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Reasons why Asian hoops will be lit in 2019
MANILA (Enzo Flojo's Asia on My Mind) – With so many twists and turns, 2018 was one year Asian basketball fans won't soon forget, but 2019 is set to be even bigger.
Here are the events all Asian basketball must watch out for this year:
The last Asian Qualifiers window
February will be huge for Asian basketball as the final FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers window will take place in this month. With still 4 of the 7 FIBA Asia berths in the World Cup still up for grabs, the stakes cannot be any higher in the sixth window. Iran are looking to formalize their entry to the World Cup with a single win, while the fates of Japan, Philippines, Kazakhstan, Lebanon and Jordan are all still hanging in the balance.
There are a number of critical fixtures in the final window, but perhaps the most important are the two Philippines matches (against Kazakhstan and Qatar), Jordan's home game against China and Lebanon's final home stand against rivals Korea. The results of those games could tip the scales in the most significant way.
FIBA U16 Asia Men and Women 2019
It's an "odd" year and that means U16 Asia action is upon us once more! The previous U16 Asia competitions showed us a number of potential future superstars, and this year's tournaments for men and women are sure to do the same!
Who will be the next Kai Sotto, Luke Jackson and Chikara Tanaka? How about the next Agnes Emma-Nnopu, Liu Yutong and Maika Miura?
That this year's U16 Men will reportedly be held in China's capital of Beijing will also add a ton of flavor to the event, and of course, Australia will look to win back-to-back. In their way will likely be traditional powerhouses China and Korea along with New Zealand as well as recent U17 World Cup participants Philippines. One guy who is an almost sure-fire bet to lead the tournament in scoring? That's China's Sun Haoqin (born 2003), who already played a major role for them in the previous U16 Asia and in last year's U17 World Cup.
For the U16 Women, Australia will also look to earn back-to-back titles, but not if three-time winners China and 2011 champions Japan have anything to do about it. It'll also be very exciting to see India compete at Division A, where they can potentially make a lot of noise.
FIBA U19 World Cup Men and Women 2019
Some of the world's brightest young stars are set to shine at the FIBA U19 World Cup Men in Heraklion, Greece and the FIBA U19 World Cup Women 2019 in Bangkok, Thailand.
FIBA Asia will be represented by Australia, New Zealand, China and the Philippines in Heraklion, with names like Sam Froling (Australia), Max Darling (New Zealand), Michael Wang (China) and AJ Edu (Philippines) sure to get more than just a passing fancy. The Crocs, in particular, are looking to break into the top 4 again after failing to do so in 2015 and 2017.
On the distaff side, FIBA Asia will be represented by China, Japan, Australia and Korea in Bangkok. Some names to watch are Li Yuan (China), Nanako Todo (Japan), Miela Goodchild (Australia) and Park JiHyun (Korea). Australia and Japan have had the most success at the world U19 level, with the Sapphires winning it all in 1993 and finishing on the podium a total of 5 times. The Japanese, meanwhile, were the only FIBA Asia team to make it to the top 4 in the 2017 edition.
FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2019
The FIBA Asia Champions Cup has become a landmark and much awaited annual event in the Asian hoops scene, especially for the die hard fans of some of the continent's top flight ball-clubs. West Asia has dominated the hostilities here, winning all but one Asia Champions' Cup since 2006, with Iran alone winning 6 of the last 10 editions.
Defending champions Petrochimi are expected to sport a strong roster again, while East Asian powers Japan and Korea are bent on reasserting their dominance with their own elite professional teams carrying their colors. Other big questions include: 1) Will China send their strongest possible CBA champions? and 2) Will we have another PBA team grace the tournament like the Meralco Bolts did in 2018?
FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers
The next FIBA Asia Cup is still a couple of years away, but we cannot contain our excitement for the qualification process, which shifted into high gear in 2018. This year, the next phase of the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers will be held in November, with the top 8 Western and Eastern Pre-Qualifiers squads joining the 16 teams that played in the FIBA Asia Cup 2017.
These 8 teams are: Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Bahrain and Sri Lanka from the Western Region, and Guam, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia from the Eastern Region. They complete a 24-team cast for the next FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers windows, the first of which will be in November. It's a format similar to the FIBA Basketball World Cup Qualifiers, with home and away games played over three windows among 6 groups of 4 teams each.
It's going to be hella exciting!
FIBA World Cup 2019 in China
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Undoubtedly the biggest reason Asian hoops will be lit this year is China's hosting of the FIBA World Cup 2019. A record 32 teams will vie for the ultimate prize in international basketball , with 18 teams already confirmed of a place in the tournament.
These 18 countries are: China (hosts), Tunisia, Nigeria, Greece, Germany, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Australia, France, Angola, New Zealand, Korea, Spain, Turkey, the USA, Venezuela, Argentina and Canada. We're still waiting for the final 14 squads to complete the biggest cast ever in FIBA Basketball World Cup history.
The 32 teams will be spread across 8 groups, with each group playing in a different Chinese metropolis: Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai, Wuhan, Dongguan, Foshan, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Knowing how China are when it comes to hosting global sporting events, one must expect that the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 will be a truly grand undertaking. Even before the first tip-off, we already know it'll be one for the books!
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