Tonight the Australian Boomers open their 2014 FIBA World Cup campaign against Slovenia in Gran Canaria, Spain with an aim to win their first ever senior medal on the world stage. Their opening clash is the culmination of arguably the best ever preparation a senior boomers team has ever enjoyed with 9 games against quality opposition on their European tour.
Australia is sure to garner a huge amount of local support given that it is also the home of Brad Newley who has played for Gran Canaria over recent seasons in the Spanish ACB. Pre-tournament, their main Group D rivals appear to be perennial contenders Lithuania and rising basketball nation Slovenia.
The Boomers preparations are over - Courtesy Basketball Australia
Slovenia are no slouches, having finished fifth at 2013 Eurobasket, falling to eventual champion France and are headlined by some serious basketball talent including Phoenix Suns NBA star Goran Dragic and his brother Zoran. With the late withdrawal of key center Erazem Lorbek due to injury, Slovenia's main weakness appears to be their front court. If the Boomers can quell the influence of the Dragic brothers and expose the Slovenian's lack of height and experience, then they could well commence the tournament on a high, something that has eluded the Boomers over recent World Championship campaigns.
If the Boomers can kick-start their campaign with a win over Slovenia, the unpredictable Koreans await next less than 24 hours later. While they cannot take this game lightly, not the last two against Mexico and Angola, it is the game against Lithuania may well be the litmus test and go a long way as to determining the Boomers fortunes in making a run towards the medal rounds. However the door is ajar for the Boomers to burst it open, with Lithuanian starting point guard Mantas Kalnietis withdrawing with an injury.
Boomers Head Coach Andrej Lemanis has all but confirmed his starting line-up against Slovenia, with Cleveland Cavalier Matthew Dellavedova continuing the reigns and the red-hot shooting of Ryan Broekhoff starting alongside him. Joe Ingles, David Andersen and in-form Aron Baynes are also expected to start the opening game, with Lemanis prepared to mix it up depending on form and match-ups with their opponents.
"Having Dante come off the bench and make an impact is something which is good for us," Lemanis said.
"He can change the pace of the game and with the initial energy out of the game, he can find his feet a bit easier and be more effective for this team."
For Australian fans, you can watch the Boomers against Slovenia live on free to air television on ABC2 from 1:26am AEST with commentary from Australia Boomers legend Shane Heal and John Casey.
Heads Up: #TeamPnR's Craig Rayner, Travis Reid and Damian Arsenis will be covering all the Australian Boomers games on Twitter via @OzBallPnR - use hashtag #GoBoomers
Tonight's Key Games
Group C: New Zealand vs Turkey (Bilbao) Group D: Australia vs Slovenia (Gran Canaria) Group B: Puerto Rico vs Argentina (Seville) Group A: France vs Brazil (Granada) Group C: USA vs Finland (Bilbao) - live on ABC2 at 5:15am AEST
Only Australia and USA's games are being broadcast live by ABC2 on free to air television in Australia. You can watch all other games on FIBA's livebasketball.tv online.
Check back on pickandroll.com.au for a recap after every Boomers game.
Group D Team Previews
Slovenia (Preview) - 31 August 2014, 1:26am AEST Korea (Preview) - 31 August 2014, 9:26pm AEST Lithuania (Preview) - 3 September 2014, 1:26am AEST Mexico (Preview) - 3 September 2014, 9:26pm AEST Angola (Preview) - 4 September 2014, 9:26pm AEST