Power Rankings: Where each team stands after the First Round of the African Qualifiers
ABIDJAN (Cote d'Ivoire) - The race for the five tickets on offer for African nations for next year's FIBA Basketball World Cup has become even more intriguing following the conclusion of the First Round early this month.
Since the start of the African Qualifiers campaign in November 2021 we have witnessed Cote d'Ivoire and South Sudan embark on undefeated runs; four teams were eliminated and the Second Round 12-team being defined.
Just over a week since the end of the First Round of the African Qualifiers, where does each team stand?
NOTE: The movement from previous rankings in June is reflected in the brackets.
#1 SOUTH SUDAN (+4)
Record: 6-0 in Group B
FIBA World Ranking (Africa) presented by Nike: 11th
African basketball is living a new era, and no better team reflects it than South Sudan.
With the Africa powerhouses Angola, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia being challenged time and time again in the race for next year's FIBA Basketball World Cup, South Sudan continue to pass every test with high grades.
The South Sudanese have overcome arduous tests to be in the position they are now, and beating the reigning African champions twice in the current African Qualifiers campaign to stay perfect tells the story of a team debuting in the tournament.
For some, the hottest team in the African Qualifiers, South Sudan show no signs of slowing down. To be 6-0 in the build-up to the Second Round is an achievement like no other.
#2 COTE D'IVOIRE (-1)
Record: 6-0 in Group C
FIBA World Ranking (Africa) presented by Nike: 5th
Prior to the second round of Group C early this month, the most frequently asked question was whether or not Cote d'Ivoire would be capable of beating former African champions Angola twice. The Ivorians not only swept Angola in the two-game series, but they also remained as one of the two teams in the African Qualifiers undefeated after six games.
Angola, Central African Republic and Guinea threatened Cote d'Ivoire's on several occasions in Group C, but the Elephants of Cote d'Ivoire capitalised from their home court advantage and look stronger than ever to contend for one of the five tickets for African teams for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
#3 EGYPT (+1)
Record 5-1 in Group D
FIBA World Ranking (Africa) presented by Nike: 6th
By dismantling African giants Senegal (76-43) - which was Senegal's biggest loss margin to Egypt - and outclass DR Congo and Kenya in their last three games of Group D, Egypt sent a message out about their World Cup intentions
The Pharaohs played attractive basketball, especially on the defensive end of the floor, displayed an incredible focus and made the most of playing in front of their home fans in early July to finish atop of Group D.
Egypt's cohesion was fundamental to boost their status in the African Qualifiers, but the work done by frontcourt duo Assem Marei and Anas Mahmoud was one of the reasons Egypt climbed to No.3 in this Power Rankings.
#4 CAPE VERDE (+6)
Record: 3-1 in Group A
FIBA World Ranking (Africa) presented by Nike: 10th
The Islanders of Cape Verde arrived in Kigali last in Group A, but returned home top of the group after beating Nigeria for the second straight time in the African Qualifiers before outplaying Uganda.
With Mali's 2-1 record annulled after forfeiting two games, Cape Verde, who had lost to the Malians in the first round in November 2021, received a breath of fresh air in their African Qualifiers campaign.
However, other reasons why Cape Verde remain in such a strong position in the African Qualifiers are attributed to the team's cohesion and Walter Tavares' impact. The Real Madrid center remains an X-factor for Cape Verde, but add Ivan and Joel Almeida, Williams Tavares and the experience of coach Emanuel Trovoada, and Cape Verde don't even look like a World Cup African Qualifiers debutant.
#5 TUNISIA (-3)
Record: 4-2 in Group B
FIBA World Ranking (Africa) presented by Nike: 2nd
Tunisia's two straight defeats to South Sudan - despite playing with A-listers Michael Roll and Salah Mejri who sat out their first meeting in Dakar in February - not only shocked the world, but it also raised a question about the reigning African champions' capability of contending younger and more athletic opposition.
