First off, why “fearful”?
Well, “fearless” is too mainstream!
This year’s edition of the FIBA Asia will be held in Changsha, China (again and without the bidding), and the winner will become the continent’s lone representative to the 2016 Rio Olympics. Meanwhile, the silver and bronze medalists will find themselves going up against the other runners-up from other continents to compete in the Olympics pre-qualifying tournament. The top three finishers in the said tourney will gain a wildcard entry into the biggest sports event in the world.
Like the 2013 edition, the 2015 FIBA Asia looks promising: expect fireworks, upsets, and epic on-court battles. The best players from across Asia will once again put their bodies on the line just for a ticket to Rio.
Check out the tournament format and let’s take a look at the tournament cast:
- Group A – Iran, Japan, India, Malaysia
- Group B – Philippines, Palestine, Kuwait, and either Mongolia/Hong Kong
- Group C – China, South Korea, Jordan, Singapore
- Group D – Chinese Taipei, Lebanon, Qatar, Kazakhstan
Now then, let’s predict how the first round will go.
Hands down, Iran will likely end up on top of the group unless if the Japanese Hayabusa manages to pull off an upset, which they are capable of doing. Currently, the Japanese pool is made up of standouts like former NBA player Yuta Tabuse, ace guard Takumi Ishizaki, and marksman Keijuro Matsui.
Meanwhile, Iran’s mainstays Hamed Hadadi, Oshin Sahakian, Mehdi Kamrani, and prolific forward Nikkah Bahrami will look to dominate the group and retain the title they won in Manila in 2013. Other notable names in the Iranian roster include backup center Ashgar Kardoust and youngster Mohammad Jamshidi.
The last ticket to the 2nd round will be fought between minnows Malaysia and mid-tier team India. The Indians will likely be bannered by NBA draftee Satnam Singh Bhamara, along with brothers Amriptal and Amjyot Singh. Malaysia will parade a cast of virtual unknowns, and in spite of finishing 2nd in the SEABA tourney, they’ll be the cannon fodder in this group.
Fearful forecast: 1. Iran, 2. Japan, 3. India, 4. Malaysia (eliminated)
The Philippines, despite missing key several players due to alleged “injuries”, will likely top the group. On paper, Gilas Pilipinas is definitely one of the tournament favorites. Bannered by former Brooklyn Net Andray Blatche, and PBA mainstays Terrence Romeo, Calvin Abueva, veteran center Asi Taulava, and Asia’s best guard Jayson Castro, it wouldn’t be a surprise if South East Asia’s top team will go all the way. The team will participate in a pocket tourney in Estonia, battling the host nation, the Netherlands, and Iceland on August 20-22, and the Jones Cup in Taiwan.
Gulf nation Kuwait will be bannered by an overachieving young team, which placed second in this year’s Gulf Basketball Championship behind perennial champions, Qatar.
Meanwhile, Palestine is capable of upending the Philippines as long as two key players, European and PBA campaigner Omar Krayem and CBA import Sani Sakinini, who put up monster numbers against Syria (34 points and 17 rebounds) and Iraq (35 pts, 21 rebs) in the West Asian Championships. Though this will be their first time in the continental scene, Palestine is looking to put up a spirited performance and secure a quarterfinal berth.
Currently, there are only three teams drawn in group B; the last spot will be decided by a playoff game between East Asian rivals Hong Kong and Mongolia at a to be decided date and venue. Both teams are evenly matched, although HKG narrowly defeated the Mongols in 2013 East Asian Championships. However, the Mongols are currently experiencing a surge in basketball popularity due to an improbable quarterfinal appearance in the 2014 Asian Games.
Fearful Forecast: 1. Philippines, 2. Palestine, 3. HKG/MGL, 4. Kuwait
The top spot will definitely be a toss coin between East Asian powers South Korea and hosts China. Bear in mind that the Koreans managed to defeat them in Manila in 2013.
China will be bannered by prolific guard Guo Ailun, youngsters Zhou Qi and Wang Zhelin, along with former Milwaukee Buck and Washington Wizard Yi Jianlian. The Chinese prepared early, and are dead-set going to Rio and in regaining the glory they lost in an embarrassing fashion in 2013.
South Korea, winners of the 2014 Asian Games despite a dismal performance in the FIBA World Cup, will parade a host of veterans including point guard Yang Dong Geun, marksman Cho Sung Min, and Kim Jong Kyu. Other notables include Kim Tae Sol, Park Chanhee, Lee Jong Hyun and new naturalized player, Moon Taeyoung (brother of Moon Taejon, former naturalized player of South Korea).
Jordan, coached by Serbian mentor Rajko Toroman, are poised to salvage their declining basketball program. The WABA runners-up will be bannered by veterans Mousa Al-Awadi, Wesam Al-Sous, and possibly Osama Daghles who was partly responsible for Jordan’s 2009 bronze medal and 2011 silver medal finishes. Another notable name is promising youngster Ahmad Al-Dwairi, who stands 6’11 and is undoubtedly Jordan’s next premiere big man after Zaid Abbas.
Singapore, a team that won a couple of bronze medals this year (SEABA and the SEA Games), will likely end up demolished by their group mates. Though the island-state is experiencing a surge in basketball popularity due to their podium finishes in South East Asian competitions, players like Wong Wei Long, Desmond Oh and youngster Delvin Goh will experience a beating of a lifetime.
Fearful Forecast: 1. China, 2. South Korea, 3. Jordan, 4. Singapore
Arguably, group D is this tournament’s edition of the “Group of Death”.
FIBA Asia 2013 semifinalists Chinese Taipei narrowly missed on a 2014 World Cup berth, and will look to recover from a horrendous performance in the 2014 Asian Games. Currently, their pool includes veterans like Tien Lei, Wu Tai Hao, Asia’s best SF in 2013 Lin Chih-chieh and naturalized big man Quincy Davis. Regardless, we should all expect a lethal performance from the team that upset China in the quarterfinals of the 2013 edition.
Kazakhstan qualified to the regional Olympic qualifier by virtue of a 84-39 romp versus minnows Kyrgyzstan. The Central Asians are likely to be one of the tournament’s dark horses if you look at their semifinal performance in the 2014 Asian Games. Undoubtedly one of the tallest teams in the tournament, they’ll be backed by Anton Ponomarev, Dmitri Gavrilov, Pavel Ilin, and naturalized American Jerry Johnson.
Lebanon is fresh off a FIBA ban, and as one of the basketball-crazy countries in Asia, immediately made their presence known in the West Asian championships by going unscathed in all of their four games. Coached by Veselin Matic, the Cedars will rely on their veterans Ali Mahmoud, Jean Abdel Nour, and Fadi El-Khatib, who is undoubtedly the 2nd best player in Asia in the new millennia.
Qatar, an underachieving team yet considered a perennial dark horse, will look to finally make it to the semifinals since 2005. Unpredictable yet inconsistent, the Qataris will be sending grizzled veterans Mohd Mohammed, Musa Dauod, and captain Ismail Yasseen Musa.
Fearful forecast: 1. Chinese Taipei, 2. Lebanon, 3. Kazakhstan, 4. Qatar
Do you have your own version of a FIBA Asia fearful forecast? Please tell us in the comments!
Mikhail Blacer is a copywriter and the current sports editor of Scoopfed. He’s an avid PS Vita gamer and a fitness enthusiast – talk to him on Twitter (@mikhailblaze) about sports, life, and pop culture!