HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Eurobasket has just begun and we’ve already had plenty of surprises across FIBA’s regional tournaments, with teams looking to qualify for next year’s World Cup of Basketball.
In Asia, defending champion China was knocked out in the quarterfinals. In Africa, Nigeria and Tunisia — the two teams that repped the continent in last year’s Olympics — both failed to make the semis. And in the FIBA Americas tournament, Brazil lost all four of their first-round games and was sent home after blowing a 10-point, second-half lead to Jamaica on Tuesday.
Thus far, 10 teams have their tickets punched for Spain (see below). Another 10 (four from the Americas and six from Europe) will receive automatic bids in the next 17 days. Later this year, four wild-card berths will be awarded, giving teams like China and Brazil a shot.
And if Brazil is awarded a wild-card berth, they certainly have the potential to rebound from this year’s performance and make some noise at the World Cup. They have four big men in the NBA: Nene, Tiago Splitter, Anderson Varejao and Vitor Faverani (signed by the Celtics this summer). But none of the four was in Caracas this week, leaving Marcelo Huertas without a competent big man to run the pick-and-roll with.
But give credit to Jamaica for it’s comeback, led by former Cav Samardo Samuels, who led all scorers with 21 points and who hit all nine of his fourth-quarter free throws. A pair of freebies by Akeem Scott won the game for Jamaica in the final seconds.
Brazil’s ouster gives Canada a better shot at one of the four automatic berths. The Canadians are without Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Kelly Olynyk, but went 3-1 in the first round. They still have some work to do, as the eight teams remaining in Caracas will play four games — Thursday through Sunday — against the teams they’ve yet to face, and after that, the top four teams in the standings will qualify for the semifinals and next year’s World Cup. Canada’s most important game could be Saturday against the Dominican Republic.
The lack of NBA players participating has made the FIBA Americas tournament wide open. And the same may hold true at Eurobasket, which tipped off Wednesday in Slovenia. With Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Jose Calderon and Rudy Fernandez on board, Spain is still the clear favorite. And France, with Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw, is a lock to get one of the other top six spots.
But after that, things will get interesting. And Exhibit A is Finland’s tourney-opening victory over Turkey, the team that made a fantastic run to the gold medal game in 2010 and has a frontline of Hedo Turkoglu, Ersan Ilyasova and Omer Asik.
If you need a basketball fix with another month to go before training camp, there’s plenty of international hoops for you over the next three weeks. NBA TV will have some games, and the others can be seen on ESPN3.
2014 World Cup of Basketball field
|2||USA||2012 Olympic champion|
|3||Iran||FIBA Asia champion|
|4||Philippines||FIBA Asia 2nd place|
|5||Korea||FIBA Asia 3rd place|
|6||Australia||FIBA Oceania champion|
|7||New Zealand||FIBA Oceania 2nd place|
|8||Angola||FIBA Africa champion|
|9||Egypt||FIBA Africa 2nd place|
|10||Senegal||FIBA Africa 3rd place|
|11||FIBA Americas champion|
|12||FIBA Americas 2nd place|
|13||FIBA Americas 3rd place|
|14||FIBA Americas 4th place|
|16||Eurobasket 2nd place*|
|17||Eurobasket 3rd place*|
|18||Eurobasket 4th place*|
|19||Eurobasket 5th place*|
|20||Eurobasket 6th place*|
* If Spain finishes in the top six, the seventh place team will qualify.