The 2014 FIBA World Cup draw and what it means to PH

Enzo Flojo
Basketball writer Enzo Flojo explains what the FIBA World Cup draw means to the Philippine team and their chances in Spain

LUCK OF THE DRAW. FIBA's Sport Director Lubomir Kotleba shows a result paper bearing the name of Argentina between former Costa Rican player Jose 'Piculin' Ortiz (L) and former Croatian player Dino Radja (R) during the FIBA Basketball World Cup official draw for the 2014 world cup in the Palau de la Musica Catalana in Barcelona. Photo by Lluis Gene/AFP

Being the FIBA hoop nut that I am, I have a lot of things running in my head right now. The draw for the 2014 FIBA World Cup just finished early this morning (Manila time), and we all finally know where each team stands. One of the teams a lot of people wanted to avoid early on, naturally, was Team USA. Other teams that were tagged as favorites were Spain, Argentina, and Lithuania, all of whom were placed in the same “pot” as the Americans. 

Pot? Yes.

In FIBA draws, teams/countries are first drawn into pots. This is done rather arbitrarily, but it’s mostly based on the teams’ strength and, in this case, relative geography. This means that all the Asia teams were pooled in one pot (along with New Zealand) and all the African teams were placed in one pot, too (along with wildcard nation Finland). USA, Spain, Argentina, and Lithuania were seen as the consensus top four teams, so they were placed in the same pot. All in all, the pre-draw pots looked like this:

After the draw, here are the preliminary round groupings:

 

Having teams of relatively similar strength/geography means that these teams wouldn’t get to play each other until, at the earliest, in the second round. In our case, the only way the Pinoys will get to play against, say, Team USA will be if we BOTH reach the Finals (or face each other in the placing games if you want to be really technical). It’s a fair enough system, I guess, and it’s very different from what FIBA Asia used in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships, where a purely open draw resulted in Iran, China, and Korea being in the same preliminary bracket.

Here’s how the “Sweet 16” bracket will look like for the 2014 World Cup:

As you can see, teams from Groups A & B (if they keep on winning) will not play against any of the C & D teams until the Finals. In effect, the combined top eight teams from A & B are the “Madrid teams” and the ones from C & D are the “Barcelona teams.” 

So, how did Gilas do in the draw? Did Lady Luck smile upon us, or were we made fortune’s fool? 

To be completely honest, any group we find ourselves in was bound to be tough anyway. I mean, this is the World Cup. It’s not SEABA. It’s not FIBA Asia. It’s not the Jones Cup. It’s the World effin’ Cup of basketball. Every team is bound to give us a stiff (at the very least) challenge. This doesn’t mean, however, that Gilas’s chances of winning a game or two and advancing to the knockout stage are nil. On the contrary, given the right preparation (training and scouting), our boys can spring a few upsets. Bilog nga naman ang bola, ‘di ba?

But, again, the group we’re in — Group B — is maybe the second toughest group out there.

Let’s take a peak at each of the other teams in Group B, and try to see how we stack up:

*The assumption is all these teams will be at full strength

Argentina – FIBA Americas (ranked #3 in the world)

Players I want to see: Luis Scola, Carlos Delfino, Pablo Prigioni, Manu Ginobili

The Argentines might not longer be as invincible as they were in the early 2000s, but this is still definitely among the cream of the crop in world hoops. They have great depth at every position, and a ton of international experience. Still, they’ve had some close calls in FIBA hoops. Remember Jordan losing to them by just nine points in #Turkey2010? The Argentines also had a bit of a tough time last year in the FIBA Americas tourney, finishing third behind Mexico and Puerto Rico. If they have their full complement of NBA talent in Seville, though, then they should be the favorites to top Group B.

Greece – FIBA Europe (ranked #5 in the world)

Players I want to see: Giannis Antotokounmpo, Nick Calathes, Kosta Koufos, Vassilis Spanoulis, Jake Tsakalidis (hehe)

The Greeks fumbled big time in Eurobasket 2013, but some say it may be because they were confident they could get a wildcard berth anyway. They have some exciting young guys (Antetokounmpo and Calathes) who can mix it up with a bunch of grizzled vets and, together, these Hellenic cagers can really cause a stir in Seville. Expect Spanoulis to be a spitfire on both ends of the floor and big guys like Koufos (if healthy) or Georgios Printezis to wreak havoc in the paint.

Croatia – FIBA Europe (ranked #16 in the world)

Players I want to see: Ante Tomic, Dario Saric, Roko Ukic, Bojan Bogdanovic, Dontaye Draper, Bruno Sundov (haha)

Croatia is no longer the European powerhouse it once was, but a this is a young team on the verge of reclaiming lost glory. They finished a strong third in Eurobasket 2013, beating Goran Dragic and the Slovenians in the third place match. Bogdanovic is seen as one of the best talents NOT in the NBA, and he should be a whirlwind in Seville. They won’t have any current NBAers on the squad, but don’t let that fool you. This team is deep enough to beat even the ballyhooed Argentines. Watch out, in particular, for 19-year old Dario Saric, whom many see as the future bulwark of Croatian hoops.

Puerto Rico – FIBA Americas (ranked #17 in the world)

Players I want to see: JJ Barea, Daniel Santiago, Peter John Ramos, Carlos Arroyo, Renaldo Balkman (paging Arwind Santos)

Puerto Rico is a tall, strong, and speedy team. I believe this is what the Philippine team could be in a few years’ time should big guys like June Mar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter really develop into dominant Asian centers. I think we can pretty much match-up with these guys in the backcourt — who wants to see Jayson Castro blast past JJ Barea, or LA Tenorio run around Carlos Arroyo? In the frontcourt, however, I think we’ll have an extremely tough time containing their trio of 7-footers — Santiago, Ramos, and Ricky Sanchez. This is definitely a potential top four team in the Group B.

Senegal – FIBA Africa (ranked #41 in the world)

Players I want to see: Gorgui Dieng, DeSagana Diop, Hamady N’Diaye, Maleye Ndoye

Yes, there is one team in Group B ranked lower than the Philippine team! Still, that doesn’t mean playing the Senegalese will be a cake walk for coach Chot’s crew. Hell no. This is another long, tall, and athletic team that can give Gilas fits on both ends. In 2013, they finished in the top three of FIBA Africa for the first time since 2005, which means this is an African nation with great, young talent. They even beat eventual champions Egypt in the first round! The biggest highlights for them, though, were outlasting Ike Diogu’s Nigeria in the quarterfinals and then beating home team Ivory Coast in the third-place game. Senegal is the most beatable team for Gilas in Seville.

The first round of the #Spain2014 will begin on August 30, and our team will only begin training less than two months before that. We have to name our 24-man pool by July 30, and I’m personally hoping we can naturalize Javale McGee and/or Andray Blatche before that deadline. More importantly, however, I hope we can play in some competitive pre-World Cup exhibition matches or mini-tournaments before we fly to Spain. The odds are surely stacked against our boys, but, knowing coach Chot and his wards, that won’t stop them from trying to shock the world.

#LabanPilipinas – Rappler.com

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