The only certainty at the World Basketball Championship is that Canada, Brazil, Senegal, Japan, South Korea or Nigeria won't win it. Ten other countries, including the unheralded American team, all believe they can.
A topsy-turvy Monday saw the last of the three unbeaten teams lose as the Americans beat Spain 75-73, Russia defeated Greece 60-48 and Italy edged Yugoslavia 61-60.That left six teams at 4-1 with spots guaranteed in the quarterfinals Friday: Lithuania, Greece, the United States, Spain, Yugoslavia and Russia. Four other teams met for the last two spots today: Argentina, Australia, Puerto Rico and Italy.
The winner of the Italy-Puerto Rico game today claims one place. Australia would get the other by beating the U.S team. Argentina needed a victory over Brazil and an Australian loss to move on.
"I think about anyone in this competition can win it," said U.S. center Brad Miller, who finished with 12 points. Jimmy Oliver led the Americans with 17 against Spain. "There's about six or seven teams who have a chance. It just depends on which team shows up each night."
He could have been talking specifically about the American mixture of CBA, European pro and a college players.
"I couldn't tell you how disappointed I was with the team in the first half," U.S. coach Rudy Tomjanovich said.
The United States trailed by 11 at halftime against a Spanish team it beat easily a few weeks ago.
"I told them I could have taken five guys off the street and played the same kind of game," Tomjanovich added.
It's been that kind of championship.
Italy's 61-60 win over Yugoslavia reversed a loss in the final of the European championship last year. That was Yugoslavia's first victory over the Italians in a major tournament in 14 years.
Yugoslavia was undone by one of its own, Slovenian-born Gregor Fucka, who hit the winning free throws with 20 seconds left and finished with 16 points.
Russia deflated the host Greeks before a 14,000 sellout at Peace and Friendship stadium as Sergei Babkov hit 18, one of four Russians in double figures. Greece was led by Fragiskos Albertis with 12 points.
It was the first time Greece was held under 50 points in a major tournament in 26 years.
Lithuania, bronze medalists in the last two Olympics, booked its place in the quarterfinals beating Argentina 84-75. Saulius Stombergas had 19 points, and Darius Lukminas 14.
Australia (3-2) improved its chances of reaching the quarterfinals with a 75-63 victory over Brazil as Paul Rogers scored 20 points.
Puerto Rico (2-3) also stayed alive for a quarterfinal berth with a 94-81 victory over Canada (1-4).