BASKETBALL Preview: U.S. men in Australia for exhibition in Melbourne at 5:30 a.m. Eastern time Thursday

U.S. head coach Gregg Popovich (Photo: USA Basketball)

The U.S. men’s World Cup team, fresh from a 90-81 victory over no. 2-ranked Spain at the Honda Center in Anaheim, is in Australia for three exhibition games before heading to China for the World Cup itself.

The opponent for Thursday and Saturday is Australia, ranked no. 11 and playing in the very difficult Group F, against Canada, Lithuania and Senegal. The 12-man roster includes four NBA players:

● Aron Baynes (6-10), center for the Phoenix Suns;
● Matthew Dellavedova (6-4), guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers;
● Joe Ingles (6-8) small forward for the Utah Jazz;
● Patty Mills (6-0), a guard for the San Antonio Spurs.

Also familiar to U.S. fans will be 7-0 center Andrew Bogut, who played for the Bucks, Warriors, Mavericks, Cavaliers, Lakers, and Warriors again in 2019 and currently plays for the Sydney Kings.

U.S. coach Gregg Popovich foresees two difficult games. “They are one of the teams that can win the whole thing, without a doubt. I’m not saying that because I’m here. It’s just a fact. They’ve been close for several years, and they are hungry. They are talented. Coach [Andrej] Lemanis does a good job, and they are a team. They are together. They know what they are doing. They execute really well, so that’s what it takes. They have the toughness and physicality to go with it. I think they are one of the top contenders without a doubt.”

The venue will be unique, with a basketball floor installed in the Marvel Stadium, normally used for Australian Rules Football, and 45,000 spectators are anticipated.

The U.S. had four players in double figures against Spain, led by Donovan Mitchell with 13 points. Khris Middleton had 12 and Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum had 11 each. The U.S. won the game thanks to a 42-20 rebounding edge, but also had 23 turnovers.

Thursday’s game will be shown on NBA TV starting at 5:30 a.m. Eastern time, with a replay immediately following at 8 a.m. Eastern. Look for statistics at the USA Basketball site here.

The U.S. will play Australia again on 24 August in Melbourne and finish its exhibition schedule in Sydney, against Canada on 26 August.