Thursday, August 02, 2007

2008 Olympic Men's Basketball Qualifying Overview

Also see: 2008 FIBA Qualifying Tournament Preview (July '08) | 2008 Olympic Basketball Power Rankings

With the FIBA Asia Championships going on as we write, the Olympic basketball qualifying season is now officially under way. We here at The Painted Area just wanted to give you a quick overview of how it will work.

Here are the events, listed chronologically, which will determine the field of 12 teams for the Beijing Olympics (number of qualifying spots available in parens):

- Automatic Qualifiers (2): China (host), Spain (2006 World Champs)
- FIBA Asia Championship (1): July 28-Aug. 5 in Japan
- Afrobasket '07 (1): Aug. 15-25 in Angola
- FIBA Oceania Championship (1): Aug. 20-24 in Australia
- FIBA Americas Championship (2): Aug. 22-Sept. 2 in U.S.
- Eurobasket '07 (2): Sept. 3-16 in Spain
- World Olympic Qualifying Tournament (3): July 6-13, 2008, TBD

This World Olympic Qualifying Tournament will consist of the next runners-up from the zones around the world, allocated like so:
- Europe (4)
- Americas (3)
- Africa (2)
- Asia (2)
- Oceania (1)
So, 12 teams will be competing for the last three spots next summer.
More: Basketball at the 2008 Olympics (Wikipedia)

Clearly, the big kahunas of this summer's qualifying tournaments will be the Americas Tournament in Vegas and especially the Eurobasket in Spain - which should be an absolute free-for-all - and we'll have more on those tournaments as they get closer.

For now here's an overview of teams which should be top contenders to get Olympic berths:
AUTOMATIC (2 Olympic berths)
Qualified: China, Spain

As mentioned above, China and Spain have already qualified, as hosts and World Champions, respectively.

FIBA AMERICAS CHAMPIONSHIP (2 Olympic berths, 3 qualifying tourney berths)
Favorites - Olympic berths: USA, Argentina, Brazil
Qualifying tourney berths: Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Panama, Canada

Official site | Wikipedia
The U.S. should have more than enough talent to qualify, especially because several top players from recent nemesis Argentina (Ginobili, Nocioni, Herrmann, Oberto, P. Sanchez) will not be playing in this tournament.

That said, this entire tournament will come down to the semifinal games on Sept. 1. The two winners will go to Beijing; the losers will need to go through next year's qualifying tournament to get a bid.

Considering that the U.S. lost to Argentina in both 2002 and 2004, to Puerto Rico in 2004, and nearly lost to Brazil last year, they are far from a sure thing in this kind of one-and-done scenario.

Still, it seems like the main battle of this tournament will be between Argentina and Brazil for the second Olympic berth. Argentina still has plenty of experienced talent despite its many defections, while Brazil's roster is still up in the air, considering Barbosa is recovering from elbow surgery and Varejao does not have an NBA contract. If Brazil can corral those two in addition to Nene, Tiago Splitter, Raf Araujo and Alex Garcia, they should be a formidable foe for the reigning Olympic champion.

[Note: A Brazilian commenter below says that Barbosa and Varejao are both in the country for training, which seems to be confirmed here - Brazil is going to be tough in Vegas.]

EUROBASKET '07 (2 Olympic berths, 4 qualifying tourney berths)
Favorites for Olympic berths: Greece, Lithuania
More contenders: France, Italy, Turkey, Serbia, Russia, Germany, Slovenia, Croatia

Official site | Wikipedia
If you are a basketball fan (and we suspect that if you're reading this, you are), you're going to love this tournament, trust us.

Media coverage in the U.S. is unclear at the moment - NBA TV showed the finals and the all-important semis of this tourney in '03 and '05, and hopefully they will again. Meanwhile, has increasingly been offering live webcasts - hopefully they will offer expanded coverage for Eurobasket '07.

Eurobasket '07 will be played in Spain and the hosts should be favorites to win the tournament. Even though they've already qualified for Beijing, Spain's top guns (Gasol, Calderon, Navarro, etc) plan to perform in front of their home crowds, and even Jorge Garbajosa may try to return from his gruesome ankle injury from last season in the NBA.

The odds on list the last two Eurobasket champions Greece (2005) and Lithuania (2003) as the top favorites to claim the available bids for 2008.

Greece, which won silver at the 2006 Worlds, has a solid, experienced team led by two of the best players in Euroleague in T. Papaloukas and D. Diamantidis. Lithuania suffered at the 2006 Worlds without team leader Sarunas Jasikevicius, but Saras should be back and so should the Lithuanians.

France has plenty of NBA talent, with Parker, Diaw, Pietrus, Turiaf, Gelabale, Petro, etc., but look at those names again - not an outside shooter in the bunch. Poor shooting really hurt France at the Worlds, and we suspect it will again, thought they should be good enough to at least get a spot in the qualifying tournament.

