Follow FIBA on Facebook
How the new Champions Cup format helps the Asia professional basketball scene
Introduced just this year, the new FIBA Asia Champions Cup structure is aimed at increasing the level of competition in the continent and raising the standard of professional or club play to meet the high expectations of Asia's ever growing set of basketball fans.
Starting this year, the FIBA Asia Champions Cup will be composed of several qualifying rounds that are parallel to the Asian Qualifiers for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019. This is distinct from previous editions of the Champions Cup, which had teams qualifying to the final tournament directly from their sub-zone competitions. In last year's iteration, for example, FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2017 featured many of the continent's champion teams like BC Astana of Kazakhstan and China Kashgar of the CBA. This time around, the FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2018 will raise the stakes further as only the very best will be assured of making it to the Final 8. This aspect of the competition should continue to elevate the profile of this, the premier club competition in Asia that takes place every year.
In addition, another unique feature of this year's FIBA Asia Champions Cup is how several of Asia's top professional leagues have their representatives already seeded in the Final 8. The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), the Korean Basketball League (KBL), the B.League of Japan and the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) all have Direct Qualifying Spots to the Final 8, further underscoring how competitive it will be once that round of the tournament begins.
Now, how will this new format help the professional and club teams and circuits across the continent?
More teams, more exposure.
In the old FIBA Asia Champions Cup format, 10 teams competed in the tournament, but for the new format - from start to finish - there will be significantly more. To date, 16 teams have already played in the different qualifying rounds, with 8 of them surviving and making it to the next round. Bahrain's Al Manama, UAE's Sharjah and Qatar's Al-Arabi qualified from the Gulf Sub-Zone, while Iran's Petrochimi, Lebanon's Al-Riyadi and Palestine's Sareyyet Ramallah qualified from West Asia. For their part, Thailand's Mono Vampire and Indonesia's Pelita Jaya will represent Southeast Asia in the Road to Final 8 - East Asia.
Having more teams become part of the entire FIBA Asia Champions Cup, whether it's in the qualifying rounds or the Final 8, results in more exposure. That added exposure will enable teams to play against stronger opponents outside of their home leagues and will also expose audiences to the brand of play that can be found in leagues outside of their own country. To illustrate, Pelita Jaya doesn't just give exposure to their own team, they also give exposure to the level of competition one may expect from their home league, which is the Indonesia Basketball League (IBL).
Cream floats to the top.
This prolonged and expanded qualifying process for the new format acts like a filter, further guaranteeing that only the very best teams will make it to the Final 8. That, in turn, will make the Final 8 round extremely competitive, and each fixture will carry pretty high stakes. This is good for the teams, the fans and the competition itself, as high stakes matches played by the best teams make for the best kind of basketball to watch.
I mean, take a minute to think about the potential matchups in the Final 8, if all things fall into place. Think about PBA champions San Miguel Beer playing in the Champions Cup for the first time ever and facing first time CBA champions Liaoning Flying Leopards. Imagine defending champions Al Riyadi of Lebanon squaring off with freshly minted KBL kings Seoul SK Knights. If those pairings don't make you salivate for even one bit, then you're not a true fan of Asian hoops.
Spread out playdates.
This new format also means that participating teams don't have to block off an entire stretch of two weeks for the duration of the competition. Just a few days for each qualifying round will suffice, and even if a team manages to reach the Final 8, the time commitment still won't be as heavy as before.
This is also good news for the professional or club leagues around Asia, since having staggered qualifying rounds instead of a one-time-big-time tournament gives them more leeway to work the Champions Cup schedules in their own local calendars. In this kind of set-up, it's clear that everyone wins.
FIBA's columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA.
FIBA takes no responsibility and gives no guarantees, warranties or representations, implied or otherwise, for the content or accuracy of the content and opinion expressed in the above article.