Italy is headlining Group A in this FIBA World Cup where they are joined by the host team Gilas Pilipinas along with the Dominican Republic and Angola.

Among the teams in Group A, it is actually the Dominican Republic who are coming in with the biggest individual star as three-time NBA All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves is set to suit up for them for the first time since 2012. Towns is the only player with an NBA All-Star appearance on his resume among those in Group A.

However, the rest of the Dominican Republic’s team remains rather unproven which is why the Italians remain favored here. Per the FIBA World Rankings, Italy is the best team in Group A as they are currently ranked 10th ahead of the Dominican Republic (23rd), Gilas (40th), and Angola (41st).

The Italians will be without their best player in 13-year NBA veteran Danilo Gallinari who is still rehabilitating from an ACL injury, though they have two other sharpshooting forwards on their roster who are more than capable of filling-in. Simone Fontecchio of the Utah Jazz and former NBA player Nicolo Melli are expected to be the focal point of Italy’s attack with their combination of height and perimeter shooting.

This Italy team should have no problem emerging from Group A to enter Group I, but it remains to be seen whether they will enter as the top team. A Dominican Republic team led by Towns will be a formidable challenge for them and it will be interesting to see how they go about covering the Timberwolves’ star big man.

Over in Group B, Serbia and Puerto Rico seem likely to emerge and enter Group I, though China, who will be led by former Houston Rocket Zhou Qi, could prove to be a spoiler here.

Serbia’s roster features four current NBA players, most notably Bogdan Bogdanovic of the Atlanta Hawks. He has enough offensive tools to single-handedly carry this team into the latter rounds which helps install this team as the favorites in Group B.

Bogdanovic is joined by Nikola Jovic of the Miami Heat, Aleksej Pokusevski of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Filip Petrusev of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico will be without Jose Alvarado of the New Orleans Pelicans as he continues to recover from an injury. In his absence, Tremont Waters, a three-year NBA veteran and the 2020 G-League Rookie of the Year, is set to lead the charge for Puerto Rico.

Compared with the other groups in Okinawa and Jakarta, the teams playing at the Araneta Coliseum seem to have quite a bit more parity which makes their games a compelling watch.

Italy, Serbia, and the Dominican Republic are likely to find themselves in a tough competition to emerge from Group I with one of the two quarterfinal spots that are up for grabs. Italy and Serbia have the edge here in terms of international experience and chemistry, though the presence of Towns makes it impossible to overlook the Dominican Republic.