FIBA World Cup: Best bets for group play and the tournament


Best Bets for the FIBA World Cup

It has been nine years since the United States last won the FIBA World Cup. It is a statistic that sounds worse than it really is, as only one World Cup has been played since the Americans’ most recent triumph, but it is the embarrassment of 2019 that makes that fact sting much more.


For those who do not remember, Team USA did not advance out of the first round of the knockout stage, as they lost to Evan Fournier (22 points) and France. To make matters worse, the Americans were subsequently trounced by Bogdan Bogdanovic and Serbia in the first round of the 5th-8th place classification bracket, leading to an eventual seventh place finish for Team USA in China.

The Americans would go on to get revenge against France by beating them in the gold medal match in the 2020 Olympics, but that roster was much different than the one that suffered defeat in China the year prior. That group of players was eerily similar to the roster that will take the floor in Manila next week; one that lacks star power and experience at the international level.

Still, the betting market has made Team USA the favorite (-125) to win the Naismith Trophy this year, and the results of friendlies around the world have only increased the odds on the Americans to win the FIBA World Cup for the third time in four tries. 

Given the draw, Team USA has a very clear path to the semifinals of the knockout stage, but there is plenty to bet on in between. So, let’s dive into the FIBA World Cup as a whole and try to find some betting value along the way.

The Format

It is a similar format to that of the FIFA World Cup, but with a key difference along the way. Teams are sorted into eight groups of four teams, and they will play each other once for a total of three games per team and six games per group. The top two teams of each group will move on, and the bottom two teams will play in the Classification Round for 17th-32nd place.

The groups are as follows with odds to win the group listed from DraftKings: 

Group A: Italy (-165), Dominican Republic (+150), Philippines (+1600), Angola (+10000)

Group B: Serbia (-2500), Puerto Rico (+1300), China (+2000), South Sudan (+4000)

Group C: United States (-2500), Greece (+900), Jordan (+10000), New Zealand (+3500)

Group D: Lithuania (-250), Montenegro (+300), Mexico (+900), Egypt (+4000)

Group E: Australia (-175), Germany (+175), Finland (+1400), Japan (+2200)

Group F: Slovenia (-3500), Georgia (+1300), Venezuela (+2500), Cape Verde (+5000)

Group G: Spain (-700), Brazil (+400), Iran (+5000), Ivory Coast (+6500)

Group H: France (-125), Canada (+105), Latvia (+1600), Lebanon (+15000)

The top two teams from each group will be placed into another group, where they will play the top two teams from the group they did not play. This round will consist of 16 total games, four for each group and two for each team.

Group I: 1st Place Group A, 2nd Place Group A, 1st Place Group B, 2nd Place Group B

Group J: 1st Place Group C, 2nd Place Group C, 1st Place Group D, 2nd Place Group D

Group K: 1st Place Group E, 2nd Place Group E, 1st Place Group F, 2nd Place Group F

Group L: 1st Place Group G, 2nd Place Group G, 1st Place Group H, 2nd Place Group H

As an example, should Team USA win Group C they will be placed in Group J where they will play two games, one against the first place finisher from Group D and another against the second place finisher from Group D. 

The top two teams from each group will move on to the knockout stage of the tournament. The bottom two teams from each group will be eliminated and placed 9th-16th according to Official Basketball Rules.

From there, a traditional tournament will commence. Now that we know what the format is, let’s talk about some bets to make.

Team Canada To Win (+900)

In the lead up to FIBA World Cup play Team Canada reached as high as +400 to win the event, but since then the team’s depth has taken some hits.

Jamal Murray attended training camp but was ultimately ruled out, Cory Joseph decided not to play due to a back injury and Oshae Brissett is dealing with a knee injury. Joseph and Brissett are obviously not the same magnitude of player as Murray, both were solid depth pieces for Canada that will no longer be part of the roster. Despite those losses the Canadians are still primed for a big run, and much of it has to do with the pieces that remain.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will be the best player on the floor for Canada in almost every contest. Having a primary scorer and creator like him goes a long way in these short sample-size tournaments, and he is surrounded by legitimate talent. RJ Barrett is a good secondary scoring option who has played well at the FIBA level in the past. The team has two astounding defenders in Lu Dort and Dillon Brooks, and the roster is rounded out by proven basketball names in the frontcourt such as Kelly Olynyk and Dwight Powell.

Team Canada has yet to prove anything on the international stage, but the talent is clearly there and worth investing in at a growing price. The other concern besides lack of winning equity for this team is the path to a title.

The Canadians are in Group H with France who they open with on Friday morning but the top two teams advance from the initial group stage, so Canada should find its way to the second group stage without a problem considering Latvia and Lebanon are also in their initial group. The problems begin in the second group stage, where they will need to finish in the top two of a group that likely consists of France, Spain and Brazil. The Canadians were pushed to overtime by Spain in the tune-ups, and will need to beat the Spanish in order to advance to the knockout stage.

Australia, Germany and Slovenia are among potential opponents for Canada before even making it to the semifinals of the knockout stage, but even with a challenging path the number here is worth it. The gap between the USA (-125) and the world is not that large, and Canada is one of the most talented rosters in the tournament. They will also likely be favored in every game outside of the opener against France where they are 2-point underdogs. This is a bet I made at +450 months ago, and I have put some more on +900 as well. 

USA Stage of Elimination: Semifinal (+600)

Team USA is favored to the degree it is for many reasons, but one of the key factors to the price on the Americans is their draw in the tournament.

The biggest competitor in their group is Greece which will not have Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the Americans already handled the Greeks in the tune-ups leading into FIBA play in a 108-86 shellacking. In the secondary group they will need to finish in the top two of a group that likely consists of Greece, Lithuania and Montenegro. That feat should be easily accomplished, and should they win their second group Team USA will face the second place team of Group I which will be any one of Italy, Dominican Republic, Serbia or Puerto Rico.

Suffice to say, the path to a semifinal berth seems extremely likely for the Americans. Once there, the competition will stiffen up in a big way. Awaiting in the semifinals could be any one of Spain, France or Canada, two of which – France and Canada – are the second choices on the oddsboard to win this tournament. Team USA could roll into the semifinals largely untested, and all three of those teams will give the Americans a run for their money.

The likelihood that Team USA is eliminated in the semifinals is larger than what this price would indicate by my measure. In looking for ways to play against the Americans this seemed the most logical, and it does provide bettors a potential opportunity to lock in some profit should the line for their semifinal match be as tight as expected.

Italy To Win Group A (-165)

The Italian team might not be littered with household names, but they enter World Cup play in fantastic form. Italy took all seven of their preparation matches in the lead up to the tournament, beating the likes of Serbia, Greece, Puerto Rico and Brazil along the way. None of those teams should realistically threaten to win the World Cup this summer, but the Italians showed they can win against similarly rated competition. They also happen to be in a very weak group.

Behind Italy in this group is the Dominican Republic, led by Karl-Anthony Towns, the host nation Philippines and Angola who the Italians are 21-point favorites against in the first contest of group play on Friday. The Dominican Republic did score a nice win over Canada in the tune-up games on Aug. 18, but lost each of the other contests in preparation for the World Cup.

The Italians are clearly the best team in this group, and they have a higher probability of winning this group than what -165 indicates. They play a very electric five-out style of basketball, and their 3-point shooting is the best among group opponents. The Italians will be massive favorites in games against Angola and the Philippines, and moderate favorites over the Dominican Republic when they meet on Sunday.