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Jalen Brunson and Team USA seek to dominate in World Cup Group C

Group-mates Greece, New Zealand, and Jordan should offer little resistance.

2023 FIBA World Cup - USA Men’s National Team Practice - Las Vegas Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup begins on Friday in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Japan. In Manila, Jalen Brunson and Team USA will play their first tilt on Saturday when they battle New Zealand. The question of the tournament is: Can anyone stop them?

Boasting a lineup of stars led by Brunson, Anthony Edwards, and Tyrese Haliburton, Team USA is easily the favorite to emerge from Group C. Thirty-two teams will compete in this year’s Cup, and USA’s group is considered one of the weakest. Besides USA, it includes New Zealand, Jordan, and a Giannis-less Greece.

Team USA is hoping to rebound from the 2019 World Cup, when it suffered its worst finish in the competition. The five-time World Cup Champions are second only to Spain in the latest FIBA World Ranking.

USA’s undefeated exhibition performance, including a comeback win against a surprisingly tough Germany, demonstrated their firepower and resilience. Edwards and Brunson stood out, and they are supported by a talented roster that includes Mikal Bridges, Paolo Banchero (Rookie of the Year), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Defensive Player of the Year), and Brandon Ingram. And, of course, beloved New York Knick Josh Hart.

The US team’s roster highlights its emphasis on youth, with Bobby Portis and Hart as the oldest players at 28. For comparison, Spain’s 2019 World Cup-winning team had several players in their 30s.

Within their group, Greece should pose little threat. The loss of Giannis Antetokounmpo (health issues) and several other key players has dealt a significant blow to their World Cup prospects. In pre-cup preparatory matches, the team defeated Slovenia but lost to Serbia and Italy. Familiar face Thanasis Antetokounmpo will come off the bench for “Episimi Agapimeni” (Official Beloved).

With Team USA predicted to pick the top spot in Group C, jockeying for the remaining advancement slot intensifies. New Zealand aims to capitalize on Greece’s injury woes and is led by Flynn Cameron, Isaac Fotu, and Finn Delany. Steven Adams will not be making an appearance this time around. Despite pre-Cup losses, including one to Italy, the Tall Blacks did show their fortitude in a 77-67 win over the Shenzhen Leopards, one of the best in the Chinese Basketball Association. I was told to watch for Izayah Le’afa, so maybe you should, too?

Jordan has improved its lineup with the addition of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (of the NBA’s Brooklyn, Toronto, and Portland teams). Aided by previous standout Dar Tucker (G-League Most Improved Player, 2011) and veteran Zaid Abbas, the Jordanian team hopes to defy expectations after their 2019 goose egg, when they finished 28th following a winless group stage. Jordan won only one game in its previous two World Cup appearances.

Team USA’s five World Cup titles is tied with Yugoslavia’s total. The quest for a sixth, and international bragging rights, begins with Saturday’s game against the Kiwis at the Mall of Asia Arena. Look for it at 8:40 a.m. ET on ESPN2. Here’s a full schedule.

Good luck Jalen and Josh!