FIBA 2010 Worlds Qualifying Update
The 2010 FIBA World Championship field of 24 is starting to come into focus a little better with the conclusion of Asian Zone Championships and African Zone Championships last weekend. This summer, six teams (Angola, Iran, Ivory Coast, China, Tunisia, Jordan) have secured their place in next year's World Championships in Turkey. This brings the total of qualified teams to 10.
The 10 Teams currently qualified for 2010 FIBA World Championship:
1) USA (Olympic Champ)
2) Turkey (Host)
3) Australia (Oceania)
4) New Zealand (Oceania)
5) Iran (Asia Champ)
6) China (Asia 2nd)
7) Jordan (Asia 3rd)
8) Angola (Africa Champ)
9) Ivory Coast (Africa 2nd)
10) Tunisia (Africa 3rd)
10 down, 10 of 14 berths to be filled in the next few weeks. Six berths still to be filled in Europe, four berths still to be filled in the Americas. Four wild card berths will be chosen in December by the FIBA executive committee.
Have to imagine Spain, Argentina, Greece, & Lithuania are unofficially qualified for the Worlds--99.9% assured of a wild card berth if they don't qualify this summer. Will have to see how Euro '09 and Americas '09 play out to start figuring which non-qualifying teams make a strong case for wild card berths.
Below we take a cursory cruise thru what's happening in each FIBA zone to date:
ASIA: Last Sunday, Iran defended its '07 Asian Championship belt successfully with a mild upset of host country China, 70-52. Memphis Grizz center Hamed Hadaddi dominated with 31 pts & 17 rebs and overpowered the Chinese frontline of Yi Jianlian & Wang ZhiZhi in the title game. Jordan took home the bronze medal and punched a ticket to its first-ever World Championship appearance.
AFRICA: No real surprise with Angola ruling the African Championships once again (6th-straight African Zone title). The undersized Angola squad finished a perfect 9-0 for the tourney, including a 82-72 triumph over Ivory Coast in the title game on Sunday.
The real surprise came with Nigeria (clearly best team besides Angola), and to a lesser extent, Senegal & Cameroon, failing to bring home a medal. Upstarts Ivory Coast & Tunisia hurdled over Nigeria, Senegal, & Cameroon into the Top 3, and both countries qualified for their first World Championship appearance ever. Nigeria (coached by John Lucas) could be in the running for a wild-card berth considering they were solid at the '06 Worlds and finished this African tourney 7-2 overall.
OCEANIA: Kind of a joke they even call this a championship tourney considering Australia & New Zealand are the only teams competing (play home-n-away series Aug. 23 & 25). Plus, both teams already qualify for Turkey because FIBA takes two teams from Oceania.
Can't fault Australia's EZ-pass to Turkey, they're legit. But New Zealand's free ride to Turkey probably takes a spot from a more deserving squad in Europe. Always thought this zone setup was a joke.
Think they should do away with the Oceania zone and just place Australia & New Zealand in Asia. Possibly give Asia one more qualifying slot, or just keep three entries.
[M. Haubs note: Another option would be to have the loser of the Aussie-Kiwi series play the 7th-place team at Eurobasket or something similar.]
AMERICAS: The Tourney of Americas starts next week on Aug. 26th in Puerto Rico. Top four finishers advance to Turkey. Right now, I'm liking Brazil to take home the gold medal. They have the best starting five, a balanced roster and have smoothed over the coaching issues that plagued them the last few years.
In no particular order, Argentina, Puerto Rico & Dominican Republic should fill out the other three qualification slots. I would put Mexico, Uruguay, & Canada on a tier below those top four teams. Think Mex., Can. & Uru. each have the ability to sneak into 4th place if one of the top 4 slips up.
EUROPE: The crown jewel of qualifying tournaments is rightfully saved for last on the summer calender--starts on Sept. 7 in Poland. The top six finishers earn a trip to the '10 Worlds (If Turkey finishes in the top six, the 7th place team qualifies).
Spain is the overwhelming favorite, but then again they were in '07 and choked that opportunity away at home. Even if Pau can't go for Espana, would still project Spain as the favorite.
After Spain, the competition is tightly packed with little separation between roughly 10 teams. The order of finish can play out in a multitude of different ways, which makes Eurobasket a great event every time.
I would lean toward Slovenia as the 2nd best squad, and just happen to be in the same opening round group with Spain. Then maybe Greece, Croatia, & France (if they qualify), with Turkey, & Lithuania on a tier right below. Would go with Russia, Latvia, Israel, Poland, and Serbia slightly below on a 3rd tier. But really could combine both these tiers since all these teams are closely matched.