Basketball is more popular than ever before, and the latest FIBA Rankings remind us of that.
For the first time since 2010, the USA Men’s Basketball team has fallen out of the top spot in the FIBA world rankings. Instead, recent EuroBasket winner Spain has been crowned the new king.
As The Athletic carefully describes it, the rankings are based on a weighted system of international games played over recent years. While the USA did capture the gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, they have struggled to look as dominant in recent competitions like the AmeriCup and World Cup Qualifiers.
Indeed, Team USA technically sits 8-2 in the current World Cup Qualifying play. A recent win over Columbia puts them in a position to seal a spot with a win in February, but the losses to Mexico and Brazil now on their resume seemingly play a role in their historic stumble down the leaderboard.
I also wouldn’t be doing my job as a Chicago Bulls obsessor if I didn’t mention the few Bulls connections around this recent Team USA squad. Former Bulls Shaq Harrison and Luke Kornet were both a part of the World Cup Qualifying team that dropped a game to Mexico 97-88 last November. Meanwhile, Alize Johnson was a part of the ever-changing roster that fell to Brazil just last week.
The greatest Bulls connection of them all, however, resides in the head coaching chair. USA Men’s Basketball is currently coached by no other than … *drum roll ensues* … Mr. Jim Boylen.
Yup, that’s right. The man in charge of team USA while it falls out of the top spot in the world for the first time in over a decade is the same man whose photo Bulls fans still have taped to a dartboard in their basement. As humorous as it might be to connect one to the other, I’m taking the high road and calling this a coincidence.
While Boylen may not be qualified to be a head coach, he’s long been a well-respected helper within the USA Basketball community. Not to mention, this is far more about the actual players on the roster than whatever Boylen is doing behind the scenes.
The ongoing NBA season means that Team USA is operating with G-League-caliber players at best. We’re talking names like Craig Sword, David Stockton, Charlie Brown Jr., and Elijah Pemberton. The most well-known players on the roster at this time are Langston Galloway and Chris Chiozza … so that pretty much sums things up.
Boylen also wasn’t the head coach during all of Team USA’s recent losses. For example, Greg Popovich was the one to lead the way when Team USA struggled mightily in the 2019 World Cup. Let’s also not forget that when things really hit the national stage – like at the 2023 World Cup – the coaching and roster should improve somewhat drastically.
Still, this feels like a small wake-up call for USA basketball. Other countries are starting to pump out truly elite talent on a regular basis, and these worldwide contests aren’t going to get any easier any time soon.
If one thing is for sure, though, Team USA remains confident …