Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.
The hype leading up to the 2013-14 college basketball season will be immense. It already sort of is, when you really think about it: Andrew Wiggins’ announcement to join Kansas set the college hoops world aflame. Duke’s Jabari Parker was plastered on the cover a Sports Illustrated magazine comparing him to LeBron James. Kentucky’s recruiting class is being described in the loftiest echelons of hyperbolic recruiting praise. A host of talented sophomores spurned probable NBA riches for another go with their respective college outfits. Everything about the upcoming season looks great. I can’t wait.
Over the weekend, some of the USA’s best players age 19 and under put those expectations on the line in international competition, and held serve in convincing fashion. Team USA beat Serbia Sunday, 82-68, to earn the gold medal at the FIBA U-19 World Championships. Taking home first prize was no guarantee for the Red, White, and Blue, who have won just three of the last eight U-19 FIBA crowns, including 2011’s lamentable fifth-place finish. International basketball – and all the well-coached, cohesively groomed, fundamentally-drilled international players, international rules, and international travel quirks compacted within – is an entirely different breed of hoops. Former US teams as high as the senior level have struggled to adapt to FIBA-regulated play, and this team, for all its massive talent advantages, was not immune to those very same issues. Basketball’s recent popularity worldwide – plus, you know, us not winning every single time we step on the floor – has made one fact exceedingly clear: There are no foregone conclusions in international basketball. Team USA’s U-19 group was not willing to make any.