A few things about the 2014 FIBA World Cup Draw

Being the FIBA hoop nut that I am, I have a lot  of things running in my head right now. I mean, the draw for the 2014 FIBA World Cup just finished early this morning (Manila time), and we all finally know where each team stands. One of the teams a lot of people wanted to avoid early on, naturally, was Team USA. Other teams that were tagged as favorites were Spain, Argentina, and Lithuania, all of whom were placed in the same “pot” as the Americans. 




Pot?

Yes.

In FIBA draws, teams/countries are first classified into pots. This is done rather arbitrarily, but it’s mostly based on the teams’ strength and, in this case, relative geography. This means that all the Asia teams were pooled in one pot (along with New Zealand) and all the African teams were placed in one pot, too (along with wildcard nation Finland). USA, Spain, Argentina, and Lithuania were seen as the consensus top four teams, so they were placed in the same pot. All in all, the pre-draw pots looked like this:


*The parenthetical digits refer to each nation’s current FIBA Ranking.



After the draw, here are the preliminary round groupings:




Having teams of relatively similar strength/geography means that these teams wouldn’t get to play each other till, at the earliest, in the second round. In our case, the only way the Pinoys will get to play against, say, Team USA will be if we BOTH reach the Finals (or face each other in the placing games if you want to be really technical). It’s a fair enough system, I guess, and it’s very different from what FIBA Asia used in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships, where a purely open draw resulted in Iran, China, and Korea being in the same preliminary bracket.

Here’s how the “Sweet 16” bracket will look like for the 2014 World Cup:




As you can see, teams from Groups A & B (if they keep on winning) will not play against any of the C & D teams till, again, the Finals. In effect, the combined top eight teams from A & B are the “Madrid teams” and the ones from C & D are the “Barcelona teams.”

So, how did Gilas do in the draw? Did Lady Luck smile upon us, or were we made fortune’s fool?

To be completely honest, any group we find ourselves in was bound to be tough anyway. I mean, this is the World Cup. It’s not SEABA. It’s not FIBA Asia. It’s not the Jones Cup. It’s the World effin’ Cup of basketball. Every team is bound to give us a stiff (at the very least) challenge. This doesn’t mean, however, that Gilas’s chances of winning a game or two and advancing to the knockout stage are nil. On the contrary, given the right preparation (training and scouting), our boys can spring a few upsets. Bilog nga naman ang bola, ‘di ba?

But, again, the group we’re in — Group B — is maybe the second toughest group out there.

Let’s take a peak at each of the other teams in Group B, and try to see how we stack up:

*The assumption is all these teams will be at full strength.

Argentina - FIBA Americas (ranked #3 in the world)
Players I want to see: Luis Scola, Carlos Delfino, Pablo Prigioni, Manu Ginobili
The Argentines might not longer be as invincible as they were in the early 2000s, but this is still definitely among the cream of the crop in world hoops. They have great depth at every position, and a ton of international experience. Still, they’ve had some close calls in FIBA hoops. Remember Jordan losing to them by just nine points in #Turkey2010? The Argentines also had a bit of a tough time last year in the FIBA Americas tourney, finishing third behind Mexico and Puerto Rico. If they have their full complement of NBA talent in Seville, though, then they should be the favorites to top Group B.

Greece - FIBA Europe (ranked #5 in the world)
Players I want to see: Giannis Antotokounmpo, Nick Calathes, Kosta Koufos, Vassilis Spanoulis, Jake Tsakalidis (hehe)
The Greeks fumbled big time in Eurobasket 2013, but some say it may be because they were confident they could get a wildcard berth anyway. They have some exciting young guys (Antetokounmpo and Calathes) who can mix it up with a bunch of grizzled vets and, together, these Hellenic cagers can really cause a stir in Seville. Expect Spanoulis to be a spitfire on both ends of the floor and big guys like Koufos (if healthy) or Georgios Printezis to wreak havoc in the paint.

