USA Basketball is back atop the FIBA men’s world rankings, even after failing to medal at the World Cup.
The Americans flipped spots with Spain for No. 1 in the world in the updated rankings that were released Friday, reclaiming the top spot that they lost late last year. Spain is now No. 2, and World Cup champion Germany soared eight spots to No. 3 on the world list — the best in that program’s history.
It’s certainly possible now that the Americans will keep the top spot leading into the Paris Olympics, where the US will aim for a fifth consecutive gold medal. FIBA, the sport’s governing body, updates its rankings every few months; Friday’s update was the first tweak to the men’s list since February.
Spain had overtaken the US in November 2022, ending a 12-year run in the top spot for the Americans.
“The world is good at basketball,” US point guard Jalen Brunson of the New York Knicks said as the World Cup was winding down. “Respect everybody.”
FIBA’s rankings were changed in 2017 to a system that only takes results from the most recent eight years into account. The Olympic golds from Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo factor into the current rankings, and obviously help after back-to-back failures to medal at the last two World Cups — the US was seventh at China in 2019 and fourth in Manila earlier this month, falling to Germany in the semifinals and Canada in the bronze-medal game.
Canada soared nine spots to No. 6 in the world after winning that bronze, and Latvia — which made the quarterfinals of its first World Cup — climbed 22 spots to No. 8.
The top 10 teams are the US, Spain, Germany, Australia (which slipped one spot to No. 4), World Cup silver medalist Serbia (which climbed one spot to No. 5), Canada, Argentina (down three spots to No. 7 after not even making the World Cup field), Latvia, France (down four spots to No. 9) and Lithuania (down four spots to No. 10).
The biggest climber in the rankings after the World Cup was South Sudan, which was No. 63 in the world before the tournament and moved up 32 spots to No. 31. South Sudan qualified for the Paris Olympics after ending the World Cup as the best finisher from Africa at the tournament.
“This team is a beam of light, like I keep on saying,” South Sudan coach Royal Ivey said after his team clinched the Olympic berth in Manila. “We’re bringing unity, camaraderie, love and friendship to this country.”
Latvia was the second-biggest climber, rising 22 spots, and Cape Verde — which got a win at the World Cup — improved its ranking 19 spots to No. 46.
“We made a statement,” Cape Verde’s Will Tavares, a Rhode Island-born forward, said after the World Cup win. “Even though we’re the smallest country, we have so much heart.”
There are 159 men’s teams in the FIBA rankings. USA Basketball also is ranked No. 1 in the other three sets of rankings maintained by FIBA — women, boys and girls, all by wide margins.
Image credits: AP