Italy will be blending in young guns Bargnani and Belinelli with a handful of vets who helped win silver in Athens. Turkey will have M. Okur and H. Turkoglu back after they skipped the Worlds - the Turks have talent, but could have chemistry trouble. They've already lost to Italy and Australia in tuneups this summer.

Serbia and Slovenia are talented basketball nations, but many top players from both countries are skipping Eurobasket, which could cripple those teams. Germany has Dirk and little else, Russia will have Kirilenko and Croatia will have a nice collection of Euroleague players.

All in all, this Eurobasket should be as hard-fought and passionate as it usually is, featuring great team basketball and some of the world's best players, including the 2006-07 NBA MVP and the 2007 NBA Finals MVP. Watch it if you can. Jay Aych will have a thorough preview as we get closer.

FIBA OCEANIA CHAMPIONSHIP (1 Olympic berth, 1 qualifying tourney berth)
Favorites - Olympic berth: Australia
Qualifying tourney berth: New Zealand

This one's pretty simple: Australia and New Zealand are playing a three-game series from Aug. 20-24. Winner gets the Olympic bid, loser goes to the qualifying tournament.

Both the Aussies and the Kiwis finished 2-4 overall in the 2006 Worlds.

Australia should have the edge, based on a higher talent level and the fact that all three games will be played in Oz.

AFROBASKET '07 (1 Olympic berth, 2 qualifying tourney berths)
Favorites - Olympic berth: Angola
Qualifying tourney berths: Nigeria, Senegal

Official site
Angola would appear to be the favorite in this tournament. The basketball power on the continent, Angola has won 8 of the last 9 African championships, and they are hosting this year's Afrobasket.

What's more, Angola had a very strong showing in the 2006 Worlds, making it into the second round with its entertaining, up-tempo brand of basketball. The Angolans finished 3-3 overall, including a tough 108-103 loss to Germany in 3OT.

Nigeria could certainly pull the upset - they went 2-4 and also made the second round at the Worlds, when they were coached by now-Bobcats coach Sam Vincent.

Senegal, which went 0-5 at the Worlds, is probably a good bet for a bid in the qualifying tourney.

FIBA ASIA CHAMPIONSHIPS (1 Olympic berth, 2 qualifying tourney berths)
Favorites - Olympic berth: Lebanon
Qualifying tourney berths: Korea, Kazakhstan, Iran

Official site | Wikipedia
With China being an automatic qualifier, this tournament will essentially determine the team which will finish dead last in 12th place in the Olympics.

The semifinals and finals will be played this weekend. The matchups for the semis are Lebanon vs. Korea and the Runnin' Borats from Kazakhstan vs. Iran.

Lebanon - which fared farely well in last year's World Championships, going 2-3 with an upset win over France - should be a substantial favorite. Neither of the other three teams in the semis qualified for last year's Worlds.

It's pretty difficult to try to project this tournament, considering that it's a year out and the teams aren't known, but here are some general thoughts:

If Argentina doesn't qualify this year, they should be a lock in this tournament, considering they'd have their big guns in attendance. If Argentina does qualify this year, we wouldn't be surprised if the three berths available are all claimed by European squads (there will be four in the tournament), though Brazil and Puerto Rico would certainly be pesky contenders in that scenario.

OK, we here at The Painted Area are officially going through our summer basketball withdrawals, so we can't wait until things get going in Vegas and Spain.

Also see: 2008 FIBA Qualifying Tournament Preview (July '08) | 2008 Olympic Basketball Power Rankings


At 7:07 AM, Blogger Flávio said...

Leandro Barbosa will play. He´s already training here in Brazil. Varejão and Nene are already here too.

Brazil squad will be very good with Leandrinho, Alex, Guilherme Giovanonni, Valtinho, Marcelinho Machado and, especially, the four man rotation of Splitter, Nene, Varejão and JP Batista.

At 2:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

whats up with the gb team are they in it or what i dont knwo but if they are i would look at them for an upset

At 12:49 AM, Blogger john marzan said...

iran is your new FIBA Asia champion.

At 5:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am really hoping the poster above meant something else, and not team Great Britain, because if he did... I mean, damn!

At 7:03 AM, Blogger John said...

The absence of our big names worries me a lot. But I'm optimist about our chances in Vegas.

The likes of SCOLA, DELFINO and KAMMERICHS would need to step up a gear more.

At 10:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 9:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lebanon will always be a winner

At 8:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

USA a lock...Argentina, almost a lock for the second berth, unless an upset happens against either Uruguay, Canada, or Brazil. As of today (the morning before the last night of play), there is a toss up between Canda, Brazil, Uruguay, and Puerto Rico for the 3 world torney berths.

At 12:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

With the players Canada has on this squad...
Add Nash to Denham Brown, Delambert, Juan Mendez and the other NCAA boys on the team, we go to the olympics...
No Nash, No go.

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