Croatia - FIBA Europe (ranked #16 in the world)
Players I want to see: Ante Tomic, Dario Saric, Roko Ukic, Bojan Bogdanovic, Dontaye Draper, Bruno Sundov (haha)
Croatia is no longer the European powerhouse it once was, but a this is a young team on the verge of reclaiming lost glory. They finished a strong third in Eurobasket 2013, beating Goran Dragic and the Slovenians in the third place match. Bogdanovic is seen as one of the best talents NOT in the NBA, and he should be a whirlwind in Seville. They won’t have any current NBAers on the squad, but don’t let that fool you. This team is deep enough to beat even the ballyhooed Argentines. Watch out, in particular, for 19-year old Dario Saric, whom many see as the future bulwark of Croatian hoops.

Puerto Rico - FIBA Americas (ranked #17 in the world)
Players I want to see: JJ Barea, Daniel Santiago, Peter John Ramos, Carlos Arroyo, Renaldo Balkman (paging Arwind Santos)
Puerto Rico is a tall, strong, and speedy team. I believe this is what the Philippine team could be in a few years’ time should big guys like June Mar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter really develop into dominant Asian centers. I think we can pretty much match-up with these guys in the backcourt — who wants to see Jayson Castro blast past JJ Barea, or LA Tenorio run around Carlos Arroyo? In the frontcourt, however, I think we’ll have an extremely tough time containing their trio of 7-footers — Santiago, Ramos, and Ricky Sanchez. This is definitely a potential top four team in the Group B.

Senegal - FIBA Africa (ranked #41 in the world)
Players I want to see: Gorgui Dieng, DeSagana Diop, Hamady N’Diaye, Maleye Ndoye
Yes, there is one team in Group B ranked lower than the Philippine team! Still, that doesn’t mean playing the Senegalese will be a cake walk for coach Chot’s crew. Hell no. This is another long, tall, and athletic team that can give Gilas fits on both ends. In 2013, they finished in the top three of FIBA Africa for the first time since 2005, which means this is an African nation with great, young talent. They even beat eventual champions Egypt in the first round! The biggest highlights for them, though, were outlasting Ike Diogu’s Nigeria in the quarterfinals and then beating home team Ivory Coast in the third-place game. Senegal is the most beatable team for Gilas in Seville.


The first round of the #Spain2014 will begin on August 30, and our team will only begin training less than two months before that. We have to name our 24-man pool by July 30, and I’m personally hoping we can naturalize Javale McGee and/or Andray Blatche before that deadline. More importantly, however, I hope we can play in some competitive pre-World Cup exhibition matches or mini-tournaments before we fly to Spain. The odds are surely stacked against our boys, but, knowing coach Chot and his wards, that won’t stop them from trying to shock the world.


#LabanPilipinas


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I echo Coach Chot's comment regarding the grouping. Group C would have been most favorable for an underdog team like the Philippines to proceed to Round 2.
Group C has three underdog teams (Finland, Ukraine, and New Zealand), so it would have been favorable for Philippines to have swapped with one of the three teams

I regard New Zealand as an underdog coz I don't really think they are a real heavyweight team. They only always qualify for the Worlds by default of having only two teams in Fiba Oceania. They look beatable for any of the top five or six Asian teams.

The underdog teams are: Egypt, Philippines, South Korea, Ukraine, Finland, and Mexico. These are the teams that Philippines can actually beat. A win by any of these teams against the rest are considered upset wins.

In Group A, only Egypt is the lone underdog. Iran, though beatable, might not be considered an underdog team, having played already in the last Worlds and being the one of the top two teams (along with China) in Asia for a long time, with the same core of players intact. (I hope Egypt would beat them though). Philippines is lucky it's not in Egypt's position, if its goal is to proceed to the next round or if it simply doesn't want to be beaten by 30+ points.

In Group B, Philippines is the lone underdog. Senegal, though beatable by Philippines, is similar to Iran in the sense that they are a top African team for a very long time now. Having last played in the Worlds in 2006 (though not the same players and coach) speaks of the kind of talent that players in this country have. Plus they have an NBA player. An underdog team like the Philippines would have to play its own game and let Senegal play Phl's game in order to control the momentum and win.

