The draw to determine the groupings of participating teams for the coming 2015 FIBA Asia Championship happened last June 27 in Changsha, China. The results are as follows:
Group A: Iran, Japan, Malaysia, still-to-be-determined South Asian team
Group B: Philippines, Palestine, Kuwait, Hong Kong
Group C: South Korea, Jordan, Singapore, China
Group D: Chinese Taipei, Lebanon, Qatar, Kazakhstan
In the first round, all teams will play against their group mates in a single round-robin format. The top three teams from each group will then advance to the second round. They will be divided into Group E (the top three teams from Groups A and B) and Group F (the top three teams from Groups C and D). And as in previous years, the quarterfinals, semifinals, and the title round will be in a knockout format.
The champion of this tournament, scheduled to be held from September 23 to October 3, will have a guaranteed slot in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The 2nd and 3rd placers, for their part, will take part in a wildcard qualifying round to earn one of the remaining slots for the Olympics.
Barring any letdowns and complacent plays, the Philippines can just cruise through the first round in Group B – which can be considered the weakest of the four groups.
Iran should be able to make mincemeat of Group A as well, although Japan and a significantly-improved India might give them a good fight.
Without a doubt, Groups C and D will be the so-called “Groups of Death” in this year’s edition of FIBA Asia Cup. Singapore is very likely to get eliminated early because it is bracketed with South Korea, Jordan, and China. SoKor, the gold medalist for Men’s Basketball at the 2014 Asian Games, probably has a slight upper hand in this group.
Meanwhile, all four teams in Group D are legitimate contenders in Asia. This means that one of the top teams will be out as early as the first round.
This is reminiscent of the Philippines’ first round ouster in the hands of Jordan during the 2007 FIBA Asia tourney. Apart from Jordan, the country was bracketed with powerhouses China and Iran at that time.
In the second round, the competition for the Philippines gets much harder, but really, it’s only the Iran game that will carry special meaning, as it might decide who gets top seeding for the final round. The second round should be able to take out two more strong teams from Groups C or D.
In the final round, if Iran and Philippines go 1 and 2 in the previous round, the only chance they have of meeting again will be in the finals. The Philippines can take care of business against teams in the other bracket, although it will be a tough road going to the 2016 Olympics. Needless to say, it looks like a very lucky draw for the Philippines.