OK, Americans, let's get you back to your comfort zone. While the FIFA World Cup sure brought some interesting excitement, with the exception of a few, it likely was the first time you'd paid attention to soccer since you played for the "blue team" in fifth grade. And as soon as you had just finished learning the details of the offside rule from Wikipedia, the team from the United States had been eliminated. But hey, while the sudden passion was laughable at times, it was fun to get involved with a sport on an international level, and compete as a country against the other teams of the world. But what if there was another World Cup? A World Cup that featured a sport that we as a country completely understand, and one that we almost never lose? Look no further, because the World Cup of basketball starts Saturday. After pretending to be excited about soccer only a few months ago getting in to the World Cup of basketball should be very easy. The countries of the world will once again come together to do battle, only this time, it will be on a court and not a pitch. Several of the players of the NBA have returned to their respective countries and are prepared to go against some of their NBA teammates. It's an exciting and intense time. With that being said, here is what you can expect from the World Cup of Basketball.
Newly drafted Utah Jazz guard Dante Exum is a popular name around the state of Utah right now and Matthew Dellavedova is a name that will continue to be in the nightmares of BYU fans for years to come. Both players will suit up for Australia during the World Cup, and they will certainly give basketball fans in the state of Utah another thing to pay attention to.
Exum has the potential to be a superstar for years to come. His size, passing ability, court vision and athleticism really give Jazz fans something to be excited about. But whether it be Jazz fans, or NBA fans in general, everyone wants to see Exum in competitive action, and the World Cup gives them the chance to do just that.
While he doesn't have the size, strength or athletic ability that Exum has, Dellavedova possesses some truly rare basketball IQ, and that combined with his play-making ability has made him successful no matter where he has played.
Exum and Dellavedova are exceptional players who instantly make Australia a team to pay attention to in the World Cup. Jazz fans should be excited to get a further glimpse of a player that is perhaps the future of their franchise.
After seeing the 2011 MVP miss nearly all of the past two NBA seasons due to two knee injuries, Rose will be in full action in the World Cup. Rose has captivated the attention of basketball fans everywhere and most were mortified when his injuries took him away from the game.
The combination of unbelievable speed, aggressive style of play, athleticism and pure talent that Rose had was something that the NBA had never seen before, and he now has the chance to prove that he still has that same ability, and test it against international competition.
The World Cup gives basketball fans the first look at Rose, and whether or not he has back to his old ways. For basketball's sake, we hope he is.
They have both Pau and Marc Gasol, the skilled post brothers that both stand at over 7-feet tall. Pau is a two-time NBA champion, and Marc won the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2013. They have a tremendous post game and can score at will down low. In addition to their scoring and defensive ability, Pau and Marc are notorious for their passing abilities. Passing isn't something that post players are normally well-known, but the Gasol brothers possess that rare skill.
Joining the Gasols is none other than Serge Ibaka, a 6-10 forward that is an exceptional rim-protector and defender. Ibaka has terrorized opposing NBA teams for the past few years with his ability to block shots, averaging nearly five blocks a game in 2011. Ibaka is also a great mid-range shooter, which spreads the floor just enough to create more room for either Pau or Marc Gasol to go to work in the post.
Post-play is not the only area that Spain is strong in with Ricky Rubio and José Calderón make up the backcourt for the team. Rubio has always been an exceptional passer, and with the team around him, that seems to be exactly what they need to succeed. Calderón's basketball IQ is superb, and his three-point shooting ability is among the best in the NBA. In fact, Calderón shot 44.9 percent from beyond the arc during the last NBA season, good enough for fifth in the league.
Spain has threats all over the floor, and its guard play combined with its post presence make them one of the best teams in the world. With the United States, Spain is a popular pick at making it to the World Cup championship game, and rightfully so. If the cards fall right, Spain could win it all.
Normally, when the United States compete on an international stage it has a collection of the best superstars in the NBA, many of whom will go down in history among the greatest players to ever play. And usually the U.S. relies on pure talent alone to win it all, but this year, the team isn't so fortunate.
Early on, the team lost rising superstar Paul George to a horrific injury, and soon after, reigning NBA Most Valuable Player, Kevin Durant, withdrew from the World Cup. These two significant losses instantly lowered the talent level on team USA.
In addition to George and Durant, players such as Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Kevin Love and Dwight Howard elected not to play for the team this year, leaving the United States without some of the best players in the league and without any depth in size.
This isn't to say that the American team is low on talent. On the contrary, it definitely has the most talented team in the world with or without the previous mentioned players. What is different about this team is it doesn't really have the caliber of player like Durant, Bryant, or James who can completely take over a game offensively and defensively. Instead, the U.S. will have to look to each member of the team to contribute in different ways to help win the cup. The team won't be able to rely on just one or two hall of fame caliber players to carry it, it will need to be a team effort.
While the United States is certainly a favorite to win the World Cup, the team comes with its own set of challenges this year, and watching how it faces them will be extremely intriguing.
Like the FIFA World Cup, the FIBA World Cup will give fans plenty to see of the sport. From Saturday until Thursday, there will be anywhere from six to 12 basketball games played each day, and while that sounds a bit chaotic, it is exactly what basketball fans are looking forward to.
After Thursday, there will be a rest day, followed by the knockout stages of the World Cup that will go until Sunday, Sept. 14 when the championship game will be held. That's over two weeks of basketball.
So whether you are an avid basketball fan who has been waiting for months for this to start, an NBA fan who can't wait for basketball season, or just someone who is looking for something to watch during the next couple of weeks, the World Cup of basketball is definitely for you.
The teams of the world will come together, emotions will run high and a champion will be crowned. You won't want to miss it.
You can follow Mitch Kunzler on Twitter at @MitchKunzler.