Theis is averaging 10.0 points and 4.3 boards. This team is deep even beyond its NBA talent, and it played better against the US (in an exhibition) than any opponent this summer, whether the games counted or not. The Germans have arguably the second- (or third-, or first-, depending on your preference) best win of the tournament so far, edging out perennial contender Australia.
Results: (W) 98-72, Finland; (L) 82-85, Germany; (W) 109-89, Japan
Scouting report: If not for the U.S. and Canada, we’d be talking about the Australians having the best backcourt at the World Cup. Patty Mills and Josh Giddey are both averaging 19.0 points, Giddey is flinging it all over the place at 7.3 assists per game. Just about every contributor for the Boomers is an NBA player. Xavier Cooks is averaging 14 points and 7.7 rebounds; Josh Green and Dante Exum are playing well on both sides, and Joe Ingles is averaging 7.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, and shooting 33 percent from 3-point range. In terms of depth, only the Americans and probably Canada have more.
Results: (W) 85-60, Cape Verde; (L) 67-88, Slovenia; (W) 70-59, Venezuela
Scouting report: Meet the Cup’s Cinderella. Georgia, in its first World Cup appearance, entered as the 32nd-ranked team (so, last) and is still standing, thanks to a win Wednesday over the Venezuelans. There are two players from NBA rosters, Goga Bitadze (11.0 points, 9.3 rebounds — 6th at Cup) and Alexander Mamukelashvili (11 points, 6.0 rebounds). The leading scorer is 6-9 power forward Tornike Shengelia at 16.7 points per game, and former Spanish pro league MVP Giorgio Shermadini is also a contributor. This is easily the toughest second-round group, so, best of luck to underdog Georgians, who have already come so far.
GROUP L (Jakarta, Indonesia)
Results: (W) 95-65, France; (W) 128-73, Lebanon; (W) 101-75, Latvia
Scouting report: Wow… Blowing out France, the Olympic runner-up by just a few points to USA, a program that has beat the Americans twice in three summers (so has Australia, in fairness), proved that what’s been brewing in Canada for two years is for real. USA fans don’t want to hear this, but Canada has looked like the tournament’s strongest team through three games. It leads the Cup in scoring at 108 points per game, and, as you can see above, two of the Canadian wins were against no-slouch programs. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has torn opponents to shreds (22 points, 8.0 boards, 5.7 assists). Kelly Olynyk is enjoying a fantastic tournament (14 points, 6.0 rebounds), and RJ Barrett is shooting 42 percent from 3 with 14.7 points per game. The Canadians have not one but two brutal wing defenders in Lu Dort and Dillon Brooks (2023 NBA Villain of the Year), but there’s the catch. Dort only played in one Cup game so far, due to “soreness.” We’ll see how hurt he is, but either way, this is a formidable team, and Jordi Fernández has done a sterling job taking over as coach for Nick Nurse. All of this has happened without Jamal Murray, who showed up for training camp but chose not to play.
Results: (W) 94-64, Ivory Coast; (W) 96-78, Brazil; (W) 85-65, Iran
Scouting report: The Spaniards, if you recall, also gave the Americans a game earlier this month in Malaga. The Hernangómez boys — remember them? — are Spain’s top two players in this cup. Willy is averaging 17.3 points and 6.0 boards, and Juancho is giving 13.3 points and 4.0 boards. Santi Aldama of the Grizzlies has been very good, too (11.3 points, 6.0 boards). The Spanish are excited about 19-year-old guard Juan Núñez, who is leading them in assists (6.3 per game) since Ricky Rubio decided not to play. Spain is a team that shoots well from 3 (38 percent on 26 attempts per), rebounds and defends. There is a system under coach Sergio Scariola and a certain program pride. After all, Spain is the defending World Cup champ.
Results: (W) 100-59, Iran; (L) 78-96, Spain; (W) 89-77, Ivory Coast
Scouting report: Yago Santos is just 5-10, but he leads the Brazilians in scoring (17.3 ppg) and assists (7.3 apg). Former NBA player Bruno Caboclo is giving them 14.3 points and a team-best 8.7 boards. They should be considered among the weakest teams left, along with Puerto Rico, and we can have a discussion about Greece. Former NBA player Cristiano Felício is on the roster and playing 10 minutes per game. Several of these players were on Brazil’s qualifying roster, when many of the games are during the winter months — and most NBA and Euroleague stars can’t play. Brazil’s other player scoring more than 10 points per game is 6-11 forward Tim Soares, who’s averaging 12.3 points while shooting 61 percent from 3 on 4.3 attempts per game.
Results: (W) 109-70, Lebanon; (W) 88-86, France; (L) 75-101, Canada
Scouting report: Maybe we shouldn’t think so highly of France? For now, Latvia knocking out the French is worth serious power-rating points, never mind losing by 26 to the Canadians. Rolands Smits, a 6-9 forward, leads the team in scoring at 15.3 ppg. The biggest name on this team belongs to Davis Bertāns, who’s averaging 10.7 points and shooting 33 percent from 3-point range. Former NBA player Rodions Kurucs leads the team with 6.0 rebounds, and one of Latvia’s best players, Dairis Bertans, suffered a hamstring in the second Cup game and is out for the remainder of the tournament. The Latvians are small, but they’re shooting nearly 40 percent from 3-point range as a team. This is their first appearance at the World Cup; making it to the second round is already a nice accomplishment. No one saw them advancing out of a pool that included Canada and France.
(Top photo of Anthony Edwards: Ariana Saigh / Getty Images)