FIBA knockout round by tiers

— -- Now that FIBA Basketball World Cup pool play is over, 16 of the 24 teams have advanced to the one-and-done "knockout" round of 16 that starts Saturday. Eight teams from Pools A and B have moved on to Madrid while the eight teams from Pools C and D will play in Barcelona.

The FIBA World Cup championship game will be played Sept. 14 in Madrid and can be seen on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes. Which teams are legitimate contenders and which have no shot? Let's take a look at the remaining field.

The favorites


Spain is one of the tournament's two favorites. They have breezed through Pool A in Granada, thought to be the toughest of the four pools, and will play the rest of their games in the friendly confines of Madrid's Palacio de los Deportes de la Comunidad.

Pau Gasol leads a veteran team in scoring and is fourth in the tournament. Spain has just three double-figure scorers but, more important, it has eight players who have essentially been together since the 2008 Olympics and have a combined 700 games of international experience.

Spain has the beef inside with Gasol, his brother, Marc, and the Oklahoma City Thunder's Serge Ibaka. They have combined to make 62 percent of their shots thus far in the tournament. And they are more than capable of beating any team with their excellent guard play. Juan Carlos Navarro, Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Rodriguez are no longer in the NBA, but they have proved in the past that they won't be intimidated by Team USA's talent.


The unexpected strength of Team USA has been up front with Anthony Davis, Kenneth Faried and DeMarcus Cousins. Davis and Faried are my co-favorites along with Spain's Pau Gasol to win the World Cup's Most Outstanding Player Award. They have combined to make almost 70 percent of their field goal attempts.

If there has been an Achilles' heel so far for Mike Krzyzewski's team, it has been its perimeter shooting. The team is making just 34 percent of its shots from the shorter FIBA 3-point line. That could, however, change in a moment's notice.

Dangerous teams


The "Golden Generation" might be on its last legs, especially without Manu Ginobili and Carlos Delfino, but Luis Scola is as reliable as the sun rising in the East every day. Not surprisingly, he is second in the tournament in scoring.

In the backcourt, there is a changing of the guard (no pun intended) as the Knicks' 37-year-old point guard, Pablo Prigioni, will soon give way to 23-year-old Facundo Campazzo, who will play at Real Madrid next season. For now, they have provided solid backcourt play for Argentina.


The Brazilians have had an excellent tournament so far by surviving a tough Group A with a 4-1 record. New Golden State Warriors guard Leandro Barbosa has been excellent, averaging 14 points a game and shooting well from deep. This team not only has NBA size inside with Tiago Splitter, Anderson Varejao and Néné Hilario, but it has an experienced international point guard in Marcelo Huertas who can play with the best in the world. And it has scoring balance as seven players are averaging almost eight points a game or better.


With Tony Parker on the roster, France would be more than a dark horse in the tournament, but he has elected to take a rare summer off from the French national team. Instead, the Spurs' Boris Diaw leads the way, although 10 players are averaging more than 14 minutes a game.

Joeffey Lauvernge, a 6-foot-10 forward who plays for Partizan Belgrade, has been France's most consistent inside scorer. If Les Bleus are to advance, current NBA players Nicolas Batum and Evan Fournier must pick up their scoring.


In a country of 3 million people, basketball is the second religion in Lithuania and its national team plays with that type of passion. While the Raptors' Jonas Valanciunas and the Rockets' Donatas Motiejunas are the team's most recognizable names and its leading scorers, there are players on this roster who have had long and productive international careers.

Shooting guard and former Mavs draft pick Renaldas Seibutis, small forward Jonas Maciulis and the 7-foot Lavrinovic twins, Darius and Ksystof, can be a thorn in the side against any opponent left in the tournament.

Dark horse candidates


The Boomers created a little controversy on Thursday by "resting" most of their key players in a loss to Angola in order to finish in third place in Pool D and avoid the U.S. until the semifinals.

Australia might be without injured point guard Patty Mills and center Andrew Bogut, but they possess the typical feisty Aussie grit that gives Spain or Team USA a hassle in a one-and-done game.