Group C has the best team in the world, but it also has three of the underdog teams in the tournament. Finland and Ukraine are underdogs . New Zealand is a bonus underdog. Had Philippines been grouped in C, in place of, say Ukraine or New Zealand, they would have a good chance at proceeding to the next round. C is the most favorable group for any underdog team, and Philippines.

In Group D, Korea and Mexico stand as the underdog teams. Both teams pulled upsets in their regions (Korea against China, Mexico against Arge and PR). The other teams in Group C are not the strongest of the heavyweights, but they are still better (by a mile) than most teams in Asia.

Assessment: Strongest to weakest Bracket: 1. A 2. B 3. D 4. C

But still, we can't complain, since the top Four teams were distributed evenly, and the rest were picked by random. All the Philippines would just need to do now is get to work. If Coach Chot doesn't plan on being beaten by 30 or 40+ points by Croatia or Argentina (Croatia massacred Iran 4 years ago by almost 40), then they should start working as soon as possible.

Ideally, right after the Philippine Cup, training camp should already begin for the current lineup.

Scouts should already be viewing and studying other teams in the bracket, their players, their system, their weakness in defense, etc

If possible and if they can afford, they should play tuneup matches with other teams in the tournament. Or if SBP can't afford in Europe, friendlies with Asian neighbors Korea and Taiwan should be maximized.
Three or four months of intense training of the team is a minimum, if it doesn't want to be beaten by 30+ points. You can't afford a measly six weeks prep time, while heavyweight teams are preparing for months.

Balas
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Seeing full powered line-ups of bracket b, just makes me wanna cry and pray for gilas this coming august.

To be able to advance, we should win at least 2 of our games in our bracket, but that won't happen with the given time for them to practice as a team and compete as a team.

Coach Chot should immediately announce at least a 16 man pool that should be pulled out of their mother clubs right after the philippine cup. Either they will skip the entire governor's to practice overseas or play as team for the next conference.

For the next conference, if gilas wants to participate as a team, i suggest that teams like TNT, GIN and ROS who have 3-4 players in gilas should be allowed to have 3 imports. Others like meralco and SMB who might lose 2 key players to pool can have 2. Other import restrictions for other teams losing 1 player to the pool can also be lifted.

PBA can keep the shortened season as planned, for gilas to have chance to play practice games overseas after the governors.

Of course, this is just wishful thinking! Hahaha

Balas
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Playing against PBA teams won't help much. Even playing against Asian teams like Korea or Taiwan won't help much either.

If you thought Fiba Asia had good teams running good plays and ball movement and less errors, in Fiba World, it's going to be on an entirely different level.

If you watched Eurobasket and the previous Fiba world and Olympics, you'll know why. Just look at how they run their offense. Any Fiba asia team will blush at the kind of game that heavyweight Fiba teams like Croatia and Argentina run.

The Philippines SHOULD, for the next four months, train together, develop plays that they would use depending on their scouting of the teams in their bracket, and, play defense that would best fit to shut down each team that they are bracketed with.

The goal is to proceed to round 2, unlike in Fiba Asia where they need to win against as many teams as they can.

This means they only need to prepare to play FIVE games. So they have to play each game at a time, and to succeed at each game they have to prepare at each team. This is why scouting is very crucial, not just on each player on the team, but the team as a whole. They would have to prepare differently on each of the 5 teams.

It is very important that the team get experience playing against pro-ball clubs in Europe, preferably Lithuania or in Serbia, where they already have connections. They need to know how to play bigger teams, and learn from there.

Coach chot needs to devise a strategy for each team, and practice it with the players. It's like a board/bar exam where you prepare for each subject differently and specifically.

In the event that thay do manage to pull off at least TWO wins, then they can celebrate, its already an achievement. From there, they would just have to play hard on their own, execute their own plays.
What is really just important is to play each team in Bracket B at a time, so they have to prepare for them at a time. Say, Coach Chot will have game plan 1 for Croatia, gameplan 2 for Greece, gameplan 3 for Argentina, and so on.

Balas