Previewing the Asian Games basketball qualifiers

Enzo Flojo
Previewing the Asian Games basketball qualifiers
With all of the controversy over ineligible players in the past, the Games must go on

Amidst all the controversy regarding athletes’ eligibility, the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea will charge forward. Despite many athletes (mostly those naturalized and foreign-born) being ruled out as the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) and Incheon Asian Games Organizing Committee (IAGOC) upholds confusing (and conflicting) rules on athlete eligibility, teams and players have trooped to this Korean entry city for the quadrennial meet.

Basketball has not escaped the controversy (it has been at forefront, actually), with players like Taiwan’s Quincy Davis and the Philippines’ Andray Blatche being deemed ineligible. A few months ago, even Korea’s own efforts at naturalizing KBL veteran Aaron Haynes were thwarted by the OCA and IAGOC. Simply put, everyone has suffered.

Still, the games will go on.

First, let’s talk about the unique nature of Asian Games basketball. What makes the Asian Games format a little strange is that eight teams have formally pre-qualified to the second round, while eight others will duke it our in the qualifying round. The top eight teams from the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games were given first round byes and have been split into four different groups in the second round. The eight “lower seeded” teams, meanwhile, were divided into two qualifying pools. These are:

Group A: Mongolia, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Maldives. 

Group B: Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Palestine, India.

Group C: China, Taiwan, and will be joined by the second-placer of Group B. 

Group D: South Korea, Jordan, and will be joined by the second-placer of Group A. 

Group E: Iran, Philippines, and will be joined by the first-placer of Group B. 

Group F: Japan, Qatar, and will be joined by the first-placer of Group A.

Groups A & B will each go through a single-round-robin series of games in the tournament’s first three days. The bottom two teams of each group will go home, while the top two of each will advance to the second round.

In the second round, Groups C, D, E, & F will also go through a single-round-robin series of games with the top two in each group advancing to the quarterfinals. 

Quarterfinal Groupings: 

Group G: Top teams of Groups C & E, and second-placers of Groups D & F

Group H: Top teams of Groups D & F, and second-placers of Groups C & E. 

In the quarterfinals, Groups G & H will have another single-round-robin series of games. The top two in each group will advance to the crossover knockout semifinals, while the bottom two in each group will vie in the consolation rounds. Predictably, winners in the semifinals will proceed to battle for the gold medal in the championship game, while losers will fight for the bronze medal.

Now let’s take a quick look at Groups A & B.

Group A:

Mongolia roster here.

Hong Kong roster here.

Kuwait roster here.

Maldives roster here.

Outlook: There is no doubt that Hong Kong and Kuwait are the teams favored to advance from this group. Hong Kong gave a good account of itself in the 2013 FIBA Asia Men’s Championships, and its team is still mostly intact for this competition. Familiar names like Fong Shing Yee, Lo Yi Ting, Lee Ki, and Duncan Reid are in the roster, and their collective experience should carry them past the Maldives and Mongolia. Mongolia, however, might put up a stiff challenge against the Hong Kongers. When they last met in the 2013 East Asian Basketball Association tournament, Hong Kong narrowly escaped, 76-73, as Lo Yi Ting dropped 25 markers. The guys to watch for Mongolia are 6-foot-3 Sanchir Tungalag and 6-foot-1 Uuganbayar Oyuntsetseg.

Kuwait, meanwhile, might end up topping this group. In the 2011 Pan Arab Games, Kuwait ended up with a 2-2 record. The Kuwaitis beat Palestine and Saudi Arabia but absorbed close defeats to Qatar and African powerhouse Tunisia. Veterans Abdulaziz Mohammad, Ahmad Al-Baloushi, Nayef Al-Rashidi, Saley Yusuf Albrahim, and Shayee Saeed are the ones to watch.

Group B:

Saudi Arabia roster here.

Kazakhstan roster here.

Palestine roster here.

India roster here.

Outlook: Kazakhstan and India are favored to top this group, but both Saudi Arabia and Palestine cannot be overlooked. It can be recalled that the Saudis gave Gilas a bit of trouble in the 2013 FIBA Asia tourney, and the team is intact with guys like 6-foot-9 Mohammad Al-Marwani, Ayman Al-Muwallad, Marzouq Al-Muwallad, and Fahad Belal all in tow. Palestine, meanwhile, will rely on the Sakanini brothers — Sani (a veteran of the Jordanian and Chinese leagues) and Salim. Sani stands 6-foot-9 while Salim is a shade under 6-foot-8. 

The Kazakhs should be the toughest team in this bunch, though, even without naturalized guard Jerry Johnson. Prominent Kazakh hoopsters Anton Ponomarev, Rustam Yargaliev, and Dimo Klimov should be the leaders of this team, while 6-foot-7 half-Australian Anatoly Bose Kolesnikov will be one of the team’s main inside operators in lieu of FIBA Asia veteran Mikhail Yevstigneyev. India has the potential to challenge the Kazakhs, though, especially based on their impressive performance in the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup in Wuhan. 

Who can forget coach Scott Flemmin’s boys whipping the Chinese, 65-58?! If they can be consistent, then the Indians might become a serious force to be reckoned with here. Of course, guys like Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, Amjyot Singh, and Amritpal Singh are expected to be the bulwarks of the Indian charge. –

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