And, when Tunisia head coach Dirk Bauermann admitted that "They [South Sudan] were better in all phases of the game, they were better defensively, they got more assists (19), better ball movement than we did, and they shot pretty well from the 3-pt range," his speech revealed why they only won 2 out 3 games in Kigali.
By the end of the First Round of the 2019 African Qualifiers, Tunisia were 6-0, but the current 4-2 record says how hard they need to work before taking on ambitious trio of DR Congo, Egypt and Senegal in August.
#6 DR CONGO (+5)
Record: 4-2 in Group D
FIBA World Ranking (Africa) presented by Nike: 13th
Just days before the second round of Group D in Alexandria, DR Congo head coach Thomas Druout told the media that togetherness has been his team's most important weapon. He praised his players sacrifice for the benefit of the team and the whole country, and his message seems to have been well interpreted.
Except for the loss to Egypt, the Congolese outclassed Senegal for the second time in a row. How they did it? They fought for every ball possession and rebound, and made Senegal look helpless.
DR Congo won a game by forfeit following Kenya's late arrival to Alexandria, and, as a result they remain on a positive win-loss ratio of 4-2 ahead of Window 4 of the African Qualifiers in August.
#7 ANGOLA (-6)
Record: 4-2 in Group C
FIBA World Ranking (Africa) presented by Nike: 3rd
Angola haven't missed a FIBA Basketball World Cup since 2002 but what the first six games of the 2023 African African Qualifiers have shown is that the eleven-time African champions face an uphill task to return to the World Cup for the sixth straight time.
Playing with a relatively new roster - Leonel Paulo was the only African champion among the 12 players - the Angolans forced Cote d'Ivoire to bring their A-game in early July in Abidjan, but they were unable to avoid the 77-75 defeat, their second straight against the Elephants.
Wins over Central African Republic and Guinea give Angola some hope.
#8 NIGERIA (+1)
Record: 2-2 in Group A
FIBA World Ranking (Africa) presented by Nike: 1st
New head coach (Alan Major), only one player (Tarekeyi Edogi) from the team that finished 2-1 in the first round of Group A in November, but Nigeria did what they needed to do: To avoid losing all three games in Kigali to remain a World Cup contender.
A second straight defeat to Cape Verde in the tournament, followed by a 91-72 win over Uganda keep Nigeria on a 2-2 (*Games against Mali were annulled).
#9 SENEGAL (-6)
Record: 3-3 in Group D
FIBA World Ranking (Africa) presented by Nike: 4th
Boniface Ndong won't return as head coach of Senegal. The decision came after Senegal's 1-2 record in Alexandria, where the Lions suffered a humiliating defeat to hosts Egypt before losing - for the second time in a row - to DR Congo, though they prevailed against short-handed Kenya in the last game of Group D.
Although logistic issues seem to be behind Senegal's subpar performance in Alexandria, the Lions never looked a powerhouse on the continent.
#10 UGANDA (-2)
Record: 1-3 in Group A
FIBA World Ranking (Africa) presented by Nike: 14th
With a roster that included 8 players from the 2021 AfroBasket, Uganda were unable to replicate their astonishing performance from the African Championship.
The Silverbacks dropped their two games against Cape Verde and Nigeria, but benefited from a forfeit win against Mali.
#11 CAMEROON (-4)
Record: 1-5 in Group B
FIBA World Ranking (Africa) presented by Nike: 7th
The Lions dropped all their three games in Kigali but advanced to the Second Round thanks to a higher goal-differential over Rwanda (1-5).
#12 GUINEA (+4)
Record: 0-4 in Group C
FIBA World Ranking (Africa) presented by Nike: 17th
In what would have been the biggest upset in the African Qualifiers so far, Guinea led Cote d'Ivoire by 12 at some point, the Ivorians fought back to deny Guinea their only win in the second round of Group C in Abidjan.
Guinea lost to the Central African Republic 61-56 in Abidjan, but stayed in contention thanks their 76-71 win in the first round and a better goal-differential.
*The power rankings are entirely subjective and is in no way a true, accurate ranking systems. All comments are purely those of the author.