After the first week of the World Cup, there are already countries bearing the suspense (the most notorious being neighboring France), others celebrating hitherto unknown milestones in their basketball, proper names ringing above others, stories unveiled are going out into the world, and in the case of the most ambitious, there are others who follow their path firmly and undaunted, as in the case of the Spanish team, which is still undefeated.
Today, the second phase of the World Cup begins with all teams having finished in the top two places in their groups, a format that will be repeated in the second phase. All UCAM players managed with their teams to complete this first challenge, but only one started as a Spanish opponent. This is Rodions Kurucs and his Latvian team.
The big surprise of the tournament
And the fact is that there wasn’t much to be expected from Latvia, which is in the difficult Group H along with teams like Canada and France. Less with the loss of his big star, Kristaps Porzingis. But the carefree play of a Baltic side with nothing to lose, a condition that makes it even more dangerous, makes this newcomer one of the crowd’s favorites.
They started with a massacre against Lebanon (109-70), but the big break came on day two with their surprise win over France, runners-up in Europe and bronze at the last World Cup (86-88). There was no surprise against Canada (101-75), but the goal was more than achieved. With eight players who play or have played in the Endesa League, they meet Spain at 11:45 today. Kurucs was discreet in his first two games with 5 and 2 points and had his best day against Canada when he had 14 points and 10 rebounds in 35 minutes.
Radovics Montenegro’s goal was to get out of the first phase, and that was achieved. With a clear favorite in their group like Lithuania and a sweets expert like Egypt, their direct rivals were their day-one opponents, Mexico. The Balkan countries debuted on a high note (71-91), defeated Egypt (89-74), and lost to Lithuania (71-91) in a game without history.
However, it is difficult for Montenegro to go further. In the second phase, they meet the highly favored USA at 10.40 a.m. today and Greece on Monday. One can hardly dream of more. With plenty of competition in an indoor game dominated by Vucevic and Dubljevic, Radovic is playing 16.1 minutes per game, scoring 6 points, and grabbing 3.3 rebounds per game.
Thad McFadden and Rati Andronikashvili will also be in the second phase, although they are not expected in Murcia. Both came after Georgia defeated weak Venezuela and Cape Verde, losing only to Luka Doncic’s Slovenia.
Thad McFadden’s tournament is unusually discreet. He’s scored just three of the fifteen three-pointers he’s hit, and his best goal to date is the five points he scored in 35 minutes against Slovenia, averaging 4 in 30.2. Andronikashvili, who will decide his future in the coming weeks, has had a good championship, averaging 6 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 2.7 assists in 22.6 minutes on the court.