On paper, the FIBA World Cup quarterfinal match between Slovenia and Canada looks like a complete mismatch, something like John Wayne against Barney Fife.
Slovenia has one NBA player on its roster: Luka Dončić.
Canada has seven, plus another who will be in the NBA as soon as he elects to leave college (Zach Edey).
But we’ve learned never to call anything a mismatch when one of the gunslingers in the duel is Dončić.
OK, the nitpickers will say that center Mike Tobey, an American by birth, and guard Zoran Dragic each had a cup of coffee in the NBA years ago. But they have made their basketball living almost exclusively overseas.
And yet, when you stack Dončić up against Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lu Dort, Dillon Brooks, R.J. Barrett, Kelly Olynyk, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Dwight Powell, the Slovenian cupboard is strikingly NBA-bare.
So who you taking in their quarterfinal matchup Wednesday (7:30 a.m., Dallas time)?
Powell and the stacked, hungry Canadians? Or Luka and the equally hungry Slovenians?
Either way, the Mavericks will have a participant in the semifinals on Friday. The winner Wednesday will move on to face Serbia, which defeated Lithuania on Tuesday 87-68.
The other semifinal will feature the U.S., which trounced Italy on Tuesday, 100-63, against the winner of Wednesday’s other quarterfinal game, Germany vs. Latvia.
Before the quarterfinals began, Dončić was asked by reporters in Manila, Philippines, covering the event who he considered the favorite for the gold medal.
“Probably the USA or Canada, he said. “We go game-by-game and I don’t know where we will land. But I can assureyou we will give our everything every game.”
Just as Dončić has done with the Mavericks throughout his career.
Slovenia is a country of just over 2.1 million people. That’s less than one-third of the 7.6 million people in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area.
Yet, with Luka leading the way, they have patched together a disciplined, fundamentally sound team that went 4-1 in the group stages of World Cup play.
Canada, meanwhile, has been building its national team through the last several international competitions. By going 5-0 in group play at this World Cup, the Canadians clinched a berth at the Paris Olympics next summer, their first Olympic basketball appearance since 2000.
“We’re a part of history,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “So many people along the way have put in so much work for this program and we want to thank them and also represent them when we go (to the Olympics). And in this tournament (too).”
The game can be watched on the ESPN+ platform.