The Naismith Trophy is guaranteed to have a new owner at the end of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023, as defending champion Spain failed to advance to the quarterfinals.
Eight teams are still in the hunt at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, in a fresh-look bracket that only features two remaining quarterfinalists from the 2019 World Cup in China.
There are two undefeated teams, a first-timer, a squad that waited 25 years for this chance, and all three preferred teams selected by host nations Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia.
Here are the matchups in the quarterfinals of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023.
Lithuania (5-0) vs Serbia (4-1) – September 5, 4:45 p.m.
After failing to make it to the knockout round in the last World Cup, Lithuania is now looking like a legitimate title threat as they are coming off a confidence-boosting win against Team USA.
Led by veteran Jonas Valanciunas, who is averaging a shade short of a double-double with 13.6 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, the Lithuanians went undefeated in the group stage due to their team play and red- hot shooting. They normed 22.2 assists per match and convert on 46.4% of their three-point attempts.
Serbia, on the other hand, was expected to sweep the group stage, but suffered a shocking loss to Italy. Still, Bogdan Bogdanovic has been one of the top performers of the competition with 18.4 points per game. Nikola Milutinov should be a great matchup for Valanciunas, as he’s also averaging a near double-double with 14.0 points and 9.6 rebounds.
It will be a battle in the stands as well with flamboyant and energetic fans of Serbia and Lithuania packing the state-of-the-art venue in Pasay.
USA (4-1) vs Italy (4-1) – September 5, 8:40 p.m.
Even though they ended the group stage with a loss to Lithuania, USA head coach Steve Kerr still likes his team’s chances, as they learned a lot from the defeat.
Anthony Edwards dropped 35 points in that game, and he has been exceptional all tournament long averaging 20.2 points on 48% shooting from the field. Austin Reaves, Jalen Brunson, and Paolo Banchero also average double-digits in scoring.
Celebrating their first quarterfinal entry since 1998, Italy is out to prove that they are a serious contender. The last time the Italians got this far, their current head coach Gianmarco Pozzecco was still in uniform.
Simone Fontecchio has been fantastic with 18.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per match. Although the three- point shots have not fallen regularly for the Utah Jazz player, he’s been outstanding from inside the arc with a 61.5% clip.
A key side story to the USA-Italy clash is Banchero going up against the team that he had said he wanted to play for.
After receiving Italian citizenship in 2020 from his father’s side, Banchero said he was “planning to play for the Italian national team” months before the World Cup, but just shortly after, decided to play with Team USA instead.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Italians will play against Banchero, as the word “betrayal” was used by Italian Basketball Federation President Gianni Petrucci to describe the Orlando Magic forward’s decision.
Germany (5-0) vs Latvia (4-1) – September 6, 4:45 p.m.
Very few people expected Latvia to make it into the quarterfinals. Not a lot of people believed in them, but all that’s important is that they did. They gained a few believers when they eliminated powerhouse France, courtesy of a 88-86 decision in the first group stage.
The Latvians then pushed defending champion Spain to the brink of elimination with a 74-69 win before ending their group stage campaign with a 104-84 domination against Brazil to book their top eight spot.
Even without Kristaps Porzingis, they could be a threat in the quarterfinals. They have six players who average double-digits in scoring, led by Davis Bertans.
However, they will be coming into the knockout stage as underdogs with Germany going undefeated in their first five games. They’ve beaten their opponents by an average of 20.6 points, with only Australia challenging them in a tight three-point win.
Dennis Schröder has taken over with 19.8 points and 6.8 assists for Germany, but he gets enough support from Daniel Theis, Moritz Wagner, and Isaac Bonga. A healthy Franz Wagner, who is nursing an ankle injury, would also be a tremendous boost. The team’s norm of 25.4 assists per game and the fact that no player averages 30 minutes per contest speaks volumes of their depth and chemistry.
Canada (4-1) vs Slovenia (4-1) – September 6, 8:30 p.m.
Two preferred teams of hosts Indonesia and Japan will face off as Canada’s NBA-laden lineup goes up against Luka Doncic-led Slovenia for a spot in the semifinals.
Canada looked like a title threat early as they blasted France, another powerhouse, 95-65, in their first game. They continued to look good with dominant wins against Lebanon and Latvia before suffering a surprising 69-65 defeat against Brazil.
The Canadians, however, rebounded with an 88-85 victory to eliminate defending champion Spain to book a ticket to the Manila. They will continue to bank on the scoring prowess of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with his 23.8 points per game. He’ll get support from fellow NBA players RJ Barrett, Dillon Brooks, and Kelly Olynyk, who usually combine for about 35 points per match.
Slovenia, on the other end, will obviously rely heavily on the biggest star of the World Cup in Doncic. Tickets have moved fast since it was guaranteed that the Dallas Mavericks guard would be heading to the Philippines. With norms of 26.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 6.8 assists, Canada will have to devise a way to make it difficult for Doncic if they want a good shot at making it to the semifinals.