Hoopin’ down under at the FIBA World Cup — Must-click women’s basketball links
The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Alex Simon, Sept. 28, 2022
Greetings from the West Coast! Alex Simon of Bay Area News Group here for the week as a pinch-hitter for Howard Megdal, who is off this week.
There is no perfect place to be, stateside, to watch the FIBA World Cup taking place down in Australia. But being out West has been ideal for seeing Team USA, as all five of their games so far have tipped off at or before 9 p.m. Pacific and they have been wrapping up in 90 minutes. Heck, the first two games happened before dinner time out here, something not true for East Coasters like Howard.
As we prepare for the start of the knockout rounds, Team USA’s first major tournament under Cheryl Reeve has certainly been interesting. Even before games began, the decision to carry five players who played in the WNBA Finals on the roster after bringing several young stars — both in the league, like Rhyne Howard, and even in college with Aliyah Boston — all the way to Australia was fascinating.
Even who Reeve has played has all sorts of intrigue to it. When the Americans only had nine for the first two games, we saw everyone. But not playing either Brionna Jones or Shakira Austin at all in the game against the very-center-oriented China?
It’s hard to argue with the results: five wins, continuing a streak of not losing going back to 2006. But it sure makes for some intriguing knockout stage games to come, starting with the reigning Eurobasket champion Serbia (coverage on ESPNU starts at 9:50 p.m. ET tonight).
Elsewhere, we get an all-North America showdown between Canada, who have bounced back from a disappointing showing in Tokyo and look mighty impressive in this tournament, taking on Puerto Rico, which is making the quarterfinals for the first time ever (the winner of the 12:30 a.m. ET game faces the U.S. in the semis).
As we definitely expected coming into the tournament, the two players tied for the tournament lead with 18 points per game: USA’s A’ja Wilson and Arella Guirantes for Puerto Rico, who has been a delight to watch. I have to imagine both she and Puerto Rico teammate Mya Hollingshed (who dropped 29 points and 12 rebounds to beat South Korea) will get another shot in the WNBA soon.
On the other side of the bracket, we have our one big bummer of the tournament, as Emma Meesseman hurt her calf and is out for the remainder of the World Cup for Belgium. Here’s to hoping it isn’t anything major for the 2019 WNBA Finals MVP.
The Cats will take on host Australia (6:30 a.m. ET, if you East Coasters like some basketball with your coffee or breakfast), who ended up on top of Group B after losing their first game to France who will face China (4 a.m. ET) in the other quarterfinal. The Next’s Scott Mammoser can take you through what to watch for in each quarterfinal game.
For Opals coach Sandy Brondello, it’s another team where she’s figuring out how much pain Rebecca Allen can apparently take, as the Liberty wing missed two games in the World Cup following a nasty collision against Serbia.
For everyone at this point, the quarterfinals will mark their sixth game played in eight days, with another two games in two days set if you advance to the semifinals (2:50 a.m. and 5:20 a.m. ET on Friday morning in the U.S.) and the final.
That final, by the way? 2 a.m. ET on Saturday morning. Or, if you’re on the #BestCoast, it’s only 11 p.m. PT Friday night. You could even still go get a celebratory beverage after the final if you’re out here.
ESPN’s Alexa Phillippou is down under and providing her usual excellent basketball coverage.
But hey, she’s also documenting her various adventures on Instagram, too!
LJ also was profiled in The New York Times by Australian journalist Kieran Pender.
For example, Copper on Cheryl Reeve: “I like Cheryl. She’s a competitor — which is no surprise since she’s a Virgo.”
The aforementioned Scott Mammoser wrote about Shakira Austin’s early shine for Team USA.
Scott also wrote about how the Sun and Aces adjusted to the lightning-quick turnaround.
And finally, ESPN Australia’s excellent basketball reporter Kane Pitman checks in on all of the news around the Opals ahead of the knockout stage.
No Fixe at The IX this week, but instead, please delight in this video from USA Basketball:
And The Next‘s Isabel Rodrigues hopped on the Locked on Women’s Basketball podcast with Missy Heidrick to talk about the World Cup:
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