What's that, you say? You wish someone would give you a comprehensive and clever in-depth preview of every one of this weekend's FIBA World Championship second-round games? Uncle Tony has a present for you.
United States vs. Australia, Sunday, 12 a.m.: Finally, we get to see if Andrew Bogut can single-handedly take down an arsenal of NBA All-Stars. That's not entirely the situation, but it's a large part of it.
|Rim-bending Dwight Howard should handle Andrew Bogut. (Getty Images)|
Dwight Howard, who will be plenty rested following a hard fall that left his back and hip injured, will likely draw Bogut first, but expect Mike Krzyzewski to throw a lot of bodies at him. Even though knockout play raises the stakes to a win-or-go-home situation, expect the United States to continue to play everyone on the roster to keep legs fresh while pressuring relentlessly.
Offensively, Carmelo Anthony is in midseason form and continues to be the focal point of the U.S. offense, while fellow captains Dwyane Wade and LeBron James have flourished. Hard to imagine Brad Newley and C.J. Bruton having much success interfering.
(Incidentally, this game will take place at midnight, while Saturday Night Live is on. See how I take care of you, readers? Ensuring you won't miss this game because of showtime confusion ... I'm a great guy.) On to the quarterfinals. United States 119, Australia 87.
Argentina vs. New Zealand, Friday, 9 p.m.: Argentina is having fun. A different guy steps up every game, Manu Ginobili is at his flopping finest and not being overextended, and future NBAers Luis Scola and Walter Herrmann are really, really good. New Zealand is probably fielding its best team ever, but this is the end of the line. Argentina 93, New Zealand 76.
Italy vs. Lithuania, Saturday, 12 a.m.: Marco Belinelli. Name just rolls off your tongue. Fun to say Belinelli. Bell-ehh-nelli. He has people talking about him.
On an Italian team missing No. 1 pick Andrea Bargnani, somebody had to step up if the country with one of the best basketball leagues in the world was going to be any factor. Belinelli has been the guy. He has a sniper's quality.
Lithuania has Arvydas Macijauskas, who has been busy pulling out splinters from his season-long stint on the bench with the Hornets. He's shooting well, but Washington's Darius Songaila and Denver's Linas Kleiza have to help him out. An upset is only possible if all three of the team's standouts have it going. Hasn't happened yet. Italy 84, Lithuania 75.
Turkey vs. Slovenia, Saturday, 4 a.m.: Turkey has overcome the absences of Utah's Mehmet Okur and Orlando's Hedo Turkoglu to the point where you wonder just how far this team could go if they were on board.
Slovenia has been hot and cold, but it does have talent. Somebody needs to tell the coach that Primoz Brezec is much better than Rasho Nesterovic and they should go through him. Desperation often brings out the light bulb in people, so I'm betting that Ales Pipan finally realizes this at the last possible moment, resulting in an upset. Slovenia 82, Turkey 80.
Spain vs. Serbia & Montenegro, Saturday, 7 a.m.: This isn't your typical second-round matchup. The reigning champ against a Spanish team considered by many to be the favorite. Favorite -- not most likely to beat the U.S. -- favorite.
Darko Milicic has been very good, helping lead his country's youth movement as they gain experience with an eye towards the Olympics. They haven't learned enough to tackle this challenge, though. The Spanish are playing phenomenally, and although their soccer team is prone to underachieving and folding in major tournaments, this is a different sport. They're in it for the long haul. Take that, Raul. Spain 105, Serbia & Montenegro 84.
Germany vs. Nigeria, Saturday, 9 p.m.: The Germans face their second consecutive African opponent after going three overtimes with Angola on Thursday. In that game, the subject of re-naming his homeland was touched upon after he scored 47 and grabbed 16 boards. Can the man get some help? Otherwise, yes, re-name Deutschland "Dirkland," because he is the entire country in basketball. Luckily, Nigeria is the worst team to qualify for the Round of 16. Germany 77, Nigeria 69
France vs. Angola, Sunday, 4 a.m.: I'm setting my TiVo for this one. Angola has been better than anyone would've expected, while the French have come down a few notches without Tony Parker.
It was unfortunate that the All-Star point guard went down with a broken right index finger, but there's more than enough on the French roster to where it shouldn't lose to an Angola squad without NBA-quality talent. Unfortunately for France, that means squat. Angola plays much better together than the French, who have struggled with their shooting. Personally, I'm putting this game on Mickael Pietrus. What are you doing, man? 8-for-37? That can't continue. France 96, Angola 93.
Greece vs. China, Sunday, 7 a.m.: Good matchup for everyone but the Chinese to enjoy. If you're a team reliant on a single star, the Greeks are the wrong team to play. Think the now-extinct Detroit Pistons. (That's right, Ben Wallace is gone, and you guys are done in terms of what you used to be. Deal with it.) Greece shares the ball, defends relentlessly and will kill you with fundamentals. Curiously enough, coach Panagiotis Yannakis has yet to be named a candidate to coach the New York Knicks. Word is it's his dream job. Oh well, at least he'll be happy after this one. Greece 86, China 71.