On Top of the Worlds

Rededicated after a sixth-place finish at the last FIBA World Championship, the U.S. will be a heavy favorite in Japan, with any of seven other teams in contention for a medal. Here's SI's predicted order of finish for the 24-team tournament, which begins on Aug. 19 and ends on Sept. 3, in Saitama.
August 13, 2006

1. UNITEDSTATES
Top players: SG Dwyane Wade, SF LeBron James, PG Gilbert Arenas
Skinny: The Americans (right) must bond quickly; among the contenders, theywill draw the toughest opponent in the knockout round of 16.

2.ARGENTINA
Top players: SG Manu Ginobili, PF Luis Scola, SF Andres Nocioni
Skinny: While the 26-year-old Scola will be out to prove he's NBA-worthy, thisaging group will be hard-pressed to keep its edge after a half decade ontop.

3. SPAIN
Top players: C Pau Gasol, SG Juan-Carlos Navarro, SF Jorge Garbajosa
Skinny: The Spaniards' nucleus has been together for several years, theirbackcourt is exceptional, and the versatile Gasol is a matchup nightmare.

4. FRANCE
Top players: PG Tony Parker, PF Boris Diaw, SF Mickaël Pietrus
Skinny: With the help of NBA big men Ronny Turiaf and Johan Petro, Les Bleusare capable of winning it all.

5. BRAZIL
Top players: SG Leandro Barbosa, PF Anderson Varej√£o, PF Tiago Splitter
Skinny: This young, skilled team could spend the next quadrennium contendingfor gold medals.

6. GERMANY Topplayers: PF Dirk Nowitzki, C Patrick Femerling, PF Ademola Okulaja
Skinny: No opponent is safe against the unstoppable Nowitzki, who led Germanyto a silver medal at last year's European championships.

7.LITHUANIA
Top players: SG Arvydas Macijauskas, PF Darius Songaila, SF MindaugasZukauskas
Skinny: Even without NBA sharpshooter Sarunas Jasikevicius, this deep team iscapable of frightening the perennial powers.

8. SLOVENIA
Top players: PG Jaka Lakovic, SF Bostjan Nachbar, C Rasho Nesterovic
Skinny: With five NBA players (including C Primoz Brezec, PG Beno Udrih androokie PF Uros Slokar) and scorers at every position, this tiny country (pop. 2million) could be the tournament's Cinderella.

PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH EIGHT ILLUSTRATIONS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)