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05/11/2018
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10 takeaways from the FIBA U18 Women's Asian Championship 2018

BENGALURU (FIBA U18 Women's Asian Championship 2018) – What a stunning week it's been! From October 28th to November 3rd, we saw the finest teams from Asia and Oceania take Bengaluru by storm.

From historic upsets, standout individual performances, new teams making their debut appearances, and old rivalries adding new chapters, it's been a roller coaster ride with far reaching implications. 

Here are our top 10 takeaways from the FIBA U18 Women's Asian Championship 2018:

#1 China is back! With China winning the U18 title, the three women's Asian titles are currently split between Japan (Senior Women), Australia (U16) and China. In 2017, when Japan won the Women's Asia Cup followed by Australia winning the U16 title a few months later, it appeared that China had been relegated to third best. But with China successfully defending its U18 title, it's clear that future Asian women's championships will remain three-way fights. We could very well be witnessing the start of the Asian women's basketball version of the famed "Djokovic vs Nadal vs Federer" rivalry.

#2 New look China team: Continuing from our previous takeaway, for China to reassert its dominance in Asia, it was key for them to adapt to the very different challenges posed by Japan and Australia. Before Australia entered the Asian competition circuit, China had always been the biggest team - able to bulldoze opponents in the paint. Meanwhile, Japan has traditionally been the quickest and best executing team in Asia, converting its perceived weakness (lack of height) into its strength. China appeared super prepared for both these challenges, finding a perfect balance between size and skill. 

#3 Australia exposed: First to Korea in the group phase, then to Japan in the semifinals, the Gems were found wanting against the two quickest Asian sides. Korea succeeded in keeping Australia out of the paint and forced them to shoot from the outside. Against Japan, Australia's defense was simply unable to keep their nimble opponents from beating them off the dribble. For an Australia team that featured as many as five players from its U17 Women's World Cup bronze medal winning side, this inability to tackle small ball teams is a big sign of worry. 

#4 Future stars make their mark: China's guard-center combo of Yuan Li (in pic) and Mingling Chen, Australia's Miela Goodchild and Isobel Anstey, Korea's Jihyun Park and Sohee Lee, New Zealand's Charlisse Leger-Walker and Charlotte Whittaker, and Japan's Norika Konno and Nanako Todo, this FIBA U18 Women's Asian Championship provided a platform for stars of the future to make their mark with some incredible performances. 

#5 Indian teams back among Asia's elite: The South Asian giant with around 1.3 billion people has tremendous potential. So it was great to see the hosts' U18 team get promoted to Division A, following in the wake of similar promotions of its senior and U16 teams last year. 

#6 Japan still Japan: Japan is one of those teams from which you know what to expect, but you still can't stop them. Traditionally one of the fastest women's sides not just in Asia but probably the world, Japan's speed across positions 1-4 is astounding to watch. It takes a special desire and determination to be able to remain as consistent as Japan has been across so many teams and so many generations. This U18 Championship proved that Japan retains the title of the "small ball capital of Asia".

#7 Senior World Cuppers prove their credentials: We've seen it way too often before, players starting an event with high expectations only to fall flat when it comes to actual on court performance. However, that wasn't the case here at #FIBAU18Asia. China's Yuan Li and Korea's Jihyun Park were the only players here coming in with the experience of having represented their senior teams at the 2018 FIBA Women's World Cup. Both proved their credentials- with Yuan Li reserving her best for the finals, and Jihyun Park (in pic) playing a vital role in Korea's historic victory over Australia in the group phase. 

#8 West Asian teams are here to stay:  Iran competed in only its second Asian women's event after FIBA's headgear rule was relaxed, while war ravaged Syria has done an exceptional job of keeping basketball "alive". These Division B sides are still on the upward curve and it is exciting to see the raw talent on their rosters. With regular participation in Asian events, these teams can only keep improving and begin fancying their chances of promotion to Division A. 

#9 Big exposure for Samoa and Guam: These tiny West Pacific island nations have won just by being here. Small nations have their own unique struggles, ranging from arranging finances, finding a decent sized talent pool, to getting adequate exposure. So for Samoa and Guam, competing against Asian teams with diverse playing styles, being able to study their systems or simply watching Division A teams from up close, have been invaluable takeaways. 

#10 The best and the rest: We are starting to see a pattern here. After the inclusion of Oceania teams in the Asian Championship, three women's Asian events have been held. At all three events, we've had Australia, Japan and China finishing in the top three, followed by South Korea, New Zealand and Chinese Taipei battling for positions four to six.  It will be interesting to see if this trend continues in coming years. 

 FIBA