While nearly everybody (perhaps too many, in BiE’s opinion) await the final shape of Team USA’s roster going into the 2010 FIBA World Championship, a bunch of other teams spent the weekend making statements. Said statements could take the shape of confirmation of awesomeness (Spain), reminders of “hey, we still exist” (Brazil), and red-alert level warnings (Greece).
Not all the performances were good, of course – just ask the Russians how their weekend was – and the official BallinEurope 2010 FIBA World Championship Power Rankings reflect this progress. In order to prevent any energy-expending shock and outrage at the placement of certain teams, BiE reminds that these are *power rankings* only: They are meant not to predict the tournament’s final outcome (necessarily) but simply to gauge the way teams are trending.
And damn, is Greece trending high right now…
1. (↔) Spain. A jog through Cote d’Ivoire last week followed by manhandlings of Lithuania and Slovenia did little other that remind us that Team Spain and that ridiculous starting five of Ricky Rubio, Juan Carlos Navarro, Rudy Fernandez, Felipe Reyes and Marc Gasol. (Pau Who? Seriously, do you see anything missing from that starting five?) ain’t going nowhere. As Lamar Odom put it, “Creo que España, al máximo nivel de su potencial, es la mejor selección del mundo.” Capisce?
2. (↑) Greece. Damn right, BiE went there. From their assemblage earlier this summer, Team Hellas has toyed with non-contenders like Cyprus and Russia (!) while defeating a top-10 tier team like Croatia with little excess effort. After this weekend, who thinks the Greeks are too old? Who thinks Theo Papaloukas will be missed to distraction? Who thinks this team isn’t a championship threat? No one sane, that’s who.
3. (↓) USA. BiE’s sorry, but inactivity and the fact that JaVale McGee (JaVale McGee!) is destined to stick on Team USA just isn’t going to cut it on these power rankings after Greece turned the Love Cyprus tournament into a circus this weekend.
The latest indignity visited upon “America’s team”: President Barack Obama’s hosting of a charity event for wounded troops and White House interns that featured three of Team USA’s starters … from 2008! I suppose the troops would rather be checking out the likes of Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Carmelo Anthony as opposed to painfully assessing the youngsters’ chances against the world, but still… Barack, where is the love for the team soon to compete under the U.S. flag?
4. (↔) Serbia. These guys are officially no longer a surprise after handling home team Turkey in the Istanbul Cup this weekend. Returning a majority of the youngest team in Eurobasket 2009, what’s even worse (for the world) is that Dusan Ivkovic is solidifying a nucleus for this national team for years to come.
5. (↑) Brazil emerged from hiding to smoke the lesser competition of Venezuela and African champions Angola at the Super 4 tournament in Brasilia over the weekend. FIBA reports that Team Brazil was able to improve on its rebounding (!) in the two games; we’ll see, as they’ll face slighter tougher tests in New York City this week as they take on World Championship contenders China and Puerto Rico.
What to do with the following four teams who suffered poor defeats last week, yet still performed well enough to establish themselves as a solid second tier after BiE’s top five. Seriously, which of these was the most disappointing result: Losing to upstarts Puerto Rico in a friendly at home; taking a loss to Serbia (whom you should be on the level of) after building up a lead on your home floor; losing one, squeaking past Germany and then at least mostly keeping up with the mighty machine known as Greece; or beating Slovenia only to be smoked by Spain?
We’ll keep these four in the same order they were in; games in Bamberg, Germany, later this week will see Lithuania, Turkey and Croatia hashing things out amongst themselves, so this part of the table will be clearer next week.
6. (↓) Argentina. Though they finally mastered Puerto Rico yesterday in Santa Fe, the best news here is still that the prospective starting no. 4 might be coming off crutches by the end of the week.
7. (↓) Turkey. And now Engin Atsur is out for four months, too. Ouch.
8. (↔) Lithuania. Will we ever figure this team out in time…?
9. (↑) Croatia may someday be thought of as the disappointment in this tournament, though with injuries this rife, they seem surprisingly competitive early on.
10. (↑) France. Les Blues, like Team USA and Lithuania, can claim to be rare in that their sitting-out five is better than their starting five going into this tournament. On the other hand (assuming Rodrigue Beaubois is the last France player to go down), things may be looking up for the team’s confidence, at least. They blew out Tunisia, 77-44, and now go on to face Canada in winnable games on Thursday and Friday. The addition of Andrew Albicy of France’s U20 champions in lieu of Beaubois was also an exciting addition, if not overwhelmingly relevant.
11. (↑) Puerto Rico. Thus far Puerto Rico’s only serious measuring stick has been Argentina, but the islanders have acquitted themselves well, first going to overtime then topping the Blue-and-Whites last week before succumbing yesterday, 93-80. This mouse may yet roar again in the FIBA Worlds…
12. (↓) Slovenia. What does not kill Slovenia can only make them stronger: After losing to Team Spain, 88-68, last week, they’ll try again tonight – but this time in Ljubljana.
13. (↑) Germany. Deutschland’s youngsters did better than expected in Cyprus, taking Croatia to the final shot and beating Russia. Head coach Dirk Bauermann was positively gushy in the afterglow: “We are continuing our positive trend and today again learned a lot.”
14. (↓) Russia. Okay, so we’re still a couple weeks away. David Blatt could turn things around. But after the disastrous showing lowlighted by soft defense – ostensibly Blatt and Team Russia’s specialty – in the Love Cyprus tournament, a blowing-up-of-the-team seems more likely than a podium visit in September right now.
15. (↑) Lebanon. The potential feel-good story of the tournament won their first match in the 10-team FIBA Asia Stankovic Cup over the Philippines easily, 74-59.
16. (↑) Australia. Hey Aleks Maric’s still here! Plus, Group A looks weaker than ever, so Oz swipes the no. 16 spot.