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Expert Panel: Who's challenging USA, who's going home early, which players are ready to shine? – FIBA

SYDNEY (Australia) – As excitement builds ahead of the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022, we check in with an expert panel to get their predictions for the flagship event.

We’ve turned to a trio of FIBA commentators, to get their thoughts on how things will go down in Sydney. Shona Thorburn is a two-time Olympian with Canada and Assistant Coach with EuroLeague Women side Basket Landes.  Azania Stewart is an Olympian with Great Britain and made EuroCup Women history last season with London Lions. American Despina Barton has been commentating on basketball for more than a decade in the States and most recently brining her broadcasting talents to the FIBA international stage.
Time for some predictions 💭

Do you agree with our experts’ takes? Let us know ⤵️#FIBAWWC
Shona: The team to beat is still the USA. With the chance of some late arrivals into their camp, they may be a little out of sorts early in the tournament, but on the last day they will be standing atop the podium. China should finish second if they play like they did back in February. Australia rounds out the podium for me. Experience along with some new faces make this team interesting. The lack of a true point guard is a little worrying, but I think playing at home will make up for any weaknesses on the court.
Azania: I think with a roster that USA have, it’s really hard to knock them off the gold spot – where they have been for a very long time. That’s because their 6th to 12th woman off the bench could also start at any given time. I think the podium will be USA with gold, Australia with silver and Japan with bronze. 
Despina: USA will win it all – albeit with a completely different roster than what we saw step out at the FIBA Women’s AmeriCup 2021 tournament—which included the likes of Rhyne Howard and all the NCAA-college superstars. Silver will go to Japan, the most disciplined and mechanically mesmerizing team I’ve ever seen, rounded out with China and Australia clawing for bronze.
Are Belgium still a dark horse and about to make history by taking a first medal?
Shona: I think China can pull off the biggest surprise. They have everything you need to medal; height, speed, perimeter shooting, veteran leadership, as well as some very good young talent that have a couple major FIBA tournaments under their belt now. I think China can cause some serious match-up problems for many countries.
Azania:  The only team I can give the dark horse tag to is Bosnia-Herzegovina as they feel like they are a wild card just for even getting into this tournament. 

Despina: I didn’t put Belgium in my top four choices for the three podium spots, so I will slide them in as a dark horse. A team that is sneaky good; and one that will make you play for every single second on the game clock.

Are Canada in a transitional  phase under new coach Victor Lapena or will they still get out of the ‘Group of Death’?
Shona: Mali and then I actually think it will come down to the game day one result between Canada and Serbia. I think the loser of that game will be the other team that doesn’t advance. 
Azania: This is such a difficult question because you never want to bet against the home nation. We also know head coach Marina Maljkovic will have Serbia ready at all costs. Japan are the silver medallists from 2020 Olympics. France could go off and win it all and Canada are young, with key vet players and a great new coaching staff. So the only one I can 100% give is Mali as they were added to the tournament so last minute and I’m not sure how much prep time they would of had together. But if you really are forcing me to pick another one to miss out, then I will reluctantly go for Canada, because I think this is going to be a building block for them and we will see more from them in the future.

Despina: Mali and Canada will not advance to the Quarter-Finals in Group B. They just don’t have the consistency, stamina and potency to compete with the well-balanced and pulverizing capabilities of Japan, Australia and France. I also think Serbia can make it through.
 Will Jonquel Jones of Bosnia and Herzegovina engage ‘Beast Mode’ again?
Shona: Jonquel Jones from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Her team has no problem giving her the ball and letting her create her shots. She has the green light to shoot wherever and whenever she wants.
Azania: I think ‘Mother of the Dragons’ Jonquel Jones will be the top scorer as Bosnia-Herzegovina run a lot of their offence through her, but also have a great trust and chemistry as a team which embraces her role as a leader.

Despina: I expect the likes of Breanna Stewart of the USA and also Sami Whitcomb for host nation Australia could be in contention to lead the scoring charts.
 Sijing Huang of China was an MVP in Belgrade at the Qualifying Tournament earlier this year
Shona: Sijing Huang from China.  We have seen glimpses of her offensive talent over the years, but in February at the Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade she was spectacular. As long as she can play with confidence over the course of the tournament I think she has the talent to be an All-Star Five player.
Azania: I think this is such an impossible question to answer because there are  going to be some fantastic players at this FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup – so I am going to give two answers. Lauren Jackson because I’m excited and happy to see her comeback story with the Opals. Also a shout out for Marine Johannes of France because we all know some crazy highlight plays will happen whenever she steps out to play.

Despina: I am drawn to storylines, so for me, I am looking forward to seeing Korea’s veteran forward Danbi Kim play. The passion she has for the game radiates off every inch of her. She is respected by so many around the globe and with her retiring after these games, its bound to be a beautiful farewell performance.

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