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FIBA World Cup Group B Preview: Jokic-Less Serbia Still Favorite

Written by: Christian Jope
Published August 9, 2023
11 min read
  • Group B owns the heaviest Group Winner favorite in the tournament
  • Serbia are the favorites to win Group B
  • Group B's matches will be played at Araneta Coliseum in Manila

Group B of the FIBA Basketball World Cup is one of the most lopsided in the tournament. While reigning NBA Champion and NBA Finals MVP Nikola Jokic will sit out the tournament, his Serbia is still the heavy favorite to win Group B. With great depth, experience, and quality on both ends of the court, Serbia is justified as the favorite to progress to the second group phase.

While the rest of Group B could be more impressive than Serbia, Puerto Rico is the next-best team to threaten the crown. Longtime participants in the FIBA Basketball World Cup, Puerto Rico, will draw on their rich history and guard play to push Serbia for the top position in the group.

Rounding out the group are China and South Sudan. China has finished with an increasingly worse finish through their last three World Cups and hope naturalized NBA player Kyle Anderson, also known as Li Kaier, can improve their chances. South Sudan is the final member of Group B, whose NBA-calibre coaching has compensated for their lack of international experience.

Odds to Win Group B at the FIBA World Cup

Odds taken from FanDuel Sportsbook on August 9th, 2023

Puerto Rico+1500
South Sudan+3500
Fiba World Cup Group B Preview

Group B Schedule

26 August 2023: South Sudan vs Puerto Rico (4:00 AM EST)

  • Where: Araneta Coliseum, Manila, PHL

26 August 2023: Serbia vs China (8:00 AM EST)

  • Where: Araneta Coliseum, Manila, PHL

28 August 2023: China vs South Sudan (4:00 AM EST)

  • Where: Araneta Coliseum, Manila, PHL

28 August 2023: Puerto Rico vs Serbia (8:00 AM EST)

  • Where: Araneta Coliseum, Manila, PHL

30 August 2023: South Sudan vs Serbia (4:00 AM EST)

  • Where: Araneta Coliseum, Manila, PHL

30 August 2023: China vs Puerto Rico (8:00 AM EST)

  • Where: Araneta Coliseum, Manila, PHL

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Who Is the Favorite to Win Group B at the FIBA World Cup?

Serbia (-4000)

  • FIBA World Ranking: 6
  • Odds to win the World Cup: +1400 BET HERE
  • Odds to win Group B: -4000 BET HERE
  • FIBA World Cup Appearances: 5
  • FIBA World Cup All-Time Record: 17-9 (.654)
  • Best World Cup Finish: 2 (2014)
  • Head Coach: Svetislav Pesic
  • Key Players: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Nikola Jovic, Aleksa Avramovic
  • NBA Players: Bogdan Bogdanovic (ATL), Aleksej Pokusevski (OKC), Nikola Jovic (MIA), Filip Petrusev (PHI)

As one of the top team's in the world's most competitive continent, Serbia is the obvious favorite to win Group B of the FIBA Basketball World Cup. Ranking sixth in the world, Serbia left fans nervous as it took them until the final qualification window to secure their place in the tournament. After giving up a 13-point lead to Greece, Serbia were fortunate to earn a double-digit victory over Great Britain to book their place at the FIBA World Cup.

Serbia is ripe with options to fill their 12-man roster for the FIBA World Cup, and Svetislav Pesic will have a challenging time paring the team down. While star center Nikola Jokic won't feature for the country at the tournament, Bogdan Bogdanovic is a consistent performer for Serbia and one of the tournament's best perimeter scorers. However, with size and shooting at every position, don't expect Serbia's quality to be compromised regardless of who gets left off the roster.

The odds-on favorite to win Group B at the FIBA World Cup, don't expect anything less from Serbia. Their experience, leadership, and versatility in every position should quickly push them to first place in the group. They may not have their biggest star with them, but Serbia's overall quality likely will be challenged in the next round.

Who Are the Contenders to Win Group B at the FIBA World Cup?

