USA will open Basketball World Cup against New Zealand

The United States will open Basketball World Cup play against New Zealand this summer, with Greece and Jordan also awaiting the Americans in the group stage.

And the earliest the U.S. can see France in an Olympic final rematch is the semifinals.

FIBA held the World Cup draw in Manila on Saturday, when the 32 teams that qualified for the field found out their initial matchups for the tournament that runs from Aug. 25 through Sept. 10. The Americans — the four-time defending Olympic champions who finished seventh at the most recent World Cup in 2019 — play New Zealand on Aug. 26, then face Greece and likely Giannis Antetokounmpo on Aug. 28, and conclude group-stage play Aug. 30 against Jordan.

“It's comforting to kind of know who we’re playing,” USA Basketball managing director Grant Hill said. “The big unknown has been there since we started planning and preparing. And at least now we have an idea of who we’re playing and who we potentially could be playing in the second round.”

The U.S. will play all its group stage games in Manila, while Jakarta, Indonesia, and Okinawa, Japan, will also play host to some group games. Medal rounds are in Manila, so the U.S. won't have to travel at all during the tournament.

The Americans will play Greece in August at Abu Dhabi in an exhibition. They met in the World Cup at China four years ago. Antetokounmpo is expected to play for Greece; his Milwaukee Bucks were hoping for a deep NBA playoff run but lost to the Miami Heat in Round 1.

“They were eliminated recently, so Giannis will have maybe a longer offseason than he's had in recent years,” Hill said. “That's scary.”

The Americans — who will be coached by Golden State's Steve Kerr in the tournament — were drawn into Group C, one of eight four-team groups for the opening round. The U.S. is planning to announce its roster in June or July.

“To our friends around the world, join our new ‘Thrilla in Manila,’ the 2023 Basketball World Cup edition," said Manuel Pangilinan, a FIBA Central Board member from the Philippines — using the phrase coined for the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight in Manila in 1975.

Defending World Cup champion Spain is in Group G, with Iran, Ivory Coast and Brazil as its opening opponents.

France — which plans to have Victor Wembanyama on its roster — is in Group H, along with Canada, Latvia and Lebanon.

France beat the Americans in the quarterfinals of the 2019 World Cup, eliminating the U.S. from medal contention and starting the spiral to a seventh-place finish at that event, the worst finish ever for an American team featuring NBA players.

France topped the U.S. again at the Tokyo Olympics in group play — but the Americans won the game that mattered most, topping France 87-82 for the gold medal.

They haven’t played since Tokyo but are still going head-to-head. Philadelphia center Joel Embiid — an MVP finalist this season, and the presumed favorite — said before the season that he’s deciding whether to play internationally for the U.S. or France at the Paris Olympics. He became an American citizen last year.

GROUP BREAKDOWN

All teams in each group play one another in the opening round. The top two teams from each group move on to the second round; the bottom two teams move into a classification tournament to determine 17th through 32nd places at the event.

Teams are listed with their world ranking.

Group A, Manila: Angola (41), Dominican Republic (23), Philippines (40), Italy (10).

Group B, Manila: South Sudan (62), Serbia (6), China (27), Puerto Rico (20).

Group C, Manila: United States (2), Jordan (33), Greece (9), New Zealand (26).

Group D, Manila: Egypt (55), Mexico (31), Montenegro (18), Lithuania (8).

Group E, Okinawa: Germany (11), Finland (24), Australia (3), Japan (36).

Group F, Okinawa: Slovenia (7), Cape Verde (64), Georgia (32), Venezuela (17).

Group G, Jakarta: Iran (22), Spain (1), Ivory Coast (42), Brazil (13).

Group H, Jakarta: Canada (15), Latvia (29), Lebanon (43), France (5).

TOURNAMENT FORMAT

The two teams that advance from each group will play two other teams in the second round in new groups: The top two finishers in Group A will play the top two from Group B, the top two from Group C will play Group D's two best and the same pattern follows — Group E plays Group F, Group G plays Group H.

That means, in the second round, if the Americans advance they will play two of these four teams — Egypt, Mexico, Montenegro and Lithuania.

That second round will determine the eight quarterfinalists.

Quarterfinal games are Sept. 5 and 6. Semifinals are Sept. 8 and the games for gold and bronze medals are Sept. 10.

AT STAKE

The World Cup is FIBA’s biggest tournament, plus it serves as a way to qualify for next year's Paris Olympics.

With the expectation that France will be added as an automatic qualifier for the Olympics as host — probably no more than a formality, with FIBA not planning to decide until June 30 — there will be seven teams automatically qualifying for berths in the 12-team Olympic tournament.

The top two World Cup finishers from Europe and the Americas, as well as one from Africa, Asia and Oceania, will earn berths into Paris 2024.

VENUE NEWS

The draw capped a three-day run of news out of Manila — some expected, some not.

The original plan to hold the medal rounds in a 55,000-seat arena were scrapped Thursday over several concerns, including the lack of a traffic scheme that could accommodate such a crowd. The Philippines will play its first two group-stage games in that arena with hopes of setting a World Cup attendance record, but the medal rounds will be at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila — where the U.S. will play its games in the group stage.

And on Friday, FIBA announced that the 2027 World Cup was awarded to Qatar.

___

AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports