Well, the Aussies are feeling a bit cocky about their chances at winning the FIBA U-19 Championship.
And though everybody around the event is talking up the United States as a cast-iron prospect to end their 18-year drought at the tournament and finally take home the gold medals, the awesome Aussies are bristling over that.
Ellis, the team’s most polished all-round player with a nice mix of grunt and guile, reckons his team is thriving on its unheralded status and feels like they can give the confident Americans more than they can handle at the business end.
The two sides won’t meet until Sunday’s final, should they both get that far, but Ellis has sent a clear message to Jamie Dixon’s side should that eventuality play out.
“Mate, we can beat ‘em – we can beat those guys” said the 2.04m forward who had 14 points and four boards in the Australians’ hard-fought 79-74 win over Croatia on Wednesday night to close out qualifying.
“We can beat anyone on our day, and we’re going for it,” added the impressive 19-year-old who hit three of his five three-pointers against the Croats.
The Australian U-19 team has been playing together year round so they do have the better teamwork, chemistry and such going for them. Like the US, they are 6-0 after the first couple of rounds.
Some interesting things from the Washington State blog, Coug Center on the U-19 team.
- This team is playing at an insanely fast pace. That 78.6 figure would have been second in the nation in college basketball last season — they play 40-minute games in international competition, too. This isn’t real surprising, given all the athletic bodies (and depth) Jamie Dixon has to work with.
- Their shooting has been excellent, as has their offensive rebounding and ability to take care of the basketball. The encouraging thing about this is that it shows this team isn’t getting by on mere athletic ability — they’re actually excelling at different facets of the game.
The latter point is not surprising. We know Coach Dixon does emphasize the rebounding and not turning the ball over. He has always coached the fundamentals well.
The point about the pace being so fast is interesting, since it seems to run contrary to what Coach Dixon likes at Pitt. As Nuss points out, though, this team is very athletic and should be running. That Coach Dixon is letting them play that way is the eyecatcher to me.
That indicates a lot more flexibility from Coach Dixon regarding how a team should play on the court.
We’ve heard recruits and occasionally even Coach Dixon indicate that he is willing to run at times. I’ve been a doubter of that, as it would seem to go outside his comfort zone. This suggests that there is some truth to it. Dixon will let a team play faster if they can still do the basic things that he demands.
Obviously, if you haven’t read Chris Dokish’s latest Q&A regarding the basketball team, you are missing a lot. Too much to excerpt.
I don’t disagree that Gibbs is intended to be the shooting guard and Woodall is hoped to be the starting point. I think the plan with Gibbs — especially with the way he seems to be being used in the U-19 is to make him much more comfortable as super-sub guard and another reliable ball handler
If you assume Jermaine Dixon starts at the shooting guard, Woodall at point and Gil Brown is the small forward then Gibbs will see almost as many minutes as all three in the rotation but in both guard spots.
Gibbs will spell Woodall at point. He will spell Dixon at SG plus Dixon and Wanamaker at times could slide over to the SF/wing spot when Brown is out. Giving Pitt a 3-guard look.
Especially when Wanamaker is on the court, Pitt will need to make sure that there is another sure-handed guard. Wanamaker keeps improving and progressing, but the glaring weakness in his game is that he gets a little loose with the ball.
Back to the U-19, the US had no problem with Canada. Rolling to a 93-73 win (PDF). While the offense was excellent for the US team (especially draining 3s), their defense was probably better. Holding the Canucks to under 40% and getting 8 steals and 7 blocks.
Gibbs was only 1-5 in 23 minutes with 2 assists, 2 boards and 0 turnovers. Gibbs has not shot particularly well in the last 3 or 4 games.
As Croatia handled Puerto Rico, the US will have its toughest game next. I fear the Croats more than I do a meeting with the Aussies potentially in the gold medal game.
As it stands, the US team is now 7-0.
Slam Online has a nice recruiting recap for the entire Big East. It’s not a ranking, but it is a good way to look over the conference to get an idea about which teams loaded up and the expected impact players in the conference.