Tuesday, September 01, 2009

'09 FIBA Americas: Look Ahead to 2nd Round

We're moving on to the 2nd week (and 2nd round) of FIBA Americas '09 and there's no resting after Monday. Each team has four games in four days. Then the semis start on Saturday, so four teams will have to play six straight days. Puerto Rico's 10-man rotation could give them the key advantage over the rest of the field, while Uruguay's 6-man rotation is an obvious detriment.

The four '10 Worlds qualifying spots will be determined on Friday at the end of the 2nd round. Brazil & Puerto Rico look to have two of the four qualifying slots sewn up. Though, Puerto Rico is not quite the sure-shot that Brazil is, considering P. Rico still has to play Argentina, Dominican Rep., & Brazil. The real competition is for the last two qualifying slots. Argentina, Uruguay, Canada, & Dom. Rep. should duke it out for the two remaining spots.

Tuesday's schedule is highlighted by Uruguay vs. Dominican Rep. and Canada vs. Argentina. Have to go with Dom. Rep over Uruguay because of the big bodies they can rotate on Batista. Dom. Rep should hurt Uruguay on the boards as well.

Canada vs. Argentina is a toss-up in my mind. Canada easily handled Arg. at the Tuto Cup two weeks ago, but there was no Prigioni that time. Canada does have a nice defensive frontline that they can rotate on Scola. Canada has the advantage on the boards.

-Wed. games of the day: Braz. vs. Can (1:30 est); Dom. Rep vs. P. Rico (9:00)
-Thur. games of the day: Urug. vs. Braz. (6:30); P. Rico vs. Arg. (9:00)
-Fri. games of the day: Arg. vs. Urug. (4:00); Dom Rep vs. Can (6:30); Braz. vs. P. Rico (9:00)

Let's take a look at where these teams are at & what to expect the rest of the week:

Current standings (record, pt differential)
1) Puerto Rico------------(3-0) (+52)
2) Brazil-------------------(3-0) (+42)
3) Argentina-------------(2-1) (+18)
4) Uruguay--------------(2-1) (-10)
5) Canada----------------(1-2) (+33)
6) Dominican Rep.----(1-2) (-2)
7) Panama---------------(0-3) (-58)
8) Mexico----------------(0-3) (-75)

PUERTO RICO: The deepest roster in the tourney. This depth combined with the home crowd is a distinct advantage with a relentless schedule this week. Likely headed to the semis, but have three tough games with Brazil, Arg., & Dom Rep still to come. P. Rico is jacking up the 3pt. shots as usual, and shooting the long-ball at a 38% clip. Carlos Arroyo has played great ball, averaging 18 ppg & 6 apg. Playing under control, and making a strong case for an NBA contract. Their three 7-footers--PJ Ramos, Dan Santiago, & Ricky Sanchez--have played with good energy, which is something they don't always do. Nice contributions across the roster.

BRAZIL: Only been challenged by Dom. Rep. thus far, and only foresee Puerto Rico giving Brazil a challenge in the 2nd round. All five starters scoring in double figures and each shooting above 50%. Great balance between frontcourt & backcourt. Offense is running much smoother than in '07. Varejao & Splitter have been holding down the fort defensively. Utilizing their speed in transition. The only minor quibble has been their free throw shooting, something that annually plagues them.

ARGENTINA: Their 2nd round chances seemed to be in peril after the first two games, but bounced back with two huge wins. Luis Scola's been the best player in the tourney. Scoring in a variety of ways (spins, put-backs, rolls, hooks) and is creating space for teammates. Prigioni seems to be getting his sea legs after sitting out the entire exhibition stage. They will need the surrounding cast to continue to hit their open looks, similar to the Dom. Rep. game. Quinteros needs to provide scoring like he did in the Dom. Rep. every game.

URUGUAY: As they have in the past, show that the sum is greater than the parts. Good teamwork on both ends of the floor. Tough defensive unit, particularly aggressive perimeter defense with quick hands. Open up the 2nd round with a crucial test vs. Dom. Rep. Will see if Uruguay's lack of depth (especially on the frontline) catches up with them by the end of the week.

CANADA: Sort of the opposite trajectory of Argentina. Started off with two impressive wins in which a newly-installed offense was giving hope to the Canadians' qualifying chances. But those wins were against the likes of Virgin Islands & Mexico. Canada was humbled when they played better comp in the likes of Uruguay & Puerto Rico. The close loss to Uruguay could be a killer since they still have to play Braz., Arg., & Dom Rep. One positive for Canada--they get to carry over a +33 pt. diff. into the 2nd round, which could be a key tiebreaker, thanks to Mex. advancing to the 2nd round. Another positive for Canada--they have a fairly deep rotation that could help with the four straight days of games.

DOM REP: Suffered two tough losses to Brazil & Argentina, and could easily be undefeated. Their NBAers have been good, though Horford & Villanueva have had issues getting used to FIBA refs. Francisco Garcia is averaging 20 ppg mostly coming from contested 25-footers. Garcia is 17/34 from 3pt. range. Al Horford is doing a terrific all-around job scoring, rebounding, passing, and helping on the backline. Villanueva has struggled with inconsistent play and trying to force action sometimes. This squad has been plagued by some shoddy decision-making that has held them back. Really could use a quality PG.

MEXICO: Always seems to be a least one national team mired in turmoil each year, and this year it's Mexico. Team star Romel Beck wanted to look out for himself before the team, so he was sent packing for the 2nd round. Without Beck, scoring will be a chore. Mex. should be a non-factor in the 2nd round, and only hope to beat Panama.

PANAMA: Snuck into the 2nd round over Venezuela after Argentina's OT win on Sunday. Happy just to be playing an extra four games. SG JR Pinnock & PF Jaime Lloreda have played well, and Pinnock has actually hit some jumpers, which is unusual.


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