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What does my own 2017 World Ranking Women look like?
Rankings are always criticized in whatever shape they come, something that is the same in many different sports and not just basketball. It's an impossible job to get a definitive list that brings out the reality of where nations are at. The 2017 Nike FIBA World Ranking Women is reasonable when you consider that there is an element of tradition built into the system and not a snapshot.
But how does the new ranking measure against my own snapshot and 'gut feeling' of the top 20 women’s basketball nations in the world as we approach the end of 2017?
My Top 20 World Ranking Women:
It's hats off to the NIKE FIBA Rankings Women because both lists have almost the exact same top five. USA and Spain are a no-brainer, while I would have Australia one place above France and I’m happy with Canada in 5th place.
The biggest differences (movements of more than five places) are as follows:
Russia - I have them 6th compared to 11th as despite their failure and early exit at EuroBasket Women 2017, I feel they are much better than that and have some of the best young players in the world in the shape of Maria Vadeeva and Raisa Musina.
Belgium - I have them 9th compared to 28th because while Ann Wauters is still on the floor to combine with Emma Meesseman, they can push the top nations in any one-off game.
They have a great coach in Philip Mestdagh and an absolute stack of talented guards – plus Kim Mestdagh and Antonia Delaere on the wing. They play basketball the right way. They are top 10 now after cementing a maiden podium finish at EuroBasket Women. I can’t wait to see them in 2018!
Japan - I have them 7th compared to 13th as I think that even though Australia were depleted, you can’t take away from the fact that Japan won that title in Bengaluru without their own figurehead in Ramu Tokashiki. They also made the Olympic Quarter-Finals in Rio and have a vibrancy about them.
Latvia - I have them 12th compared to 26th. This is perhaps one which is most vulnerable to being shot down by critics. But right now and after reaching their first ever FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup and with some exciting young players, I feel they are a well-drilled and consistent team who with more mental strength, can remain a top 16 nation for quite some time.
Italy - I have them 19th instead of 31st since they only just missed out on the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018 after that heart-breaking loss to Latvia in Prague. They have the player who is the talk of the women’s game right now in Cecilia Zandalasini and had a great coach in Andrea Capobianco before he recently resigned. They may struggle with some veterans waving goodbye such as Raffaella Masciadri and Laura Macchi, but they still have a nice competitive core.
Czech Republic - I have them outside the top 20 instead of 6th and they are the biggest fallers in my table. It is something of a sad situation for one of the great women’s basketball nations, but in time, they will be back. At this moment, the harsh reality is that their failure as hosts of EuroBasket Women and the seemingly never ending retirement of experience players in the past five years or so such as Hana Horakova, Eva Viteckova, Jana Vesela, Petra Kulichova and Ilona Burgrova, means a long and tricky rebuilding job.
Belarus - I have them outside of the top 20 instead of 12th as they looked a spent force at EuroBasket Women 2017 without the legendary Yelena Leuchanka - who may, or may not be back. If her fellow twin tower Anastasiya Verameyenka is restored to the line-up in the future and is committed, Belarus would possibly re-enter the top 20.
Ukraine - I have them 17th instead of 39th as they showed at EuroBasket Women that while they do rely heavily on the outstanding Alina Iagupova, they also have other talents in the likes of Taisiia Udodenko. They can be tough and dangerous.
Cuba - I have them outside of the top 20 instead of 14th as I feel they are a nation who are just too inconsistent in their performances and results. They have some very good players, but a lack of exposure in European and other top drawer club competitions continues to put a ceiling on the potential they might have - both individually and collectively.
Footnote - Shout out to Slovenia who are 63rd in the official rankings and could beat at least 50 teams above them, while I accept my own ranking of Brazil might be generous.
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