Team USA cleared the preliminary round of FIBA competition undefeated after their 92-57 thrashing of Tunisia on Sept. 2 in Turkey.

The Americans improved to 5-0 as the top seed in Group B and will take on the No. 4 ranked team in Group A, Angola, on Sept. 6. Aside from a two-point win over Brazil, group play was mostly mop up work for the United States, who won four of their games by an average of 30.5 points.

The United States is still trying to shake out a roster of explosive talent, but one player has all but assured himself of a prominent role when real competition begins. Eric Gordon scored a game-high 21 points against Tunisia and has outperformed starting shooting guard Chauncey Billups over the last two weeks of preliminary play.

While he may not bring the experience and leadership of the 12-year National Basketball Association veteran, Gordon offers team USA a combination of long range shooting, athleticism and explosive scoring ability. Gordon can score points in bunches and will be hard to keep out of the lineup in the next round when opposing teams deploy their traditional zone defenses to combat the American team’s athleticism.

Guard play is critical in international competition and the U.S. has a slew of premier players at the position. Gordon and Billups are combo guards who can switch from lead guard to scoring guard in a pinch. Ultra-athletic point guards Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook are impossible to handle one-on-one, and Stephen Curry may be the best shooter on the team. Add in Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay and Andre Iguodala, forwards who can handle and shoot like guards, and Team USA is well equipped to dominate this tournament.

Cohesion will be the Americans’ main goal as they try to gel before the start of single-elimination play on Sept. 6. Although several players on the current roster have been previously involved in international competition, this will be the first time many face elimination in a world tournament, a situation that head coach Mike Krzyzewski fully acknowledges.

“In practice we have to get better. In these next few days, we have to get better,” Krzyzewski said in a statement on http://www.usabasketball.com. “I think we are going to play Angola on Monday night, we need to be ready for that and remember it’s one and done. If you don’t win, you can’t win it. It’s kind of like the NCAA tournament.”

 

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO