The 2023 men’s FIBA World Cup started with 32 teams from around the globe all competing to prove it had the best basketball country on Earth. After two rounds of group play and the start of the knockout rounds in the quarterfinals, there are now only four teams still left standing.
The United States faces Germany, while Canada faces Serbia on Friday for the right to reach the championship game of the World Cup on Sunday. This has been an amazing tournament so far, and it’s only going to get better from here. We have the scores and schedule for every game at the World Cup here.
The final four is loaded with NBA starpower. Germany is led by Franz Wagner and Dennis Schroder, Serbia has been carried by Atlanta Hawks wing Bogdan Bogdanović, while Canada and Team USA have rosters full of top talent. All four teams truly feel like they can win it all. Which country is most likely to end the World Cup on top? Let’s rank them.
Dennis Schroder had been Germany’s lead engine throughout their undefeated run in this World Cup, but in the quarterfinals they had to find a way to win with their point guard having a nightmare game. Schroder couldn’t buy a bucket against Latvia, shooting just 4-of-26 on the night. Fortunately for the Germans, Schroder’s cold night coincided with Franz Wagner’s return to the lineup from injury. Wagner came off the bench to score 16 points and handle the playmaking duties that typically belong to Schroder. Latvia’s Davis Bertans had a chance to win the game at the buzzer, but his shot clanked off the rim. Germany survived to move into the semis even if it wasn’t pretty.
While Germany is last in this version of the rankings, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if they beat Team USA and end up winning the tournament. Big man Daniel Theis can give the Americans trouble banging inside, Schroder is due for a bounce-back game, and the younger Wagner brother is a devastating weapon as a 6’10 playmaker on both ends of the floor. Germany has played with cohesion throughout this tournament, and they have the horses to keep up with Team USA in transition. The Germans still won on their worst night. You can bet the United States will see a better version of them on Friday.
Save for a two-point loss to Italy early in group play, Serbia has been leveling every opponent in their way throughout this World Cup. Lithuania learned that lesson the hard way in the quarterfinals: coming off an inspired upset of Team USA, Lithuania got out-muscled and out-shot for another blow out win for Serbia. Bogdan Bogdanović continues to be one of the tournament’s most electric scorers, ripping the nets from three-point range and making difficult pull-ups to pace the attack. Former Gonzaga star Filip Petrušev can space the floor at 6’11, knocking down all three of his three-point attempts to punch Serbia’s ticket to the semifinals. There just aren’t a lot of holes in this roster to be easily exploited, and that makes Serbia a tough out regardless of who they’re facing.
Serbia blends size and spacing, efficiency and toughness to be one of the World Cup’s most complete teams. They have been the tournament’s most efficient two-point shooting team the entire way. Serbia consistently passes up good shots for great shots on offense, and they rarely turn the ball over. Their high-volume three-point shooting opens up driving lanes on the inside, and there are multiple big men who can make teams pay near the basket. Bogdanović feels like he can go toe-to-toe with any scorer in the field, and now he gets Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Canada in the semifinals. This run by Serbia is only surprising if you haven’t been paying attention.
Canada’s World Cup dreams were slipping through their fingers in a win-or-go-home game against Spain to close out group play. Down double-figures heading into the fourth quarter, the Canadians roared back behind Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to win the game, punch their qualification ticket for the Olympics, and remind the world that they may be the best team in the field. Luka Doncic and Slovenia provided a tough test in the quarterfinals, but Canada proved it was the deeper, more athletic team that simply had more ways to win. Now only Serbia stands between the Canadians and the championship game, likely against Team USA.
Gilgeous-Alexander is now the best player remaining in the field as an incredible on-ball creator. Dillon Brooks is a lockdown defender on the wing who will draw the Bogdanović assignment in the semis. R.J. Barrett can break teams driving downhill even if that strategy can have some ugly moments. Adding in Kelly Olynyk’s playmaking and Lu Dort’s 3-and-D skill set, and Canada has all the pieces to not just end Serbia’s run, but to win this World Cup. This is the moment Canada basketball has been waiting for, and now it’s finally here.
1. United States
Team USA’s loss to Lithuania in the final game of group play could be argued as beneficial in a few different ways. For one, it gave USA an easier draw to start the knockout round with a matchup against Italy — who the Americans routed 100-63 — instead of facing a better opponent in Serbia. It also might have lit a fire under the U.S. on the defensive end: head coach Steve Kerr went to a press early in the quarterfinals, which resulted in so many easy baskets that helped turn the game into a blowout before halftime. After getting trounced on the glass against Lithuania, Team USA had an inspired effort as a group to focus on ending possessions with a defensive rebound that should serve them well moving forward.
Of course, Italy didn’t have a big man as capable as Jonas Valanciunas. Bruising centers have given the U.S. trouble throughout the tournament, and they aren’t in the clear yet with a matchup against Daniel Theis and Germany looming in the semifinals. Still, with Rudy Gobert, Karl-Anthony Towns, and now Valanciunas already eliminated, the chances of running into a dominant center are dwindling, which means the bracket is breaking the right way for the Americans. The U.S. still has a winning formula with a devastating open floor attack, tons of shooting on the perimeter, and clearly the best depth out of any team in the field. Opponents better try to slow the game down and mash the U.S. on the inside, because attempting to play at their pace is a losing plan.