BASKETBALL Preview: U.S. men finish World Cup qualifying vs. Panama and Argentina

U.S. men's World Cup qualifiers coach Jeff van Gundy (Photo: USA Basketball)

The United States men’s national team will play its final two games of the FIBA Americas qualifying round against Panama and Argentina this weekend in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Both games are essentially meaningless as the American squad has clinched its place in the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China later this year. The Group E standings:

1. 19 (9-1) Argentina
2. 18 (8-2) United States
3. 16 (6-4) Uruguay
4. 16 (6-4) Puerto Rico
5. 14 (4-6) Panama
6. 13 (3-7) Mexico

The top three teams from this group will advance and the Argentines and Americans are already in. However, the games this week will determine which other team will join them:

22 February (Friday):
● Panama at United States, at Greensboro (USA)
● Argentina at Puerto Rico, at San Juan (PUR)
● Uruguay at Mexico, at Monterrey (MEX)

25 February (Monday):
● Argentina at United States, at Greensboro (USA)
● Uruguay at Puerto Rico, at San Juan (PUR)
● Panama at Mexico, at Monterrey (MEX)

U.S. coach Jeff van Gundy has done a remarkable job with the American team, which is made up of NBA G League players and free agents; no current NBA players are allowed to compete in this round.

Van Gundy has had essentially a different team for each of the qualifying “windows” of two games each that have been spread over the last 12 months. The only returning “veteran” from most of the qualifying games is 6-4 guard Reggie Hearn of the Stockton Kings. He’s been on teams that have played eight of the 10 qualifying games, and has averaged 10.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.

The 2019 World Cup will start on 31 August and NBA players will be eligible, as the U.S. tries to win a sixth world title, and qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo (JPN). Look for results here.