Our FIBA coverage appears to be popular here at WagerBop, and a hearty thanks to all of the readers who are jumping onboard. It occurs to me that – by accident or by design – the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup is a perfect setup for hoops gambling enthusiasts.
Think of it – the eternal curse of “futures” gambling is that even if you find a really good payoff line, at best-case-scenario it will take weeks or months to score with a winner. Preseason MLB picks on the World Series make for a fun ritual of speculation but aren’t anything like the rush of a pregame NFL wager that pays off (or doesn’t) in 3 hours. Yet with the fast-paced FIBA tournament’s schedule, a “futures” bet is really an investment on the here-and-now.
Round-robin play will be 3-games-and-done in a flash. The medal round won’t last beyond mid-September.
The FIBA World Cup is not a marathon – it’s a sprint.
Odds-on favorite sprinters can take blows before the blocks are set in a track meet, and odds-on favorite basketball teams can be in trouble before the tip-off. But while the roster-hemorrhaging of Team USA may be woe to the Stars & Stripes chances of a 3rd straight world title, NBA fans from America and beyond can quietly rejoice.
Betting on the outcome in China has gotten a whole lot more interesting.
The United States was once a prohibitive futures favorite to win in ’19 behind the coaching of Gregg Popovich and a roster of All-Stars led by James Harden. As the summer has progressed, the Americans’ short betting line has lengthened and lengthened with a lack of action, to the point where the Yanks are merely a (-250) gold-medal wager at MyBookie.
Why wouldn’t speculators shy on a squad that could be losing its grip already? Popovich is still there, but the old coach resembles the avatar in the “Access Denied” scene from Lawnmower Man, or maybe a man trying to dam a runaway river. Kyle Kuzma is the latest defection from the USA roster, and made his decision in mid-August with scarcely weeks to go before the event begins.
Then the Americans lost to Australia in a friendly game that didn’t feel real friendly.
What’s especially alarming about the United States’ exhibition loss is that despite having a talented lineup, Australia is not among the top favorites to prevail with gold.
Ah, but notice the plural noun – favorites. The thinning-out of the Team USA roster of cagers means that other teams with equally-thin lineups of NBA and EuroLeague stars actually have a chance to win the whole damn thing.
Serbia’s line-to-win gold has shrunk to (+325), and Spain is at 14-to-1. The Aussies are still at 33-to-1 to win the World Cup at MyBookie…showing just how deep the tournament is in teams perceived to be competitive against USA’s “C” roster.
Let’s look at the squads from Group C and Group D, with each round-robin division of 4 teams tipping-off on August 31st – with an extra eye on Las Vegas line movement over the last 2-3 weeks.
All odds courtesy of MyBookie.
FIBA World Cup: Group C Previews and Gambling Lines
Spain ((+1400) Odds-to-Win World Cup, (-20000) Odds-to-Win Group C)
Spain would always be a favorite to win its Group Stage division at the World Cup based on the national team’s past success and bevy of NBA and European talent.
But it helps when you rock and roll through the qualifiers, too.
Currently ranked #2 in the world behind the Stars & Stripes, the Spanish squad was stupendous throughout an unbeaten run to the dance. Spain was crowned champion at the FIBA World Cup as recently as 2006, and bookmakers are taking no chances with a “troll” futures line of 1-to-100 on the overwhelming Group C favorite.
Play-making PG Quino Colom led the team during qualifiers, but Marc Gasol is coming off an NBA title run and will play in China regardless, to his everlasting credit. That’s just another factor helping Spain to those microscopically-short payoff odds against Puerto Rico, Iran and Tunisia. Head coach Sergio Scariolo has led Spain to 3 EuroBasket gold medals and medal-winning Olympic bids in 2012 and 2016.
The Spanish were a 1-to-100 wager to breeze through the Group Stage over the early summer, and the line is even more ridiculous at betting boards now.
Puerto Rico (+30000) (+1800)
Puerto Rico has been a consistent participant at the FIBA World Cup, but carries an all-time best 4th-place finish and finished out of the top 15 on the last go-around.
I couldn’t look at the roster and explain why the Puerto Ricans were at 11-to-1 to beat Spain and prevail in Group C when they really ought to have been closer to 15-to-1. MyBookie gamblers have now “overcorrected” by driving the squad all the way to (+1800).
