The Dish: Ugly Americans at the World Championships

There is no joy in Krzyzewski-ville.

Maybe it’s because they’re celebrating it in Japan, so it’s challenging to watch it on TV here in North America. Maybe it’s because the 2002 World Championships in Indiana (third place) and the 2004 Olympics (third place) are still in our mouths. Maybe it’s because we still associate the United States in these world tournaments represented by the rude Allen Iverson and Stephon Marbury and, well, we don’t like those guys.

But whatever the reason, no one seems to care about the World Championship in basketball.

Coach K leads the squad, which until Wednesday was undefeated in the group stage. The US opened with a 111-100 victory against Puerto Rico, which doesn’t sound like much until you realize that Puerto Rico stunned the world by defeating the United States in the first game of the Athens Olympics last year. two years. The US also crushed Yao and the Chinese and Primoz Brezec and the Slovenians.

It seemed that, before Wednesday’s game against Italy, coach K had turned the current group into a more humble and less ridiculous group. The last Olympic team and (even more so) the 2002 World Championship team were very easy to criticize. Somehow they seemed like a symbol of American arrogance and playfulness around the world: clueless millionaires dancing around the Parthenon, calling it an ugly pile of rocks. I’m an American, but did I really have to root for Marbury, Iverson and Lamar Odom? Ew. With Krzyzewski around, I had higher hopes: hopes of fundamental basketball and, like, being able to enjoy my team’s wins.

Unfortunately, as adversity hit Italy on Wednesday, the US stars returned to one-on-one play and shooting from long range. They found themselves down 12 points in the second half, and only late performances from Carmelo Anthony and Dywane Wade saved them. Still, the seeds of disaster have been sown, and this group officially has the potential to become just as unsavory as its predecessors. They haggle. They dribble a little more. They still haggle a bit more. They threaten to go to the hoop. They threaten a little more. They get frustrated and pass the ball out of bounds. It happened over and over again. If it hadn’t been for Anthony and Wade saving America’s bacon on Wednesday, you’d be reading nothing but basketball humiliation articles once again.

And believe me: that humiliation will come. It’s probably not Coach K’s fault; he relies on really young players who play in a league that encourages one-on-one play and doesn’t teach their youngsters how to pass effectively. And that’s the whole international game: unselfishness. Unfortunately, selfishness is the biggest part of what these children have. Oh yeah, that and the bad free throws.

Are the Red Sox fully cooked?

BoDog Bookmakers, No. Despite their recent struggles, the Red Sox remained 6 1/2 games behind in the AL East and four games off the pace in the wild-card standings. They still have 37 games to play, including four against the Yankees and three against the White Sox and Twins. If they can survive this next stretch (eight straight road games), the Red Sox could really start in September, a month in which they play 16 games at home.

The favorite college football team to win the National Championship on the BoDog board is Notre Dame, at 4-1. Are those odds so low because of the Irish’s huge fan base?

BB, They’re not too low. Granted, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are coming off a 34-20 loss to the Buckeyes in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl, but the time seems right for them to make a serious run at the BCS National Championship. Quarterback Brady Quinn has been stellar under coach Charlie Weis and many of his offensive and defensive players are coming back. Meanwhile, teams like Texas and USC have lost stars on both sides of the ball due to the NFL Draft. All signs point to Notre Dame or Ohio State being the favorites to go all the way.

Can you give us your favorite team in double figures (10-1 or better) to win the 2007 NCAA title game and tell us why?

BB, A good sleeper pick would be the California Golden Bears, currently 12-1. While the USC Trojans have been making history in recent years, Cal has been quietly building. Now, with USC weakened by the NFL Draft, the Golden Bears could be on the verge of taking control of the Pac-10. Last season, Cal went 8-4 with a powerful running game that had running backs Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett in the backfield. The two running backs combined for 2,245 total yards and 16 touchdowns. With both running backs returning as juniors, Cal’s offense appears to be even better. On defense, preseason All-American tackle Brandon Mebane leads a team with eight returning starters. So absolutely, a Pac-10 crown is within reach, as is a national title.

With the PGA Championship behind us and Tiger Woods dominating as ever, the last big golf event of the season is the Ryder Cup in September. Since we’ll all be preoccupied with football by then, I’ll ask now: Does the Ryder Cup make a big impact? And do bettors tend to bet on the side of the Americans no matter what?

BB, All true sports fans have time for the Ryder Cup, and bettors love it for its heads-up format. Sure, you can place head-to-head bets in a regular tournament, but the competitors aren’t actively competing against each other, they’re competing against the entire field. In other words, we expect a lot of interest in the Ryder Cup in September. Most golf bettors are knowledgeable enough to know that the Americans have struggled in past Ryder Cups; Tiger Woods’ Ryder Cup record is 7-11-2 in four appearances and Phil Mickelson is 9-8-3 in five appearances. With the event taking place at Ireland’s K Club, Europeans will have home court advantage. We’ll have to see if national pride gets in the way of bettors’ objectivity.