12 - 24
July 2022
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Group C Preview: Stars collide

JAKARTA (Indonesia) - The plot is thick in Group C of the FIBA Asia Cup 2022.

Iran head into the tournament as the top seed in the Group and Finalist from the 2017 edition of the competition. That already puts a big target on Iran’s backs going up against three teams that have beat them in recent competitions. Syria’s win over Iran in the Asia Cup Qualifiers is actually one of the reasons why they are here in Jakarta. Kazakhstan has beaten Iran twice in a row in Kazakhstan and in Iran. Japan’s win over Iran is a bit less recent, going back to the 2019 World Cup Qualifiers,

Even though it’s still early in the competition, expect the games to be intense from the start in Group C.

Team to beat: Japan

Iran might be returning as silver medalists of Asia Cup 2017 and have their star-studded core intact, but Japan might be the team to beat in this group. The Akatsuki Five have already announced that they will have Yuta Watanabe in the squad and having an active NBA player certainly boosts their odds of winning.

The teams is loaded with rising stars like Yudai Nishida and Keisei Tominaga, but with Watanabe along with Yuki Togashi, Japan should also have the level of experience that will make them a tough team to defeat.

FIBA World Ranking, presented by NIKE

23. Iran Iran 2. 448.8
38. Japan Japan 7. 286.7
68. Kazakhstan Kazakhstan 10. 144.5
83. Syria Syria 15. 117.9

Key matchup: Kazakhstan vs Iran

Round 3.

Ding, ding, ding.

This will be the third time in less than 6 months that Iran and Kazakhstan will have played against each other. The Steppen Wolves have already beaten Team Melli in both home and away games, so they don’t have anything to prove at this point. They are the real deal.

Therefore, in this third round, it will be Iran’s time to prove themselves that they are still among the elite teams in Asia. Obviously, they won’t be able to prove that with just a win over Kazakhstan in the Group Phase, but it would be a nice start. 

Click here for the full schedule of Group C.

Star: Yuta Watanabe (JPN)

Yuta Watanabe is BACK! The 27-year-old made his senior national team debut for Japan back when he was only 18 years of age and that was right here at the Asia Cup. Now, after ascending to become one of Japan’s biggest stars, Watanabe is set to make his return to the Asia Cup.

His performances in two of the biggest stages in the world of basketball have been impressive. At World Cup 2019, Watanabe average 15.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. At the Tokyo Olympics, he averaged 17.7 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.

It’s not crazy to expect similar if not even more production from Watanabe at Asia Cup 2022. 

Player(s) to Watch: Rustam Murzagaliyev (KAZ)

This is set to be Murzagaliyev’s 4th Asia Cup and it could be a breakout tournament for the 30-year-old. The 1.92M (6’4”) guard has been solid in his first 3 Asia Cups, but his recent form at the World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers suggests that he can be even better.

Though the six games of the Asian Qualifiers, Murzagaliyev averaged 14.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game while shooting 37.8 percent from downtown. This is highlighted by his 26-point, 7-rebound performance and 19-point, 7-assist outing in wins against Iran and Bahrain, respectively.

The Steppen Wolves will need the best of Murzagaliyev to advance deep in Asia Cup 2022, which is why it’s important to keep an eye on what they’ll get. 

Player(s) to Watch: Amir Hinton (SYR)

Syria will have to rely a lot on Amir Hinton in this upcoming Asia Cup as he’s proven to be their main source of offense in his pas games playing for the national team.

The 1.98 M (6'6") guard was the leading scorer at the World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers with 26.7 points per game, recording a whopping total of 4 games scoring more than 30 points. It seems like Syria will need that as a bare minimum from Hinton as they go up against Japan, Iran, and Zakakhstan.

Familiar face: Hamed Haddadi (IRI)

For the Asia Cup, there is no other face more familiar than Hamed Haddadi’s. Whenever he takes the court here in Jakarta, which most likely will be in a tip-off situation, Haddadi will have officially played in his eighth Asia Cup.

That’s right. 8.

Haddadi made his debut in Asia Cup 2005 and after nearly two decades, he’s still going strong for yet another run with Asia and Oceania’s finest. There’s not much left in the Asia Cup that Haddadi hasn’t done. He’s won the title three-times with Iran. He’s won four MVP trophies. He’s scored a total of 792 points and played in 56 games. But that doesn’t mean he’s ready to lead the way for others to get a taste of those experiences as well.

The 2.18M (7’2”) center can still be a force to be reckoned with, as was on display in Window 3 of the World Cup Qualifiers where Haddadi averaged 16.0 points and 12.5 rebounds per game.