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2023 FIBA Men’s Basketball World Cup Group B Preview

The 2023 FIBA Men’s Basketball World Cup will get underway this Friday, August 25, with games being played in the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia for this year’s event. As is the case at most every international basketball event, Team USA is the heavy favorite at -125 to win it all, but the Americans finished seventh at the 2019 World Cup (where Spain beat Argentina in the finals) and are bringing a young team without much of any international experience, meaning the outcome of this year’s tournament is far from a certainty.

As such, a number of teams have hopes of making a run at the World Cup crown, while plenty of others are looking to take a stride forward with the best result in their country’s recent basketball history. Group B features one tournament hopeful and three teams looking to enjoy a run to the knockout round, as Serbia has the sixth-best odds for winning the World Cup (+1400) and are heavy favorites to win the group, while Puerto Rico, China, and South Sudan are all looking to reach the knockout stage, with Puerto Rico the expected second team to advance (odds via DraftKings).

Serbia -2500
Puerto Rico +1200
China +2000
South Sudan +4000

Here we’ll look at some players to watch, the biggest game, and the full schedule for Group B.

Players to Watch

Kyle Anderson (China): Anderson is among the names NBA fans will be familiar with and might be surprised to see playing for a certain national team. Anderson’s great-grandfather was Chinese and thus allowed him to gain naturalized citizenship earlier this year — he’s the first naturalized basketball player to play for China. Anderson gives China some needed size on the wing and additional ball-handling as they look to get past the group stage the Timberwolves forward will get the chance to be the leading man.

Tremont Waters (Puerto Rico): The former second round pick of the Celtics now plays professionally in Puerto Rico and is that leading man for the national team. Waters has authored some big moments for Puerto Rico in the run-up to the tournament, including a buzzer-beater to take down Brazil during qualifying (and a 29-point outburst against Brazil a few games prior).

Waters scored 17 against Team USA during tune-up play (and had five steals), and if Puerto Rico is going to emerge from the group stage it is likely due to strong play from the small guard.

Bogdan Bogdanovic (Serbia): Serbia won’t have the services of their biggest star this summer, as Nikola Jokic sits out the World Cup after winning his first NBA title, but they still have some serious talent on the roster. Bogdan Bogdanovic headlines that group, as the Hawks wing will serve as Serbia’s top star in the World Cup. Bogdanovic scored 15 points and 14 points in Serbia’s exhibitions against Greece and Italy respectively earlier in the month and is their most dynamic perimeter threat. The World Cup will also be a chance for Bogdanovic to build back his confidence a bit after battling injuries recently in Atlanta, which could bode well for the Hawks if he can establish a rhythm overseas.

Nikola Jovic (Serbia): Joining Bogdanovic from the NBA on Serbia’s roster is Nikola Jovic, who is coming off of a rookie year in Miami where he played sparingly. For the Serbian squad, he takes on a bigger role and led the team with 18 points in the tune-up against Italy. Jovic has an intriguing mix of size (6’10) and skill, and with Jokic off the roster for the tournament, they’ll be looking for the collective group to step up and fill larger roles, giving Jovic a chance to have a real impact on how far the Serbian team can go.

Wenyen Gabriel (South Sudan): Gabriel is the biggest name suiting up for South Sudan this year, as the Lakers big man will bring some serious size and athleticism to the roster. Gabriel didn’t play in qualifiers or AfroBasket 2021, but should give the South Sudan squad a serious presence on the glass and a vertical spacing threat at the rim. He pairs with Marial Shayok in the backcourt as the players American basketball fans will be most familiar with, and will hope to lead South Sudan to a surprising performance in the group.

Schedule/TV Info (all times EST)

Aug. 26
South Sudan vs. Puerto Rico 4:00 a.m., ESPN+
Serbia vs. China, 8:00 a.m., ESPN+

Aug. 28
China vs. South Sudan, 4:00 a.m., ESPN+
Puerto Rico vs. Serbia, 8:00 a.m., ESPN+

Aug. 30
South Sudan vs. Serbia, 4:00 a.m., ESPN+
China vs. Puerto Rico, 8:00 a.m., ESPN+

Game to Watch

China vs. Puerto Rico: With Serbia as the heavy favorites, the focus in Group B is likely to be on who can be the second team to advance to the knockout stages. China and Puerto Rico’s game on August 30 could very well be a play-in game as the final game of the group, as they will each have played South Sudan and Serbia already, with the odds being they’ll both come in at 1-1. If that’s the case, it’ll be very interesting to see how this game shakes out. Puerto Rico will be the favorites, but in a one-game eliminator, China will certainly have a shooter’s chance at breaking their way through to the knockout rounds.