Aug 22, 2014; New York, NY, USA; United States guard James Harden (13) dunks against Puerto Rico during the fourth quarter of a game at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

FIBA World Cup primer: Short-handed United States still favorites

The FIBA World Cup begins on Saturday with a host of games across all four groups.

The United States opens with a Group C match-up against Finland at the end of the day’s activity.

Despite the absence of most of the top-fifteen players in the NBA, save for James Harden, Stephen Curry, and a still-working-his-way-back Derrick Rose, the United States is a clear favorite as World Cup play begins.

The second and third-best squads belong to Spain and Brazil, who, for some reason, both happen to be in Group A while the U.S. enjoys a fairly soft group. The stiffest competition to the Americans in Group C will be Ukraine, as the Dominican Republic, New Zealand, Turkey, and Finland won’t provide much resistance.

The always-loaded team from Spain should win the group, although they are a bit unlucky to have Brazil on their heels. The rules allow for four of the six teams from each group to advance, so it ultimately doesn’t matter a ton. But it’s still weird, especially given how soft Groups B and C appear to be.

Here’s a link to the upcoming schedule. Additionally, here is the final Team U.S.A. twelve-man roster:

Guards: Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan, Klay Thompson

Forwards: Rudy Gay, Kenneth Faried, Andre Drummond, Anthony Davis

Centers: DeMarcus Cousins, Mason Plumlee

It’s an interesting mix of talent, and while the lack of superstar names is not entirely by choice, the “Dream Team”-like attempts of years past haven’t always worked out swimmingly for the United States, it would be nice to have a LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul George, or even a Kawhi Leonard.

Even still, Spain’s lineup is the only other team that should really strike fear in the heart of Mike Krzyzewski’s squad. Team U.S.A. is still the class of the international basketball scene, and they should have little problem proving that within Group C and into the second round of the FIBA World Cup.

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