The knockout round at the 2019 FIBA World Cup is set, and by the time you read this the first game will be close to being in the books. (Argentina vs. Serbia tipped off at 7 a.m. ET on Tuesday.) Team USA went undefeated through the first two group stages, but somehow ended up with an absolutely brutal draw.
The Americans will play France on Wednesday (7 a.m. ET on ESPNews and ESPN+) and then the winner of Argentina and Serbia on Friday in the semifinals. Argentina still has some amount of it. Serbia has been considered the favorite to knock off Team USA in this tournament, but lost to Spain in an odd second group stage game. France is considered the third toughest team in the tournament by many (myself included) after Serbia and the United States. To face those squads just to get to the championship game is an absolute brutal draw, especially since Spain gets Poland in the quarterfinals (no offense to Poland) and Australia gets the Czech Republic (no offense to the Czechs).
Of course, because this is a bad draw for the United States, it’s also a really bad draw for France, Serbia, and Argentina. Someone’s going to lose earlier than expected and feel very bad. Now the only question is who.
Is the WNBA playoff format good?
Every time the WNBA playoffs come around I ask myself whether the weird hybrid playoff format is good. I still can’t decide. But I’m leaning against it.
We explained it in Monday’s newsletter, but a refresher: eight teams get in, the four lowest seeds pair off for elimination games, the winners face the Nos. 3 and 4 seeds for additional elimination games, then with the remaining four clubs it’s best-of-5 series all the way down. In other words, it’s a four-team best-of-5 tournament with two rounds of play-in games to get there.
Tournament byes offend my sensibilities and decrease, to some extent, the draw of one-off elimination games. You have elimination games to hype the drama and put top teams at real risk of upset. This is what makes the NCAA tournaments so magical. It’s somewhat less magical using single-elimination to determine third and fourth seeds. And while it’s nice to reward top seeds in tangible ways, the reward (two byes) seems to be disproportionate to the achievement. Plus, you’re basically locking up your top two teams away from fans (actual and potential) while you deal with the play-ins. You should want to show off your best teams as frequently as possible.
You have eight teams: what’s wrong with a normal bracket, best-of-3 in the first round and best-of-5 from there with no byes? The novelty would decrease but then all eight playoff teams would get at least one game at home and you’d have your best teams on T.V. from the start of the playoffs. Travel costs might increase, and clearly the WNBA is sensitive to expenses. But the pace of the WNBA playoffs as they exist now is basically nonexistant (the semifinals start a week from Tuesday and the whole 8-team tournament takes a full month). Isn’t it all needly complex?
Dan Devine has been writing the best stuff out there about Team USA at the World Cup. Here he is on the team potentially finally realizing who they are.
The NBA has banned the wrap headband, aka the ninja hairband, aka the pullback aka the tieback. The league’s competition committee -- a group of franchisees, general managers, coaches, and one player rep -- apparently expressed concern with safety and other bollocks.
I wrote about the potential end of 5-on-5 basketball in the Olympics.
What Matt Ellentuck learned playing 2K20’s WNBA mode against actual WNBA player Aerial Powers.
Brian Windhorst on the importance of Jaylen Brown to Team USA’s chances. I am on the record whispering that Brown might be the best player on Team USA.
Brittni Donaldson has joined the Raptors’ coaching staff, and is now the 10th female coach in the NBA. Zach Lowe writes about how her path is different. Hint: she’s 26.
It sounds like the Grizzlies are playing some brand of hardball with Andre Iguodala, who wants to be waived so he can spend the season with a contender.
Jonquel Jones of the Connecticut Sun, who has written about surviving hurricanes in her native Bahamas, is so close to her Hurricane Dorian relief fundraising goal!
Be excellent to each other.