This is a scary team, as evidenced by its 90-86 loss to Team USA last week in China. The Phoenix Suns' Leandro Barbosa is Brazil's best-known player and the Cavs' Anderson Varejao was impressive in gathering 16 rebounds in the game against the United States.
More important, winning the FIBA Americas Championship in 2005 with a very young team has given this group confidence and reason for optimism en route to Japan.
Future NBA first-round pick Tiago Splitter was the youngest player (17) in the 2002 World Championship and he has since played in many big games in Europe. The elder statesman of this group, 31-year-old Marcelinho Machado, can fill it up from deep.
The defending European champions are the most underrated team in the World Championship and a legitimate contender to win it. While they don't have one current NBA player on the roster -- Vasileios Spanoulis will join the Rockets this year -- it is a deep and talented team. In fact, Spanoulis may be the fifth- or sixth-best player on the team.
At 6-foot-7, Theo Papaloukas is one of the best playmaking guards in Europe and 6-5 Dimitrios Diamantidis is the best defensive guard on the continent. Lazaros Papadopoulos is an NBA-level post player as well. However, the MVP of this team may be the coach. Panagiotis Yannakis, a Jerry Sloan double, was one of Europe's great guards in the 1980s and is one of its best coaches today.
Like Serbia-Montenegro, Lithuania is a team in transition. After winning the European Championship in 2003, it finished fourth in the 2004 Olympics and a disappointing fifth in last year's European Championship. First, some of its star players, like Sarunas Jasikevicius and Ramunas Siskauskas, have begged off from playing.
In addition, there is no true go-to scorer and its point guard play has been uncharacteristically erratic coming into these games. Arvydas Macijauskas must regain his confidence after rotting on the Hornets' bench this year.
As national heroes, Turkoglu and Okur created a soap opera that Susan Lucci would be proud of. But Tanjevic wouldn't relent and will go with a team that may include five members of this summer's European Championship silver medal-winning Under-20 team. The Milwaukee Bucks' Ersan Ilyasova is the best of this young group, but he is not ready for the big stage yet.
Instead, Turkey will be led by veterans Ibrahim Kutluay, who had a brief stint with the Seattle Sonics, and Serkan Erdogan. There's not enough firepower to make any noise in this tournament.
This team was struggling much of the summer, but a win over France in Nanjing this weekend gives them much-needed confidence going into the World Championship. Led by the No. 1 pick in the 2005 NBA draft, Andrew Bogut, Australia will mix experience with youth.
Baylor's Aaron Bruce and Nebraska's Aleks Maric are two talented young players who Big 12 fans are familiar with. Brad Newley, a 6-5 shooting guard, is a potential NBA draft pick next June. The country's best player, 6-11 David Andersen of CSKA Moscow, is one of Europe's top inside forces, but he was injured late in the season and has not recovered in time to be of any help. You can count on feistiness from the Aussies, and that, historically, has made them a team you can't sleep on.
I am a basketball junkie but I would be lying if I said I knew a lot about these guys. I do know their coach, Joey Stiebing, once assisted Tim Floyd at the University of New Orleans and later replaced him. Having to play in the toughest of the four groups is not in their favor.
An overtime loss to Turkey gives Qatar some hope, but it's very likely they will be going home after the preliminary round.