Why FIBA Asia Cup is vital

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - June 15, 2021 - 12:00am

The FIBA Asia Cup used to be known as the Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC) Championships with a frequency of once in two years. The Philippines won the first ABC crown in 1960 with Manila as host and repeated in the second edition in 1963, a year delayed, in Taipei. After the Philippines claimed four of the first seven titles up to 1973, China began its dynastic dominance to win five straight and 11 of the next 17 competitions.  The merger of Asia and Oceania in 2017 brought in Australia and New Zealand in the reorganized FIBA Asia Cup which has since become a quadrennial event. As expected, Australia ascended the FIBA Asia Cup throne in its initial attempt in Beirut in 2017.

While the FIBA Asia Cup is a continental stand-alone tournament, meaning it has no direct relationship to either the FIBA World Cup or the Olympics, the tournament is critical because only the 16 teams in the FIBA Asia Cup may participate in the qualifying windows for the FIBA World Cup. If a team fails to make it to the FIBA Asia Cup, it loses the chance to play in the six qualifying windows for the World Cup in the three-year cycle of November, February, June, September, November and February.

Australia and New Zealand may not be aware of the significant nature of the FIBA Asia Cup because theyre both skipping the third qualifying window. Theyre hoping that their identical records of 2-1 in Group C will hold up against the challenge of Guam (1-1) and Hong Kong (0-2). Guam beat Hong Kong, 103-83, in Amman last Sunday and they play again today. If the Chamorros win once more, theyll move up to 2-1 and tie Australia and New Zealand in Group C. New Zealand may drop to third because of a low quotient. Only the top two teams in each group automatically qualify for the FIBA Asia Cup. The third placers of the six groups will then battle in a playoff to decide the four remaining slots in the FIBA Asia Cup. If New Zealand falls to third in Group C, it still has a chance to make it through the playoffs among third placers.

So far, the only qualified teams for the FIBA Asia Cup are host Indonesia, Lebanon and Bahrain from Group D, Iran from Group E and Kazakhstan and Jordan from Group F. The top two finishers of Groups A, B and C will add the list to 12 then the four slots will be awarded to the playoffs among the six third placers. If Indonesia isnt among the 16 qualifiers, one slot will be removed to accommodate the host, likely the lowest third place finisher. In Group A, the Philippines has a 3-0 record, South Korea 2-0, Indonesia 1-2 and Thailand 0-4. In Group B, Chinese-Taipei is 1-1, Japan 1-0, Malaysia 0-1 and China 0-0. China will play Japan twice and Chinese-Taipei twice in Clark to catch up. Malaysia begged off from playing further and is out of contention. The Philippines plays South Korea twice and Indonesia at Clark. South Korea will also play Indonesia and Thailand. The Clark bubble will involve four teams in Group A and three teams in Group B to play a total of 11 games over five days.

Of the 16 teams qualified for the coming FIBA Asia Cup in Jakarta on Aug. 16-28, eight will make it to the 2023 FIBA World Cup. The Philippines and Japan are automatically qualified as co-hosts but Indonesia, also a co-host, must finish in the top eight in the FIBA Asia Cup to advance. The World Cup qualifying windows will begin in November this year and end in February 2023.

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