Lefty swingman Joe Ingles, who will be a target of NBA teams at the conclusion of the tournament, is a scorer with a nice shooting touch and the athleticism to get to the basket. Both Aron Baynes and Matthew Dellavedova contributed to their respective NBA teams, the Spurs and the Cavs, last season and have played well so far.


Outside of Team USA, nobody has better young talent in this tournament than Croatia.

Bojan Bogdanovic, a 6-foot-7 forward headed to the Brooklyn Nets this season, is averaging 20 points a game on 52 percent shooting. Twenty-year-old phenom Dario Saric, who is expected to join the 76ers in two seasons, is averaging 13 points and almost seven rebounds a game.


First-year Greek national team coach Fotis Katsikaris has done a terrific job of blending old and new players and has erased the stain of the team's dismal performance in last year's Eurobasket Tournament.

While current NBA players Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nick Calathes have played well and are part of the team's future, it has been veteran center Giannis Bourousis who has led the way. The 7-1 big man, who plays for Real Madrid, averaged a double-double in Pool B play.


Serbia was in the difficult Pool A, and it did not have a signature win over Spain, France or Brazil. They instead advanced because of wins over Iran and Egypt.

Point guard Milos Teodosic is an NBA-level player who has chosen to remain in Europe and, in a close game, can make big shots. Miroslav Radulijca, recently waived by the Los Angeles Clippers, is a 7-foot center who has been a beast in the paint.


They have the unlucky distinction of finishing second in Pool D play and could meet up with Team USA in the quarterfinal round if both teams advance.

Slovenia is led in scoring (17 points a game) and assists (four) by third-team All-NBA guard Goran Dragic. And Dragic has help on the perimeter from his brother Zoran, a 6-5 shooting guard, and Doman Lorbek, who combined to shoot 39 percent from the 3-point line.

There's not a lot of scoring on the interior, although 6-8 Jure Balazic has made 11 of his 20 shots behind the arc. If Slovenia is making those 3-point shots, they have a puncher's chance.


Turkey gave Team USA its only scare, leading at the half, because they had the experienced guard play that controlled the pace and an NBA big man who is a defensive presence at the rim.

Kerem Tunceri, Sinan Guler and Ender Arslan kept the Americans out of transition by taking care of the ball versus the best defensive pressure in the tournament. The Pelicans' Omer Asik can control the paint defensively against most teams in the tournament.

We've seen what Turkey can do over 20 minutes. Do they have 40 minutes in them?

The long shots

Dominican Republic

This team has qualified for its first FIBA World Cup since 1978, so advancing the round of 16 is another step in the right direction. Orlando Antigua, the first-year head coach at South Florida, should be commended.

The Houston Rockets' Francisco Garcia is the Dominican Republic's go-to scorer, averaging 20 points a game, and has made a blistering 17 of 26 shots behind the 3-point arc. But even if Garcia is on fire, there's not much evidence that they can advance far.


Mexico is culminating a banner 12 months of basketball. They won the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship (Team USA already had qualified by winning the 2012 Olympic gold medal) and have found themselves successfully navigating Pool D with two NBA players in Gustavo Ayon and Jorge Gutierrez. Unfortunately Mexico's stay in Spain will come to an end Saturday as they open the round of 16 versus Team USA.


Senegal has made history by winning its first two FIBA World Cup games ever. In fact, in their monumental upset of Croatia, they led nearly wire-to-wire.

Former Louisville star and current Minnesota Timberwolves player Gorgui Dieng is averaging 18 points and 11 rebounds and, as impressive, 38 minutes a game.

New Zealand

The Kiwis' Kirk Penny, the former Wisconsin star, has been representing his country since the 2002 World Championships in Indianapolis. The New Zealand team finished in a surprising fourth place then. A similar result is highly unlikely.

Penny is the team's best player and, while Mika Vukona and Thomas Abercrombie are experienced international players, they don't possess the ability to do anything extraordinary in the remaining games.