By early morning of the FIBA World Cup's third day, the group stage had its biggest surprise. Senegal recorded its second major upset in Group B play on Monday, beating a well-respected Croatian squad, 77-75, behind the play of Minnesota Timberwolves forward Gorgui Dieng.
Dieng's 28 points, eight rebounds and two blocks followed up an 18-point, 13-rebound performance Sunday in a win over Puerto Rico. He did it against a talented Croatian team that includes Sixers draft pick Dario Saric, Nets swingman Bojan Bogdanovic, Pacers gunner Damjan Rudez and center Ante Tomic, a former second-round NBA draft pick.
FIBA World Cup
FIBA World Cup
Even with two games remaining, it's pretty safe to say that Senegal will continue into the single-elimination tournament.
Senegal came into the tournament No. 41 by FIBA's not-too-exact ranking system that is based on past national team play. Of teams in the 2014 World Cup, only Ukraine (No. 45) and Egypt (No. 46) were ranked worse. ESPN Insider's Kevin Pelton ranked Senegal as the worst team in this summer's tournament with a formula based on exhibition games this summer (the thought is that it more accurately projects the results because the rosters match the rosters used in the World Cup).
The team Pelton ranks as the second-worst team in the tournament, Philippines, just happens to be in Senegal's Group B. Those two squads have yet to play, and both Philippines and Puerto Rico find themselves at the bottom of the group with 0-2 records as of Monday morning.
Group B is arguably the weakest group, yet this is still big news. Greece, which handed Senegal its only loss thus far, is the strongest team and has won its first two games by double-digits. Argentina, led by Luis Scola, is competitive but vulnerable -- it lost to the same Croatian team that Senegal beat.
Senegal must only take care of business against the Philippines or even beat Argentina to secure a spot past group play. Barring any surprises from the Philippines or Puerto Rico, which is dealing with a banged up Carlos Arroyo, Dieng and company will survive the eight-team cut. Then it'll be on them to make some noise in the single-elimination tournament.
Whatever the case, Senegal wasn't supposed to win twice, especially not against two teams with relatively successful national team histories.