The Basketball World Cup field is now filled, with Serbia grabbing the last spot in this summer’s 32-team tournament.
Serbia clinched the berth with a 101-83 win over Great Britain yesterday [Macau time]. The win means two-time reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets will have the chance to play for a World Cup this summer, when the tournament gets held in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia.
Serbia’s win in Belgrade eliminated Belgium, the last team that still had a chance to qualify.
Most teams at the World Cup will use NBA players when they can. The U.S. used G League and internationally based players almost exclusively in its qualifying games, but it will go to a roster of NBA players for the tournament this summer.
“We’re looking forward to competing for another gold medal,” USA Basketball men’s coach Steve Kerr said in a video released by the federation yesterday. Kerr also lauded the work of U.S. qualifying team coach Jim Boylen, who led the Americans in all 12 of their games in those cycles.
Spain is the defending champion. The U.S. finished seventh at the last World Cup in 2019.
Serbia qualifying means 10 of the top 11 teams in the world rankings reached the World Cup. The exception was No. 4 Argentina, the silver medalist in 2019.
No. 1 Spain, No. 2 United States, No. 3 Australia, No. 5 France, No. 6 Serbia, No. 7 Slovenia, No. 8 Lithuania, No. 9 Greece, No. 10 Italy and No. 11 Germany have qualified. There will be two first-round groups that include two of those teams. And none of the four teams involved in that scenario will be thrilled when they see that draw.
The lowest-ranked teams in the field are four of the five African qualifiers: No. 43 Ivory Coast, No. 55 Egypt, No. 63 South Sudan and No. 66 Cape Verde.
Cape Verde, South Sudan, Georgia and Latvia are in the tournament for the first time.
There are 23 teams that were in the 2019 World Cup and have qualified again for this year’s event, a list led by the United States and Brazil — the only nations to appear in all 19 editions of the tournament.
Spain has been to each of the last 11 World Cups. Puerto Rico has been to each of the last 10.
The other 19 nations that are back from 2019: Angola, New Zealand, France, Greece, Australia, Lithuania, Serbia, Iran, Dominican Republic, Philippines, Montenegro, Jordan, Venezuela, Japan, Ivory Coast, Germany, China, Italy and Canada.
Finland, Slovenia, Egypt and Mexico are back in the field after last reaching the World Cup in 2014. Lebanon is back, after its most recent appearance was in 2010.
THEY’RE NOT BACK
These nine nations appeared in the 2019 tournament and won’t be back this summer: Argentina, South Korea, Turkey, Senegal, Nigeria, Tunisia, Poland, the Czech Republic and Russia.
FIBA banned Russia’s teams and officials from its competitions last year in response to that country’s invasion of Ukraine.
The group phase — eight groups of four teams — runs from Aug. 25 through Aug. 30. The second round is Aug. 31 through Sept. 4.
Quarterfinal games will be played on Sept. 5 and 6. The semifinals are Sept. 8, and the championship and third-place game in Manila are Sept. 10.
That’s about two weeks before NBA training camps are scheduled to open, barring a lockout this summer.
Each nation will be assigned to a four-team opening-round group on April 29. The top two teams from each of those groups will make the second round.
The U.S. will play its group-stage games in the Philippines, and will stay there for the entirety of its stay in the tournament — as will the Philippines.
Slovenia and Japan will play group-stage games in Okinawa, Japan. Canada will play its group-stage games in Jakarta, Indonesia.
All teams will find out their opponents, and all the other teams that don’t already know their group-stage destinations, at the April 29 draw.
The World Cup will be a way for seven teams to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Of those, two will come from the Americas Region, two from Europe, one from Africa, one from Asia and one from Oceania.
The other five Olympic berths will be decided by qualifying tournaments this summer, with 40 nations set to be invited to play for those spots.
There are 39 nations that now have confirmed invitations: Argentina, Bahamas, Bahrain, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cameroon, Chile, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Congo, Cuba, Czech Republic, Estonia, Great Britain, Guinea, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Israel, Kazakhstan, Korea, Mali, Netherlands, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sweden, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, Uruguay and the Virgin Islands.
The 40th spot is likely to go to Croatia, a decision that FIBA is set to finalize on April 28. MDT/AP