22 November, 2021
28 February, 2023
51 Salar Monji (IRI)
to read

Do Iran have another gear? and other questions for each nation to answer

BEIRUT (Lebanon) - The competing teams in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers are heading into this third window with different mindsets. While the ultimate goal is still to secure a spot at the World Cup, some teams are in better situation that the other.

So while each team are asking themselves what they need to do to best put themselves in a position to qualify, the details are a bit different.

Here are the questions that each team needs to answer in Window 3!

Group A

New Zealand NZL

Who else do the Tall Blacks want to see step up in the rotation?

In the first three games of action, New Zealand were able to get a healthy mix of production from their players such as Dion Prewster, Tom Vodanovich, Ethan Rusbatch, and Rob Loe. This should give the Tall Blacks confidence in their depth moving forward, especially now that they’re 3-0 and looking ahead into the Second Round.

New Zealand still have a number of high level talents that they rely on that haven’t played in the Asian Qualifiers yet, including Corey Webster who has been listed on the preliminary roster for Window 3 at the moment. If those players are not yet brought in, the Tall Blacks can have the chance to tinker around a bit and see who else might be able to step up. Whether it’s new names or familiar faces with expanded roles, New Zealand can take the advantage to see what they can do as they go up against the Philippines on June 30.

Philippines  PHI

How do Gilas gain back the momentum built in 2021?

It might feel like it’s time to panic for the Philippines, especially if you are a die-hard fan coming off the high of the run in the summer of 2021. But there’s more than enough positivity for Philippines basketball moving forward.

The rising talents are still there whether it’s Thirdy Ravena, Dwight Ramos, or any of the other youngsters, and there should be much more in the pipeline waiting for their moment. The upcoming game against New Zealand (June 30) might be tough, but it’s not wild beyond imagination that the Philippines can exact their revenge after the loss in the previous window.

What the national team has to do is to figure how to put these talents on the floor to play inspiring basketball as they did against the likes of Korea and Serbia last year. That’s never an easy task but for a country that has so much passion for the sport, it shouldn’t be too difficult.

India IND

How can India make the most of the flashes of potential from their young roster?

India and head coach Veselin Matic were clear of what they expected from their games in the February Window, which was to give their young players as much high level experience as they could get from playing against the Philippines and New Zealand.

Now, as they prepare for Window 3 with a game against the Philippines on July 3, they’ll have to start figuring out how to turn those glimpses of potential into weapons to exploit in the Second Round.

India are already 0-3 so far and it won’t get any easier in the Second Round where they will face the likes of Jordan and Lebanon at the very least, so they’ll need to start turning promise into consistent performance.

Group B

Australia AUS

What will it take to fend off China?

Australia are still the top ranked team in Asia & Oceania per FIBA World Ranking presented by NIKE, but they’ve had some trouble with opponents in the World Cup Qualifiers. They lost to Iran in last window of the 2019 Asian Qualifiers and also, famously, to Japan in the third window.

That’s two losses to two teams that are regarded as among the best in Asia. The Boomers will be facing another top team, China, in this upcoming window - twice! - which is arguably their biggest task at hand.

China have not been shy about their intentions to go all out after listing a training camp roster headlined by some of their biggest names including Zhou Qi and Guo Ailun. It’s now up to Australia to answer themselves which combination of talents they need to avoid yet another World Cup Qualifiers upset.

Japan JPN

Is it time to bring back the terrific trio?

Window 3 marks the 4-year anniversary (June 29) of Rui Hachimura’s senior national team debut which was also the game where Japan upset Australia 79-78 in Chiba. Will we get to see him, as well as foreign-based stars Yuta Watanabe and Yudai Baba, return to the mix for the Akatsuki Five?

The more important question for Japan, however, might be whether it is time to bring them back into the mix already.

Japan (1-3) are in no rush to win in these Asian Qualifiers as they are already qualified for World Cup 2023 as hosts. Therefore, coach Tom Hovasse has been easing his system into the team while also feeling out which players he might use and how. With another game against Australia and Chinese Taipei in this window, Japan might want to start thinking about when to get their core stars back.

China CHN

What does China’s ideal team look like?

