SALT LAKE CITY — This year’s FIBA Basketball World Cup feels a little different.
The tournament’s biggest star, Giannis Antetokounmpo, isn’t an American. Heck, the three players who are widely seen as the best in the field aren’t either. Sure, the Americans are still the favorites entering the tournament; they just aren't as strong as favorites than in years past. That, though, might make things more intriguing to basketball fans — especially the ones who reside in Utah.
The Utah Jazz will be heavily featured in this year’s tournament. Rudy Gobert is the face of the French team, which see themselves as a true contender. There were times that Joe Ingles looked like the best player on the court during Australia's upset over the USA last week. And Donovan Mitchell, after several players pulled out of the tournament, is one of Team USA’s captains.
So if you’ve been missing the Jazz, the World Cup can at least give you an early taste before the season begins in October.
Here’s a Jazz fan's guide to the tournament:
First things first: What’s the format?
The 32 teams are broken into eight groups of four to start the tournament. After a round robin, the top two teams from each group will advance on to the next round.
The second round group stage will consist of four groups of four teams — Group I will be the top two teams from Group A and Group B, and so on.
The top two finishers in the second round groups will then advance to the quarterfinals; records from both stage rounds will be used to determine the top two finishers.
From the quarterfinals on, it’s a typical single-elimination tournament, except the losers will play in the classification bracket to determine specific finishing places.
How can I watch?
The good news: All the World Cup games will be available to stream. The bad news: You’ll have to pay.
The tournament will be streamed live on ESPN+.
Donovan Mitchell, USA
Group stage schedule:
- Sunday vs. Czech Republic, 6:30 a.m
- Tuesday vs. Turkey, 6:30 a.m
- Thursday vs. Japan, 6:30 a.m.
Why you should watch: During the USA’s final World Cup tuneup against Canada, Mitchell finished a one-handed, high-flying alley-oop just before the first half buzzer. So, yeah, if you’ve missed watching Mitchell do Mitchell things, you are in luck.
The young Jazz star has quickly become one of the faces of this USA squad. He’s the only USA player to have started all four games during the lead up to the World Cup and is second only to Kemba Walker in points (12.5 per game).
He was the one that tried to will a comeback against Australia last week, too. Mitchell's two late jumpers helped give the Americans hope, and it was he who missed a late 3-pointer that would have tied the game. He’s one of the team’s go-to players and will be featured prominently in China.
Rudy Gobert, France
Group stage schedule:
- Sunday vs. Germany, 6:30 a.m
- Tuesday vs. Jordan, 6:30 a.m
- Thursday vs. Dominican Republic, 6:30 a.m.
Why you should watch: Rudy Gobert will be one of the biggest stars of the tournament. In fact, many see him as the third-best player in the whole field — behind only reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Denver’s Nikola Jokic.
The two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year will have NBA talent around him in Evan Fournier, Nicolas Batum and Frank Ntilikina, giving the French a puncher’s chance in the tournament. Gobert feels passionate about playing on his national squad — and Jazz fans know just how good, not too mention entertaining, he can play when that passion comes out.
“I’m very proud of where I’m from,” Gobert told The New York Times. “The emotions I can have by playing these kinds of games — I wouldn’t say it’s worth more than money because you need money, obviously. But I think those memories, and the things we can build, and the pride I have is really more important than that. Even though we all know that there’s always a risk if I get hurt, don’t think I will regret it.”
Oh, and he might just make you give your heart to France.
Joe Ingles, Australia
Group stage schedule
- Sunday vs. Canada, 1:30 a.m
- Tuesday vs. Senegal, 1:30 a.m
- Thursday vs. Lithuania, 5:30 a.m.
Why you should watch: Late in Australia’s upset win over the USA last weekend, Joe Ingles — along with teammate Matthew Dellavedova — nonchalantly walked into a mini-huddle with USA coach Gregg Popovich and Kemba Walker to check out the Americans' play. It was a very Joe Ingles thing to do.
Joe Ingles has the Aussie crowd on its feet!— NBA TV (@NBATV) August 24, 2019
Don't miss the finish from Melbourne - NOW on NBA TV! pic.twitter.com/nX20tR4ouT
Utah fans have gravitated toward Ingles because of his light-hearted banter, his easy-going way on the court, and because he’s really, really good at basketball. Ingles scored 15 points and dished out 7 assists for Australia in the shocking win. Simply put, if you like watching Ingles with the Jazz, you’ll like watching him with the Boomers.
When will the Jazz players meet up?
Unless disaster strikes, Ingles’ Australian team and Gobert’s French squad will meet up in the second round of group play. Second round play begins Sept. 7.
Mitchell’s first game against a Jazz teammate could happen in the quarterfinals. If the Americans win their second round group, they’ll face the second place finisher of a group that should include both France and Australia.