FIBA yesterday released the countries/sites that will host the three pre-Olympic qualifying tournaments between 4th-10th July 2016. Only the three winners of these 6 team tournaments will qualify for Rio. No word yet on the format of the tournaments, which will be held in Turin “Torino” Italy; Belgrade, Serbia and Manila in the Philippines. Italy is presently ranked #35 in the latest FIBA rankings, Serbia #6 and the Philippines #28.
Italy’s #35 ranking notwithstanding (most would agree the Italians are much better than that ranking), clearly the most desirable venue from a Canadian perspective is to be in the Philippines group – both Italy and Serbia are stronger sides than the Philippines. Playing at home, Italy and Serbia are likely to be considered among the favorites of the 12 remaining qualification round teams. Defeating either team on their home floor, potentially twice depending upon the format, would be very challenging for Canada, or any team.
Forecasting how the teams will be split among the three venues is likely a fool’s game but attaching that description to me is a lay-up so here are my predictions (8 EuroBasket teams, 3 FIBA Americas teams, 3 AfroBasket teams, 3 FIBA Asia, 1 FIBA Oceania):
The following European countries could go to either Italy or Serbia: Greece, Czech Republic, Latvia, Croatia. France and Turkey – the two highest rated teams that have yet to qualify – could be “rewarded” by not having to qualify by beating a European team on their home floor – France especially given their Bronze medal win at EuroBasket 2015. If the draw takes these factors into account, then my logic dictates that France and Turkey will go to the Philippines.
3 AfroBasket, 3 FIBA Asia and 3 FIBA Americas teams will be dispersed one each among the 3 sites with – and this is wishful thinking on my part – the highest non-qualifying finishers getting sent to the Philippines. If that is the case, then Canada’s third-place win on Cory Joseph’s buzzer-beater could have earned Canada an “easier” path to Rio.
The draw for the three tournaments will be conducted on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016.
Qualification tournament participants:
EuroBasket: #5 France, #6 Serbia (France defeated Serbia 81-68 in the EuroBasket third-place game last summer), #8 Turkey, #10 Greece, #12 Croatia, #35 Italy, #36 Latvia, #42 Czech Republic.
FIBA Americas: #16 Puerto Rico, #19 Mexico, #26 Canada
AfroBasket: #15 Angola, #23 Tunisia, #31 Senegal
FIBA Asia: #17 Iran, #28 Philippines, #48 Japan
FIBA Oceania: #21 New Zealand
The United States, Brazil, Australia, Nigeria, Venezuela, Argentina, Spain, Lithuania and China have already qualified.
All this will be cleared up some time during the day this coming Tuesday including (hopefully) the format of each tournament: round-robin only ? round-robin followed by 1 vs. 2 or some type of playoff; 2 3 team sub-groups etc.