U.S. women learn draw for worlds
The U.S. women's national team will face a pair of newcomers and China in the opening round of the basketball world championship in Turkey this fall.
The Americans, who won the 2010 worlds in the Czech Republic, were placed with Serbia, Angola and China in Group D in the draw on Saturday. Serbia and Angola are competing for the first time at worlds. Angola finished 12th at the London Olympics.
The Americans are 4-0 against China at worlds.
The U.S. could potentially have 10 members back from the squad that won the gold medal in London, including Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Tamika Catchings. The U.S. has won the past five Olympic gold medals and eight world titles.
Australia, which has been the main competitor for the U.S. over the past decade, will face Belarus, Korea and Cuba in Group C. Both Group C and D will play their preliminary round games in Istanbul. The U.S. and Australia will meet if they win their pools and advance to the semifinals.
The host nation Turkey may have the toughest draw, having to face defending Olympic silver medalist France as well as an up-and-coming Canada squad. Mozambique rounds out Turkey's pool. Brazil, Japan, Spain and the Czech Republic make up the fourth group. Those two pools will play their games in Ankara.
"You know, there really is no easy pool," U.S. national coach Geno Auriemma said. "There are so many difficult matchups, teams keep getting better and better. If you look back to 2010, Czech Republic and Spain were on the medal stand. At the Olympics, it was France and Australia up there with us."
The Americans most likely won't announce their roster for the worlds until late summer. The worlds start on Sept. 27 and run until Oct. 5.
"The playing field among top teams is becoming more level every year so, in order to win a gold medal at the FIBA world championship, you have to go through a lot of really good teams," Auriemma said. "It's not going to be easy. All I know is that from looking at the pool of players we have to choose from, we're going to have a really, really good team that will be ready to compete."
One team that the U.S. won't have to face is Russia, which beat the Americans in the semifinals of the 2006 world championship. The Russians failed to qualify for this year's competition.