Dallas Maverick point guard J.J. Barea is eager to suit up for the team, but he suffered from a torn Achilles Tendon during the NBA season and may appear tentative in the Group Stage.
Puerto Rico played well in an 8-point loss to a fair-to-middling Team USA roster in 2017.
Iran (+75000) (+2200)
Iran has been having notable success in Asia, winning 3 of the last 5 FIBA Asian Championships. The team competed in the 2010 and 2014 FIBA World Cups, with disappointing outcomes each time.
23-year-old guard Behnam Yakhchali was consistently impressive in qualifiers, and the squad is a popular underdog pick to surpass Spain in the round-robin.
The Iranians won’t play the Spanish right away, though, opening against Puerto Rico on Saturday.
Tunisia (+125000) (+3300)
A sleeper of sleepers from Group C, Tunisia is a recent AfroBasket winner playing in only its 2nd FIBA World Championship. The debut ended with a 24th place finish in 2010.
Head coach Mário Palma has played a gigantic role in the program’s improvement, but don’t forget point guard Omar Abada who is reaching his prime at 26 and was all over the place in qualifying games.
FIBA Group Stage: Group D Betting Lines and Previews
Serbia (+325) (-850)
The bridesmaid of FIBA, Serbia has earned silver medals at the 2014 FIBA World Cup, 2016 Olympics, and 2017 EuroBasket. Coach Aleksandar Đorđević hopes to return the squad to its former gold medal glory of the 1998 and 2002 FIBA World Cups.
The “Eagles” will get a huge lift from the presence of Nikola Jokic, a 7-foot-tall 20-point man for the NBA’s Denver Nuggets. Jokic is a fabulous all-around power player who averaged a double-double in 2018-19. Miloš Teodosić is another stud who is rested and ready to help his country finally breakthrough for the gold.
Update: Whoops! Teodosić is injured and will not play in China.
Maybe not if a house’s bet-limit is 100 bucks, but I can imagine some high-rollers anteing up on Serbia as a lock-down Group D favorite at (-825)…especially if they haven’t glanced at Italy yet.
But no team’s gambling line-to-win gold has shrunk closer to that of the Americans through a summer of good news for overseas nations and bad news for the USA and Canada.
Serbia opens the tourney with a “lay-up” of sorts on Saturday 8/31 vs Angola.
Italy (+12500) (+375)
There is ample hardwood talent on the Italian roster.
NBA veteran Marco Belinelli will represent Italy after another stellar season with the San Antonio Spurs. His shooting threat will make things easier for power players on the inside, as will the dashing style of Amedeo Della Valle of Olimpia Milano who scored nearly 20 PPG in FIBA qualification play.
But there aren’t a lot of players with experience at the World Cup – or even coaches. Italy last reached the tournament in 2006, and coach Romeo Sacchetti will make his elite-level debut on 8/31.
If you’re looking for an exciting Group D ‘dog in futures markets, the national program that silver-medaled in Athens (finishing ahead of Team USA along with Argentina) isn’t a bad choice at nearly 4-to-1 odds.
Philippines (+125000) (+15000)
Interim head coach Yeng Guiao took over the coaching the Philippines basketball squad in 2018. It’s typical of a wayward national program to continue to make changes even after its breakthrough success – the previous FIBA World Cup in 2014 saw the Pacific island nation make an appearance after 36 years away from the gala.
6’11” center Andray Blatche was a double-double machine during qualifiers.
Angola (+125000) (+15000)
Almost 3 decades later, Angola has established a reputation as 1 of the toughest African nations at the FIBA World Cup, making appearances in the last 4 events with a top 10 finish in 2006.
American skipper Will Voigt took over for Angola in 2017 after leading Nigeria to the AfroBasket title, while 6’9” center Yanick Moreira was a consistent low-post threat in qualifiers, averaging 12.8 points and 7.2 rebounds.
But the squad must open against Serbia, making Charles Barkley’s infamous quote from the 1992 Olympic Games just as relevant now.
An opener against Serbia and Mr. Jokic this weekend?
“They in trouble.”
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.