2011 FIBA-Asia Men's Championships Micro-Preview: Group B

(image from FIBAAsia.net)

After the Jump: Team-by-Team Key Players, Points of Interest and Outlooks for Iran, Qatar, Taiwan, and Uzbekistan.

(image from FIBAAsia.net)
Player Focus: Samad Nikkhah Bahrami
- The fiery forward who missed the 2011 Jones Cup seems to be well-rested and has regained competitive form. He probably won't dominate like he usually does, what with the improvement of Hamed Haddadi and the inclusion of Arsalan Kazemi, but he will still be a vital cog in coach Vaselin Matic's plans to take the lone London Olympics slot for Asia.
Point of Interest: 3-peat?
- With a roster that is almost at 100% (reserve wingman Saman Veisi will miss the games because of an ACL injury), the tourney is Iran's to lose. They have the size, the speed, the shooting, the coaching, and the experience to carry them through. We might be looking at the first FIBA-Asia West Asian 3-peat.
Outlook: London-bound
- Anything short of the gold will be a significant measure of disappointment for Iran. They have a solid core of players and, unless they play listlessly or injuries begin to hit, no team (not even China) will be favored to stop them.

(image from FIBAAsia.net)
Player Focus: Tanguy Ngombo
- The 2011 NBA draftee had to wrestle with controversy surrounding his age (not to mention his nationality), but he has since pulled through to help Qatar try to repeat its Top 3 finish from 2005. The Congolese-Qatari should wield his magic and create some highlight reels on the way to a respectable finish.
Point of Interest: Nexus of Naturalization?
- Many have questioned Qatar's liberal policies in terms of naturalizing players, but with a Qatari at the helm of FIBA-Asia, nobody can really do anything about it. Their shrewd tactic has resulted in their emergence as a West Asian powerhouse, and they should continue to do well in Wuhan. It seems strange, however, that they didn't include their latest naturalized recruit, American Chauncey Leslie, in the 2011 NT. Has Qatar's conscience caught up, or are they hoping for some good karma to swing their way?
Outlook: Top 4
- I believe the Qataris will benefit the most from the absence of Fadi El-Khatib. They won't beat Iran in Group B, and they might falter against Korea in the second round, but they should advance deep when the knockout stages begin. Outside of the Chinese, a full-strength Qatar will be favored against the likes of Jordan, Japan and even the Philippines when the quarters begin.

(image from FIBAAsia.net)
Player Focus: Chen Hsin-An
- Though Chen has seen better days, he's still one of the most important players in the Taiwanese roster. He'll probably come off the bench more often than he'll start, but he'll also probably stay in the game during crunch time. His touch from deep is still one of the best in the continent, and if he waxes hot at the most opportune times, then Taiwan's odds shoot up considerably.
Point of Interest: Outside looking in?
- Being bracketed with the likes of Iran, Lebanon, Korea and Qatar leaves Taiwan as the odd man out. A complete Taiwan roster would already be considered the underdog here, but now that Tien Lei won't be around and attempts to recruit NBA player Jeremy Lin have fallen through, their chances wane even further.
Outlook: Top 12
- They probably won't repeat their 5th place finish in 2009, and will probably even finish out of the Top 8 for the third time in 10 years (2003 & 2005). 

(image from FIBAAsia.net)
Player Focus: Aleksandr Kozlov
- The 6'7" forward led Uzbekistan to a 14th place finish in 2009 and should continue to be their top gun in Wuhan. He has been known to put the ball on the floor and be reliable from range, so he'll be a match-up headache for anyone on the opposition.
Point of Interest: Early exit?
- The Uzbeks advanced under a cloud of controversy, but they should not be underestimated by any team here. They're a little stronger than maybe 5 teams in the whole competition, but being grouped in the toughest bracket in the first round means they'll probably miss the second round ticket.
Outlook: Bottom 4
- The Uzbeks will probably go winless in the first round, but should dominate the 13-16th placing games. That's not much consolation, but anything beyond that is just unrealistic.

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