Can Japan get the better of dangerous Lebanon?
It always seems like Japan have one or two marquee players to carry the team in each FIBA U16 Asia competition. They had Yuta Watanabe and Yudai Baba in 2011, Rui Hachimura in 2013 and of course, Yudai Nishida in 2015. This time around, the man who will be in the spotlight is Chikara Tanaka, and waiting for him on the other end of the floor is an equally talented scorer named Rayan Zanbaka.
Key Matchups: This Tanaka-Zanbaka matchup should be the centerpiece of this joust. Tanaka is a high level scorer who can hit shots from practically anywhere on the floor and take over any game, and while Zanbaka is the same, the former has an explosive quality that can just lift his production to another level. That's not to say Zanbaka won't be doing anything special. On the contrary, the 6ft 2in (1.89m) shooting guard can light up any stadium as well, as proven when he led the entire WABA U16 Championship 2017 in scoring with 29.0 points per game. If Zanbaka can somehow neutralize Tanaka's production, then the U16 Cedars can turn the tables on the Japanese.
Key Stats: One thing the Japanese can pounce on is Lebanon's penchant for turning the ball over. Lebanon averaged 23.0 turnovers in WABA U16, and if the Lebanese cough the ball up that much, then the pesky and speedy Japanese will no doubt take full advantage. Another thing Lebanon needs to focus on is ball distribution. In their loss to Iran at the WABA U16 Final, Lebanon had only 6 assists. Two of their players - Gebrael Samaha and Rayan Zanbaka - combined to take 37 of their 64 field goals. That's 58% of the team's shots taken by only two players. If Lebanon does a better job to spread the wealth, they should have a higher chance of defeating Japan.