USA opens the 2023 FIBA World Cup against New Zealand in the central game of Saturday’s program. The media attention will be the highest possible because all the NBA stars showed incredible potential despite playing together only for a few games. New Zealand is an underdog who is aware of its position. They had their glory days back in 2002 when we saw them in the World Cup semis. Though, those days are way behind the Kiwis, who are now a mediocre unit.
Team USA (-10000) comes to the World Cup with a perfect record in their friendly games, playing five and winning every time. Steve Kerr’s unit defeated Puerto Rico, Slovenia, Spain, Greece, and Germany. They had to return from a 16-point deficit against the Germans, who had the Americans on a plate, yet missed a chance for a major upset.
Anthony Edwards, Tyrese Haliburton, and Jaren Jackson Jr. imposed themselves as the leaders, with Edwards being the biggest star and the first attacking option while on the floor. We don’t mean to underestimate Ingram, Haliburton, Brunson, and others, but the Minnesota guard really stands above all the others.
Steve Kerr is hungry for success, and after having four titles with the Warriors, he is after another piece of silverware. There is an additional motive for him because the team ended seventh four years ago in China.
New Zealand (+2000) played five test games before this tournament, beating only Japan of all of their rivals, 94-75. Meanwhile, the Kiwis were defeated by Japan, Canada, China and Italy. After seeing all of their performances, the fans aren’t happy at all, and their expectations have significantly dropped.
When brothers Tai and Corey Webster canceled their participation in the global competition, the atmosphere was already on the decline, and as time went by, it got worse. The 27-year-old Yani Wetzell from Alba Berlin is the guy who should be the leader of the unit. In 12.7 minutes in EuroLeague, he averaged 6.5 points with 2.8 boards.
Besides the United States, New Zealand’s group also includes Jordan and a weakened Greece. The Kiwis know they don’t stand a chance against the NBA stars and are already focused on the remaining two events in which they could create a positive result.
Head to Head Games
The last meeting between these two nations was at the World Cup back in 2014, and the US unit routinely beat the rivals 98-71.
We don’t have much to say here. The United States formed a very young team, which could provide a couple of guys who are going to be the backbone of the team for the years to come.
Meanwhile, Kiwis are still searching for players that could carry the team in the future. Without the Webster brothers, this championship is lost in terms of making some notable result, but it could be beneficial if at least one reliable player steps up and improves his game.
The US team will start strong and immediately impose its own tempo. Knowing Steve Kerr, the Warriors’ head coach will want his team to solve everything as soon as possible, and maybe slow down in the latter part of the event. That’s why we picked the US unit to cover a 20.5-point spread at halftime.
Pick: Halftime USA -20.5 -110
Nikola Velickovic is a sports journalist who loves to write and read on all sports. Nikola contributes both news updates and functions as a sports breaking news writer at WagerBop.