WCOB: Ranking The Final 16
PLUSES: Quickness ... Ability to cause turnovers ... Length, including several players who can play multiple positions.<br><br>MINUSES: Scoring, and shooting ... The team shot 39 percent from the floor, 29 percent from behind the arc, and 59 percent from the line in the preliminaries.<br><br> KEY PLAYER: Ime Udoka -- averaged 15.4 points and two steals in 31 minutes in the prelims.<br><br>BOTTOM LINE: Lucky to be in the medal round, can use the experience for future runs. <br><br>
PLUSES: Outside shooting ... Took the third-most treys (142) in the preliminary round, making 43 ... Able to pilfer steals while not turning the ball over too much on their own.<br><br>MINUSES: One of the worst rebounding teams in the tourney ... No go-to scorer ... No shot-blocking.<br><br>KEY PLAYER: Kirk Penney -- Guard can score, but dished just two assists in 119 prelim minutes.<br><br>BOTTOM LINE: Kiwis have to get lucky from behind the arc to steal a win.
PLUSES: Tremendous outside shooting squad, making more (56) then any other team ... Doesn't turn it over, very efficient ... Averaged over 90 points per game in the prelims.<br><br>MINUSES: Inexperience ... May have been aided by an easy preliminary schedule.<br><br>KEY PLAYER: Joaquim Gomes -- Slowed by foul trouble, still averaged 16 and 8.6 boards in 28 minutes per game.<br><br> BOTTOM LINE: An impressive showing thus far, has a great chance to upset some bigger names.
PLUSES: Best three-point shooting team (46 percent) left in the tournament ... Good rebounders ... Veteran NBA talent and legitimate depth up front with two starter-quality NBA centers. <br><br> MINUSES: Tends to freelance ... No consistent leadership ... Underachievers ... Porous perimeter defense. <br><br>KEY PLAYER: Beno Udrih -- If he can find a way to lead, they may pull out a win.<br><br>BOTTOM LINE: Team is second only to the U.S. in terms of sense of entitlement.
Serbia and Montenegro
PLUSES: Great shot-blocking up front ... Stellar shooting both outside and in ... Full of medal round veterans.<br><br>MINUSES: Aging ... Missing its best players ... Has trouble creating easy looks, no playmakers.<br><br>KEY PLAYER: Darko Milicic -- Averaging 16 points, eight rebounds, and 2.8 blocks in 31 minutes.<br><br>BOTTOM LINE: One last average tourney showing before the Darko Era starts in earnest.
PLUSES: Tough defenders, especially on the perimeter ... Inside/game with center Andrew Bogut and Allen Iverson-like scorer CJ Bruton.<br><br>MINUSES: No shot-blocking ... Bruton can shoot his team in and out of a game ... Poor rebounding squad. <br><br>KEY PLAYER: Andrew Bogut -- Just three blocks and 17 turnovers in five games. <br><br>BOTTOM LINE: Not enough weapons to make a real run.
PLUSES: Tournament's best scorer in Yao Ming ... A sometimes-imposing frontline that can score and defend ... Great shot-blocking.<br><br>MINUSES: Horrid guard play ... Very turnover prone ... Best players go for long stretches without the ball in their hands. <br><br>KEY PLAYER: Yao Ming -- 28.4 points in just 32.8 minutes per game so far. <br><br>BOTTOM LINE: Yao can dominate, but only if his teammates can keep feeding him the ball.
PLUSES: Sound group of athletes who won't make many mistakes and know how to play alongside each other ... Good interior and perimeter defense.<br><br>MINUSES: Poor offensive rebounders ... Team lacks in star power compared to previous international entries.<br><br>KEY PLAYER: Ibrahim Kutluay -- 28 of his 38 shots have come from behind the arc so far. <br><br>BOTTOM LINE: A transition year for the Turkish team, not likely to win them a medal.
