Team USA is undefeated (1-0) heading into Tuesday’s FIBA World Cup game against Turkey, with the point spread set at 21.5. So as you wind your way through Labor Day in the United States, consider having some fun with what is happening in the tournament over in China.
The World Cup is a bigger deal overseas than it is in the United States, but in the wagering world — especially the legalized US sports gambling market — there are literally dozens of ways to make this thing compelling.
Let’s say you are a fan of the San Antonio Spurs, which means you are rooting for Gregg Popovich and the team in red, white and blue. But that also means you are a huge fan of Australian point guard Patty Mills, whose Boomers will have an easy time against Senegal on Tuesday before their showdown with Lithuania on Thursday.
DraftKings Sportsbook has listed the over/under on Mills’ points at 19.5 … which is an easy “over” at first glance, right? Well, not so fast.
Mills is playing in a two-point guard backcourt alongside Matthew Dellavedova, and it was Delly who lit up the scoreboard (24 points on 9-for-13 shooting) in Australia’s 108-92 pounding of Canada in the tournament opener for both teams. Mills had 15 points but shot only 3-for-9 from the field (he was 9-for-9 on free throws), making you wonder whether he hit his peak in Australia’s exhibition victory over Team USA in Sydney late last month.
Australia is favored by a whopping 35.5 points against Senegal, which was overmatched by Lithuania in its opener, losing 101-47 as Jonas Valanciunas was one of three Lithuanian players to score 13 points. JV will be going against Canada in its next game, and Nick Nurse’s squad has been hit with more defections than Pop’s team. Want to make this one interesting? The over/under on JV’s points is 15.5 at DK, and teammate Domantis Sabonis is 13.5.
As for the Americans, those who think Pop’s squad is due for another loss can get Turkey at +1700 at FanDuel Sportsbook but that would mean putting a lot of faith in a squad that has only three NBA players (Ersan Ilyasova, Furkhan Korkmaz and Cedi Osman).
A more enticing bet might be the over/under on Khris Middleton’s points, which is only 8.5 at DraftKings.
Other ways to bet on the tournament
DraftKings has loaded its site with interesting prop bets on player point totals, and NBA fans can find reasons to keep up with their favorite players while making it a little interesting with a wager.
Take Giannis Antetopounmpo, for example.
The Greek Freak and reigning NBA Most Valuable Player had only 10 points in 16 minutes in Greece’s opening game against Montenegro, an 85-60 beatdown in which they held Nikola Vucevic and company to just 16 first-half points. Next up is a match against Brazil, and Giannis’s over/under point total is 20.5 at DK … a nifty prop bet given that Brazil figures to keep the game close and the Freak’s minutes should be significantly higher against a team that has no one who can adequately defend him.
Greece is widely considered the third choice to win the tournament behind Team USA and Serbia. Coach Sahsa Djordjevic’s team dropped 126 points on the Philippines on Monday, shooting 75 percent including a 7-for-7 showing from Nemanja Bjelica of the Sacramento Kings. They have now advanced to the second round along with Italy, meaning their next matchup, against Italy on Wednesday, will be a throwaway game worth keeping an eye on for wagering purposes.
In FIBA, throwaway games mean the under is usually a safe bet … although pride (and the desire to maintain an undefeated record) may cause Serbia to produce another triple-digit point total (they defeated Angola 105-59 in their opener.)
NFL season openers are coming this weekend, the U.S. Open tennis tournament is getting interesting, and college football never fails to disappoint at this juncture of the calendar. In the NBA, other than keeping track of the legal troubles surrounding DeMarcus Cousins, there isn’t much to keep an eye on.
But for the hardcore hoops fans, the FIBA tournament (televised in the United States in ESPN+) keeps us on our toes. The tournament is not interesting yet, but it is a long way from over.
The best thing for hoopsheads who wager to do at this juncture is to keep an eye out for gambling opportunities that make sense. Expecting the US to not cover the spread seems a safe play, and wagering against the weaklings is easy money in a tournament loaded with 32 teams … many of which are extremely overmatched.
DraftKings Sportsbook is the most aggressive in this realm, especially with their player props, so pop some popcorn, put down a parlay or two and enjoy. In less than two weeks we will have a new world champion. And given the relative weakness of Team USA compared to what the American federation has put out there in the past, non-believers in Popovich’s acumen can make a ton of money if they prognosticate properly.