HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — FIBA held the draw for its three Olympic qualifying tournaments on Tuesday, putting Canada in a tough spot in its quest for an Olympic berth.
Nine teams have already qualified for Rio 2016. They are the United States (2014 World Cup champ), Brazil (host), and seven teams who finished first or second at their regional events last summer.
The other three spots in the field will go to the winners of the three qualifying tournaments that will take place July 4-10. The Philippines, Italy and Serbia will host those tournaments, which will include 15 teams that qualified last summer and three wildcards awarded last week.
Canada was placed in the Manila tournament. If it gets through group play against Turkey and Senegal, it will likely have to face France – the best team that didn’t qualify last summer – for the Olympic berth.
Results of the draw for the 2016 #FIBAOQT in Belgrade (Serbia), Manila (Philippines) and Turin (Italy)!
Both Canada and France looked like the best teams at their 2015 tournaments … until the semifinals. Then Canada blew a seven-point lead with three minutes to go against Venezuela, losing on a free throw with less than a second to go. Six days later, France blew a nine-point lead with six minutes to go against Spain, losing in overtime.
They each have a second chance at earning a trip to Brazil, but only one of the two countries will ease its pain in Manila in July. With young talent like Andrew Wiggins, Cory Joseph, Trey Lyles, Kelly Olynyk and Tristan Thompson, Canada looks like it will contend for medals at the Olympics and World Cup for the next 10 years. But if it can’t get past France, it will have to wait at least another three (the next World Cup is in 2019) before it can make a splash on the international scene.
Host Serbia is the clear favorite to win the Belgrade group, while the Turin group could come down to Greece and host Italy.
The Olympics take place in Rio from Aug. 6-21. Last week, the United States announced a 30-player pool from which it will select a 12-man roster for the tournament. The U.S. has won the last four major international tournaments and 45 straight games under head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who will step down after the Olympics.