The elite eight of basketball have been decided as the quarter finals of the 2023 FIBA World Cup get under way. The second game sees Italy take on the USA.
Who: Italy (4-1) vs USA (4-1)
Where: Mall of Asia Arena, Manila
When: 5 September at 20.40 Manila/14.40 Rome/13.40 London/8.40 New York
How they got here
Italy reached its 4-1 record with wins over Angola and the Philippines in the group stage but lost to Dominican Republic. It bounced back in style with a comeback win over Serbia. Italy secured its place in the quarter finals with a win over Puerto Rico.
The USA opened with four straight wins over New Zealand, Greece, Jordan, and Montenegro. It then suffered a stunning upset to Lithuania. This was still enough to qualify for the last eight despite coming in the round of 16 phase.
The USA’s goal is simple. They have to keep Italy’s efficiency down. This has been a problem for Italy throughout the tournament but they have survived with volume. This is a rare example where Italy can’t relying on getting more chances than its opponent so the USA must capitalise.
Italy need Simone Fontecchio to go wild but it must also take advantage of the 5 hole. While not having a bruising centre in the classic style, Italy can target Jaren Jackson Jr and Walker Kessler. Expect to see a lot of Niccolo Melli messing with both bigs.
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Need to know
Italy’s hero is Luigi ‘Gigi’ Datome and he has announced that he is retiring from all basketball after this World Cup. This game also matters for Italy in terms of Olympic qualification as the top 2 European teams here will qualify for Paris 2024. There’s also one other X factor.
Gianmarco Pozzecco, Italy’s head coach, is wild but he would die for his players and they would for him. In terms of sheer heart and passion, the USA is no match here. How the Americans deal with the eccentric behaviour of Pozzecco on the sideline will be worth watching.
What the bookies think
The Americans are enormous favourites straight-up with them 1/18 at sportsbooks. Italy look great value at 11/1 in some outlets as underdogs. At the time of writing, the USA are -15.5 point favourites on the point spread.
What we think
Despite losing to Lithuania, this is definitely the best match-up the USA could have asked for in the quarter finals. While Italy bring a lot of experience, they lack the type of bruising C that has hurt the USA repeatedly in this tournament. Without that, it’s very hard to see a route to victory for Pozzecco’s men.
That being said, there is a lot of experience of international basketball on this Italy side. The same cannot be said for the Americans. Everyone on this Italy side knows what is required to compete and I expect them to make a game of this. Unfortunately, their inefficiency woes mean I can’t be hopeful of much for them.
It’s bland and boring but the USA will win. Styles make fights and Italy are designed for this USA team. I expect the Americans to fail to cover the spread though so, if that’s your interest, back Italy to cover.