Puerto Rico (+1500)

  • FIBA World Ranking: 20
  • Odds to win the World Cup: +20000 BET HERE
  • Odds to win Group B: +1500 BET HERE
  • FIBA World Cup Appearances: 15
  • FIBA World Cup All-Time Record: 40-58 (.408)
  • Best World Cup Finish: 4 (1990)
  • Head Coach: Nelson Colon
  • Key Players: Tremont Waters, Gian Clavell, Ismael Romero
  • NBA Players: n/a

One of the FIBA Basketball World Cup's most recognizable squads, Puerto Rico are regular competitors at the world's top basketball competition. It took until the February qualification window for Puerto Rico to qualify for the tournament, earning their spot at the World Cup with a win over Colombia.

Puerto Rico has a strong team entering the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup, sporting a capable Tremont Waters and Gian Clavell backcourt. However, they'll be without NBA guard Jose Alvarado, who couldn't receive approval from his club due to a late-season injury. Short on big men, George Conditt will be doing the heavy lifting for Puerto Rico at the pivot position.

It's easy to overlook Puerto Rico in Group B, but don't be surprised to see them claim second. First place may be a long shot, but Puerto Rico's guard play, pace, and record in an incredibly competitive continent must be considered in any matchup. Expect Puerto Rico to set a strong pace, as their backcourt can match up with any in their group.

China (+1800)

  • FIBA World Ranking: 27
  • Odds to win the World Cup: +20000 BET HERE
  • Odds to win Group B: +1800 BET HERE
  • FIBA World Cup Appearances: 10
  • FIBA World Cup All-Time Record: 17-46 (.270)
  • Best World Cup Finish: 8 (1994)
  • Head Coach: Aleksandar Dordevic
  • Key Players: Kyle Anderson (Li Kaier), Qi Zhou, Qian Wu
  • NBA Players: Kyle Anderson (MIN)

One of Asia's most consistent basketball powerhouses, China overcame adversity by qualifying for the FIBA Basketball World Cup despite being unable to play any Asian Qualifiers on homecourt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite that, China secured their place at the FIBA World Cup with a qualification window to spare and entered the tournament as one of the most promising Asian nations.

As usual, all eyes are on China's towering frontcourt duo of Zhou Qi and Wang Zhelin. In Asian competition, China's size tends to help them overcome most of their opponents, but the addition of NBA forward Kyle Anderson and the steady play of guard Guo Ailun gives them a better look than the sportsbooks do. Organized, systematic, and big, China is a team to pay attention to.

China likely won't be challenging for the top spot in Group B, but they can secure second place. They're an experienced group that has the size to compete with any other program at the tournament. However, their defense and shooting ability leave questions about their chances of success against the top teams.

South Sudan (+3500)

  • FIBA World Ranking: 62
  • Odds to win the World Cup: +20000 BET HERE
  • Odds to win Group B: +3500 BET HERE
  • FIBA World Cup Appearances: 1
  • FIBA World Cup All-Time Record: n/a
  • Best World Cup Finish: n/a
  • Head Coach: Royal Ivey/Luol Deng
  • Key Players: Nuni Omot, Kuany Ngor Kuany, Mareng Gatkuoth
  • NBA Players: n/a

South Sudan has reached the FIBA Basketball World Cup for the first time since joining FIBA in 2011. Led by two NBA-calibre coaches, Luol Deng, and Royal Ivey, through the qualification period, South Sudan exceeded expectations. The World Cup debutants booked their ticket to the tournament in the February 2023 qualification window after defeating Senegal 83-75, making them the first African nation to qualify for the World Cup in their first effort.

While South Sudan doesn't sport many famous names to Western audiences, their squad comprises active internationals whose regularity with the team was paramount to their qualification. Captain Kuany Ngor Kuany will lead the team, with contributors like Nuni Omot and Mareng Gatkuoth supporting him with their scoring efforts.

Very little is expected of South Sudan in this tournament. South Sudan's participation is an accomplishment, as they rank among the bottom teams in the tournament. Expect South Sudan to get swept in group play, but the experience will surely spur growth for Africa's youngest and most promising basketball program.

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FIBA World Cup - Group B FAQs

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Christian Jope

1446 Articles

Christian Jope is a writer, social media strategist, and data analyst. A Queen’s University Alumni, Christian is an author and social media strategist with Raptors Cage, while also working closely with MLSE and Canada Basketball through community-driven events.

Email: [email protected]

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