09 - 18
September 2016
13 Mohammad Jamshidijafarabadi (IRI)
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FIBA Asia Challenge 2016 Quarter-Finals Breakdown

TEHRAN (FIBA Asia Challenge 2016) - Four teams have been given the boot, and only eight remain in contention for the prestigious championship and the all-important top five spots in the FIBA Asia Challenge 2016 in Tehran, Iran. Four Quarter-Finals matches are in store on Friday, 16 September, with four winners advancing to the Semi-Finals and four relegated to the 5th to 6th place classification games.

Let’s look at each team that has made it this far.

The Koreans started their campaign with a close win over East Asia rivals Japan before convincing victories against Thailand, Qatar and Iraq. Coach Hur Jae’s wards, however, ended group play in the worst way by losing to hosts Iran, 85-47. Korea struggled against Iran’s size, and that’s something they’ll have to adjust to, though Chinese Taipei won’t exactly have 2.18m behemoths running up and down the floor. The Koreans are at their best when their perimeter shots are falling, which didn’t happen against Iran, so coach Hur is hoping that his players can regain their fine shooting sooner rather than later.

Chinese Taipei
Coach Yan Jia-Hwa’s squad won their first three games of the tournament, but things started to get sour when they lost by 26 points to Jordan and then dropped their final group game against China. Now, the Taipei quintet have to pick up the pieces and see if they can regain their bearings. The status of star forward Liu Cheng, however, remains uncertain, and this means even more pressure will be put on naturalized player Quincy Davis and 2016 SBL MVP Chou Yi-Hsiang to carry the team. They are slight underdogs against Korea, but if coach Yan’s guys can establish Davis early and hit their outside shots, they may just spring an upset.

The Iraqis set the tone of their campaign when they beat Qatar on Day 2. A close loss to Japan and an emphatic win over Thailand served notice that this team isn’t here to see the sights. Instead, Iraq have looked like a bona fide contender, especially with naturalized wingman Kevin Galloway leading from the front. He has been rock-solid for the Iraqis, averaging 21.0 points per game, and coach Srdjan Antic will certainly lean on Galloway again here. Depth is their main weakness, though. If Galloway or any of their top-scorers go cold, they’ll probably end up with yet another loss.

Coach Li Nan’s team may be the toast of their country now, but I don’t think they’ll get over losing to India anytime soon. That should give them a lot of motivation to win all their remaining contests, but, of course, it will be easier said than done. As good as China have been, they cannot afford to look past Iraq. The Iraqis have the size to match up well against China, so this will really come down to which team can exhibit better execution of the game plan. Hu Jinqiu has been a revelation for this squad, and they will continue to rely on him as the days go by. Others to watch are Tao Hanlin, Cui Jinming and Zou Yuchen.

India were inconsistent to start the tournament, but it sure looks like they are now the darlings of the tournament after they ended their group play by beating both China and Kazakhstan. What’s a little uncertain, however, is whether coach Sat Prakash’s big three — Amjyot Singh, Amritpal Singh and Vishesh Bhriguvanshi — will all show up to play at their best. When those three, along with Talwinderjit “TJ” Singh, are all hitting their stride, India can beat anyone, and that may include hosts Iran.

Speaking of the hosts, Team Melli remain the overwhelming favorites to cop the crown and register a hat-trick of titles in the event’s history. Their smallest winning margin has been 11 points, and they have pretty much been dominant in every contest. Iran’s unexpectedly lopsided victory over erstwhile unbeaten Korea underscored the depth and intensity of coach Dirk Bauermann’s squad. Hamed Haddadi remains BOTH an unstoppable force and immovable object, while guys like Behnam Yakhchali, Arsalan Kazemi and Mohammad Jamshidi have also been very reliable.

An opening day loss to China seemed to start Al Nashama on the wrong foot, but they showed no signs of it when they went on a four-game winning run afterwards. Their most impressive victory was against Chinese Taipei, 109-83, and that legitimized this team’s chances of finishing among the tournament’s top four. Dar Tucker has proven to be an amazing naturalized player, while big men Mohammad Shaher Hussein and Zaid Abbas have also been quite stellar. If coach Sam Daghlas’s squad continue with their strong inside-outside game, they should be in a prime position to hand Japan a major blow.

#FIBAAsiaChallenge high 36 points for Dar Tucker V Chinese Taipei, No wonder he's #happy! 😄🎊 @fiba

A photo posted by Marvel Athletes (@marvelathletes) on

The Akatsuki Five were quite fancied heading into this tournament, but a shock loss to Iraq on Day 4 seemed to put a permanent dent in their plans. Snce then, Japan haven’t looked as sharp as they did against Thailand, but coach Kenji Hasegawa is likely hoping his boys will be able to sharpen their sights in the Quarter-Finals. Heralded guard Naoto Tsuji has played well alongside Ryusei Shinoyama, while naturalized player Ira Brown has also turned a lot of heads. Japan must find a way to neutralize Jordan’s size in their next game, and the best way to do that is to speed the game up and catch fire from beyond the arc.