Which undefeated team will claim the FIBA U16 Asian Championship crown?
Both the Crocs and the hosts have gone on unbeaten in their four games s far, with Australia defeating Malaysia, the Philippines, Korea and New Zealand, while the Chinese subdued Hong Kong, New Zealand, Lebanon and the the Philippines in succession. Things will come to a head in the Final, however, as both teams finally meet in what promises to be a memorable battle featuring some future superstars.
One key matchup will be at the center position, where Australia's Kobe Williamson has been rock solid. The 6ft 7in (2.00m) big man has averaged 8.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots manning the slot, and facing him on the other end will be China's own reliable 6ft 8in (2.03m) center Aizimaiti Aizimaiti, who has put up around 10 points and 8 boards per game.
At the wing positions, China's super scorer Sun Haoqin should draw much of the attention. The 15-year-old wonder boy leads China in scoring with 21.8 points per contest, and he will certainly be in attack mode today as they try to reclaim the title they lost in 2015. As for the Aussies, Wani Swaka Lo Buluk will probably be tasked to shackle Sun. The 6ft 5in (1.95m) wingman can guard practically all positions on the floor, but he is especially adept at limiting the opposing team's perimeter scorers. He did that against the Philippines' RC Calimag, Korea's Lee SeungWoo and New Zealand's Mitch Dance, and he will definitely try to do the same to Sun.
In the backcourt, Tamuri Wigness will call the shots for Australia, and since he's coming off his best game yet in the tournament, it stands to reason he will try to be aggressive once again here on the biggest stage. Tasked to stop him will be China's point guard duo of Yang Ali and Chen Pengyudi. Both Yang and Chen won't wow the crowd with their scoring, but they combine for nearly 3 steals per game, and that could be cause for concern for someone like Wigness, who likes to break the defense down with his dribbling instead of moving the ball.
The x-factors for Australia will be their versatile and lengthy wing players, namely Luke Jackson, Luke Travers and Joel Capetola. If those guys can continue making big plays for the Crocs, they should have the inside track to a victory here. The Chinese, for their part, are surely hoping to get a lot of production from small forward Lu Pengyu and center Jiao Boqiao. Lu has struggled with his shot the last two games, shooting 0-for-7 from beyond the arc, but if he can rediscover his outside touch, that will be a big boost for China. Jiao, meanwhile, was grossly outplayed by Kai Sotto last night, producing a meager 1 rebound in 10 minutes of play. This will be a prime opportunity for him to bounce back and remind everyone of his promising potential.
In all, it should be an exciting and action-packed Final, and though the Chinese should get a shot in the arm from their home fans, the Crocs are certainly the ones slightly favored to triumph and pocket their first FIBA U16 Asian Championship crown.