The field of 32 has been whittled down to 16 as the FIBA World Cup hits the second group stage. After going 3-0 in the first group stage without any trouble, Team USA will now face Montenegro, who went 2-1 in Group D, defeating Egypt and Mexico and losing to Lithuania. USA will then play Lithuania to finish out the group stage; the top two teams from each newly formed group (based upon all five games) will advance to the quarterfinals.
The big story for the Americans last contest was the change in the starting lineup, with Josh Hart replacing Brandon Ingram. The swap puts more of a role player in Hart in with the starters, while allowing Ingram to operate more with the ball in his hands with the second unit. The bench had often looked more cohesive than the starting group throughout the World Cup and exhibition play.
Montenegro is led by two-time NBA All-Star and current Chicago Bull Nikola Vucevic. The former Sixers big man leads his squad in scoring (20.7) , rebounding (7.0), and blocks (2.0). Although Team USA can often overwhelm international opponents with size, that won’t be the case here as Montenegro has the tallest roster at the World Cup. Of course, the Americans have the speed and athleticism advantage in spades. Montenegro is only 18th in the current FIBA rankings.
Team USA is a 25-point favorite here, as of this writing. As much as I respect Vuc, I don’t think the American’s first real test will come today.
Who: United States of America vs. Montenegro
When: 4:40am ET
Where: Mall of Asia Arena, Manila, Philippines