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Just The Sports: FIBA World Championship Semi-Finals Preview

Just The Sports

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

FIBA World Championship Semi-Finals Preview

Even though semi-final play in the FIBA World Championships does not occur until Friday, it is not too early to preview the two games and make predictions that will undoubtedly go wrong. The four teams that have made it this far should come as no surprise since they are also the four teams that went undefeated in group play.

Spain vs. Argentina

This game, pitting two countries with the same primary language against each other, is the more evenly matched one because Spain and Argentina in this tournament have been almost mirror images of each other. Both countries have high offensive ratings and floor percentages; Spain's numbers are 119.0 and .54 and Argentina's are 117.4 and .53. Each shoots well from the field and the line. Argentina shoots a slightly higher free throw percentage, but Spain shoots and makes more total free throws. Argentina does turn the ball over less than Spain, but you get the point.

The similarities extend to defense as well. Spain has a defensive rating of 91.1 and allows their opponents a floor percentage of .41. Argentina gives up 90.5 points per 100 possessions and an opponent floor percentage of .43. Spain's opponents average 2.2 more 3-pointers than Argentina's, but Argentina gives up more offensive rebounds. Each does it in a slightly different way and still arrives at basically the same numbers.

As for the winner of this match-up, I will be going with Argentina for the simple fact they have been more consistent throughout tournament play, going by variance of offensive and defensive ratings.

USA vs. Greece

To me, this is the more intriguing of the two semi-final games because it pits two teams with differing philosophies. Each team has been efficient on both sides of the ball, but there is no disputing the fact the US's very efficient offense has been its calling card while Greece is most known for a consistently good, smothering defense. The winner of this game will be the one who can play better on the other side of the court.

What has been most impressive about Greece's defense is the low percentage allowed on free throw shooting along with opponents only average 16 free throw attempts a game. Perhaps there are those who think opponents' free throw percentage is out of a team's hands, but I am not one of them. Fouling the right people on the court is as much a skill as hitting a jumper and Greece has excelled at it.

Overall, the US has an offensive rating of 128.5 and a defensive rating of 98.8; Greece has an offensive rating of 113.5 and a defensive rating of 90.9. Therefore, the US has an overall efficiency margin advantage.

I predict the US will win because their defense, although more inconsistent than Greece's, has been much improved over the last three games and Greece's offensive rating is inflated by a 148.0 game when they played against a porous China defense, making the team look better than it probably is.


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