PLUSES: Forces turnovers ... Average in every aspect ... Leading scorer Antonios Fotsis also does all the little things.<br><br>MINUSES: Allows opponents to shoot well (48 percent) from the floor ... Average in every aspect, no one player sticks out long enough to shoot for a big win ... Not much for ball movement. <br><br> KEY PLAYER: Vasileios Spanoulis -- After a horrible start, the NBA rookie-to-be may have a breakout game in him. <br><br>BOTTOM LINE: Just solid enough to make it to the outskirts of the medal contenders.
PLUSES: An active, athletic group of players that force the issue on both ends ... Frederic Weis and Boris Diaw hold their own on the inside ... Devastating on defense.<br><br>MINUSES: Without Tony Parker, France is punchless at times ... Mickael Gelabale can shoot his team in and out of the game.<br><br>KEY PLAYER: Boris Diaw -- out of shape, but averaging 12.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, and leading his team in assists.<br><br> BOTTOM LINE: A potential medalist in 2008, but lost without Tony Parker's scoring acumen.
PLUSES: Best rebounding team in the tournament in pool play ... Solid defensive outfit ... Great spacing on offense.<br><br>MINUSES: Streaky outside shooting ... Turnover prone ... Thin up front.<br><br>KEY PLAYER: Arvydas Macijauskas -- 50 percent shooting thus far, mainly from the perimeter.<br><br> BOTTOM LINE: Strong play in preliminary round could foreshadow a medal run.
PLUSES: Dirk Nowitzki, who may be the tourney's best player so far ... Strong rebounding club ... Makes its free throws. <br><br>MINUSES: Easy pool play schedule; lost big against only quality opponent (by 21, to Spain) ... Dirk leads in points, rebounds, and assists -- with very little help from his teammates. <br><br>KEY PLAYER: Dirk Nowitzki -- 24.8 points, 10.6 rebounds while playing nearly 90 percent of his team's minutes.<br><br> BOTTOM LINE: Nowitzki can lead the team to close losses, little else.
PLUSES: Intelligent, heady group that shares the ball and doesn't give in easily ... Keeps its collective head in close games ... Strong assist-to-turnover ratio.<br><br>MINUSES: No real go-to guy ... Gives up height at several key positions ... Not overwhelmingly strong in any particular area.<br><br>KEY PLAYER: Matteo Soragna -- Antagnoist can light it up from outside (67 percent). <br><br>BOTTOM LINE: Won't make many mistakes, but probably won't make the top three.
PLUSES: Second-best offensive team in the preliminaries, second-best defensive team ... Led all teams by winning games by an average of 28 points ... Shot a white-hot 55 percent from the floor.<br><br>MINUSES: Not many ... Shot a mediocre 69 percent from the line ... Played an easy preliminary schedule.<br><br>KEY PLAYER: Pau Gasol -- 21.4 points, eight boards, two blocks in only 25.6 minutes per game.<br><br>BOTTOM LINE: The Gasol brothers, with Raptors guard Jose Calderon running the offense, should bring home a medal for Spain.
PLUSES: Exacting-yet-exciting inside/out offense frustrates opponents ... Lots of big game experience ... Superior depth, second only to the USA ... Won games by 25 points while averaging 14 more assists per game than its opponents. <br><br>MINUSES: No real weaknesses ... Best, if not the most talented, team in the World Championships ... Lack of height could hurt against Spain or Germany. <br><br>KEY PLAYER: Manu Ginobili -- Straw that stirs the drink averaging 14 points on just nine shots per game.<br><br>BOTTOM LINE: Toughest team to beat ... but still beatable.
PLUSES: Rife with athletes ... Tremendous depth ... Versatile team that could boast a new hero in every quarter ... Improved attitude ... Forces heaps of turnovers.<br><br>MINUSES: Poor perimeter, overall defenders ... Key players still learning the nuances of the international game, and how to play alongside each other ... Some important cogs tend to lose effectiveness when the ball isn't in their hands.<br><br>KEY PLAYER: Dwyane Wade -- LeBron James may star, and Carmelo Anthony can shoot, but Wade should be their clutch go-to guy in the end.<br><br>BOTTOM LINE: It won't be pretty, but they should dig down deep enough to pull out the gold.