Examining Serbia: USA’s surprise challengers for World Cup title

Milos Teodosic (right) of the Serbian National Team during 2011 EuroBasket. (Photo: Christopher Johnson)

The FIBA World Cup reaches a climax tomorrow when USA Basketball defends its title against surprise opponent Serbia.

The Americans enter Sunday’s gold medal match-up as the favorites and rightfully so.  After all, Team USA is the only squad in the tournament to field an entire roster of NBA talent.  Serbia, on the other hand, is a different story.  Even though Serbia is a country with rich basketball history, no one expected their national team to make it this far.  Not when host country Spain, who was upset in the quarterfinals by France, was looming on the same side of the draw.

How did Serbia get here?

Serbia barely made it into this summer’s World Cup.  They beat Italy to finish seventh in last year’s EuroBasket tournament, which was enough to qualify them for this summer’s competition.  They finished just 2-3 in pool play of the World Cup, competing against the likes of Spain, France and Brazil in Group A.  Serbia went on to defeat Greece in the round of 16 and then stunned in the quarters with a nearly 30-point blowout of the Brazilians.  They proceeded to defeat France, who upset Spain in the quarterfinals, in a closely contested match-up in the semis.

What is the Serbians’ style of play?

Serbia has played their way into a World Cup medal by functioning as a team.  They’re not an uber-talented group, so they play the game the way it was meant to be played: by moving the basketball through good floor spacing.  Very rarely do the Serbians rely on isolation play.  Instead, they share at an impressive rate with multiple players getting a chance to touch the ball during a single offensive possession.  Backcuts and well-set screens are staples of the Serbians’ offense.

Serbian Player to Watch: Milos Teodosic

The 27-year-old guard is Serbia’s best player and one of the top players in all of international basketball.  He is an excellent scorer that creates and make his own shot.  He is also a crafty playmaker, particularly on the pick and roll.  Teodosic has NBA talent, but wouldn’t be a star in the league like he is overseas.

Measurements

  • Height: 6’5
  • Weight: 195 lbs.

World Cup Stats (per game)

  • Points: 14.0
  • Assists: 4.1
  • Steals: 1.0
  • Rebounds: 2.4
  • Field-Goal Percentage: 55.2%
  • Three-Point Percentage: 48.9%

 

Who are Serbia’s other difference makers?

Stefan Markovic is another playmaking threat for the Serbians.  Like Teodosic, the 6-foot-3 Markovic is more than capable of making the right pass.  However, he’s not nearly the scoring and shooting threat that Teodosic is.  Miroslav Raduljica is Serbia’s second-leading scorer.  The 7-foot center who previously played for the Milwaukee Bucks is averaging 13.5 points on better than 55-percent shooting from the field.  Bogdan Bogdanovic is another guard that is a playmaking scorer like Teodosic.  Bogdanovic was selected by the Phoenix Suns in the first round of last June’s draft.

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.