HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — FIBA announced Saturday that Brazil, Finland, Greece and Turkey have been awarded wild card berths to the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, to be played Aug. 30-Sept. 14 in Spain.
The four teams complete the field of 24 (see the full list below), which will be drawn into four groups of six on Monday.
Brazil played awful at the FIBA Americas tournament last summer, but was without all four of their NBA big men (Vitor Faverani, Nene, Tiago Splitter and Anderson Vareajao). If they have point guard Marcelo Huertas, two of the bigs and a shooter or two, they will be one of the better teams in Spain. As the U.S. has won 36 straight games in international competition, Brazil has come the closest to knocking them off. Brazil is also the host of the 2016 Olympics, which was certainly a factor in their selection.
Greece is the last team to beat the U.S., pulling off the upset in the semifinals of the 2006 World Championship. They had top-five finishes in four straight Eurobasket tournaments from 2003 to 2009 (winning in 2005), but the best players from their golden years aren’t playing anymore. They still have a solid roster, but lost in the round of 16 at the 2010 World Championship and also failed to make the quarterfinals at last year’s Eurobasket.
Turkey played great as the home team in 2010, going 8-0 before falling to the U.S. in the gold medal game. But (though most of the roster was sporting fabulous tans) they were a disappointing 1-4 at Eurobasket last summer.
Finland went 5-3 at Eurobasket, with wins over Turkey and Greece. And their wild card big was apparently aided by Finnish video game developer Rovio, which promised to provide free advertising for the national team and the World Cup if Finland was selected. So if you’re angry that Andrew Wiggins won’t be playing in Spain next summer, be angry at Angry Birds.
There were originally 15 applicants for the four wild card spots, but reports had China, Italy, Germany and Russia bowing out. That certainly thinned out the field, but not enough to get Canada into the tournament. Given their NBA-level talent and their numbers from last year’s FIBA Americas tournament, the Canadian National Team (managed by Steve Nash and coached by Blazers assistant Jay Triano) is clearly the biggest snub.
In addition to Wiggins, Canada has a deep core of young talent (Anthony Bennett, Tyler Ennis, Cory Joseph, Andrew Nicholson, Kelly Olynyk, Tristan Thompson). It would have been great to see that group in Spain this summer, but they only have themselves to blame for not qualifying. After going 4-1 to start last year’s tournament (Bennett, Olynyk and Wiggins didn’t play), they dropped their final three games (by a total of 18 points) to finish sixth, with only the top four teams receiving automatic bids.
So Canada should be rooting for the U.S. in Spain. If the U.S. wins gold at the World Cup, they automatically qualify for the 2016 Olympics and have no need to send a team to the 2015 FIBA Americas tournament, where the top two finishers will receive automatic Olympic bids. But if the U.S. doesn’t win gold this summer, there’s one less spot available for a team from North, South or Central America. There will be an additional qualifying tournament in 2016 before the Olympics (for three more berths), but given the relative strengths of the Americas and Europe, Canada’s best chance at the ’16 Olympics is probably next summer … as long as the U.S. isn’t there.
Amazingly, Canada had the best defense and best point differential of last year’s FIBA Americas tournament. Here are efficiency numbers from last summer’s FIBA events (FIBA Africa, FIBA Americas, FIBA Asia, and Eurobasket) for all 15 of the original wild card applicants…
2013 stats of wild card applicants
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
AdjO = Points scored per 100 possessions, compared to event average
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
AdjD = Points allowed per 100 possessions, compared to event average
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
RK = Rank within that event
ORK = Rank among 65 teams in four events
As you can see, Brazil was the worst of the group and Turkey was pretty awful too. But apparently, if you didn’t automatically qualify, it didn’t really matter what you did last summer.
2014 World Cup of Basketball field
|Angola||FIBA Africa champion|
|Argentina||FIBA Americas champion|
|Australia||FIBA Oceania champion|
|Croatia||Eurobasket 4th place|
|Dominican Republic||FIBA Americas 2nd place|
|Egypt||FIBA Africa 2nd place|
|Iran||FIBA Asia champion|
|Korea||FIBA Asia 3rd place|
|Lithuania||Eurobasket 2nd place|
|Mexico||FIBA Americas 3rd place|
|New Zealand||FIBA Oceania 2nd place|
|Philippines||FIBA Asia 2nd place|
|Puerto Rico||FIBA Americas 4th place|
|Senegal||FIBA Africa 3rd place|
|Serbia||Eurobasket 7th place|
|Slovenia||Eurobasket 5th place|
|Ukraine||Eurobasket 6th place|
|USA||2012 Olympic champion|