China easily beat Japan back in Window 1 and looked impressive. They had firepower from outside coupled with size and length inside. Loaded with Zhou Qi, Hu Jinqiu, Guo Ailun, Zhao Rui, and many others, China looked like a solid team from top to bottom.

Is this enough for China, though?

They’ll be going into this window with two games scheduled against Australia and it’s more than likely that in this game, China will get to gauge whether or not the team they have on hand is what they need. China are hungry for another run at the World Cup, so they’ll certainly do anything they can to perfect their team as much as possible.

Chinese Taipei TPE

What sort of team are Chinese Taipei building around Will Artino?

Chinese Taipei debuted Will Artino in the February Window. Relatively, it was quite a success as Artino played well, both in terms of his own production and getting his teammates involved. This was certainly a good sign for Chinese Taipei, who fielded less experienced players around their new star, as they can now look at integrating more established players from their talent pool.

As Artino is a well-rounded player who can shoot from outside, play in the paint, and pass the ball, Chinese Taipei can actually ask themselves how they want to build around that versatility. This can go in different directions, but as Chinese Taipei are now 0-3, they need to quickly figure things out if they want to keep their World Cup hopes alive.

Group C

Jordan JOR

Do Jordan need more firepower off the bench?

As Jordan proved in their game against Lebanon in Window 2, their starting five could be one of the best so far in the Asian Qualifiers. The five-man tandem of Freddy Ibrahim, Ahmad Al Dwairi, Dar Tucker, Amin Abu Hawwas, and Zaid Abbas played 22 minutes of high level basketball together to beat their friendly rivals.

However, the Falcons only got 3 points off the bench in that game which might not exactly be ideal. Still, the players on the Jordan bench aren’t pushovers either whether it’s Ahmad Alhamarsheh or Sami Bzai.

Jordan will play against Lebanon again in Window 3, which should be an opportunity for them to figure out whether they can manage with the limited offence as seen in the previous game, whether that game was an outlier and that the bench can provide much more, or if Jordan just needs to figure out a way to add more to their bench.

Lebanon LBN

Does Lebanon let the loss to Jordan get to their heads?

Losing to Jordan in Window 2 was a tough one for Lebanon as they had been on an exciting run in Asia basketball over the span of many months. They had played loose and electric just as any team with talented youngsters would, prior to that loss.

For a team as young as Lebanon, the important factor towards future success is how they respond to these tough losses. It’s easy to lose focus and direction, if there’s too much emotion in play and not enough veteran leadership.

This shouldn’t be a problem for Lebanon as Wael Arakji, Ali Haidar, Amir Saoud, and Ater Majok are more than enough capable veterans. Even then, it’s hard to predict when emotions get the better of players in these situations.

Saudi Arabia KSA

Can Saudi Arabia adjust without star center, Mohamed Alsuwailem?

This was listed as one of the burning questions of Window 3 and it’s also the big question for Saudi Arabia to answer. With Alsuwailem expected to be out due to an injury, how do Saudi Arabia adjust?

Do they change style of play? Do they plug Alsuwailem’s role with the biggest player available?

Being able to answer this question should help Saudi Arabia in the long run as well, as even when Alsuwailem returns to action, they can be prepared for when Alsuwailem runs into foul trouble.

Indonesia INA

Are Indonesia’s World Cup dreams still alive?

We can save time and say that despite whatever the results of Indonesia’s Window 3 games are, their World Cup dreams are still technically alive as they can still clinch a spot by advancing to the Quarter-Finals of Asia Cup 2022.

So while losing two games in the next window keeps them out of the Second Round and out of contention to qualify for the World Cup through the Asian Qualifiers, hope is not lost just yet.

But they will need to play well to keep the spirits of their fans high. If they can perform well against both Saudi Arabia and Jordan in this window, it would certainly be a good sign for their future. As Indonesia have never played at the World Cup, any string of good performances would be a positive should they eventually qualify.

Group D

Kazakhstan KAZ

Are Kazakhstan the real deal?

Again, this was one of the burning questions for the entire Window 3 of the Asian Qualifiers. Kazakhstan have surprised the majority of fans so far, not only by beating Iran and keeping their record perfect at 4-0, but also by just being one of the most solid teams out there.

The Steppen Wolves are launching and making three-pointers at one of the highest rates in the Asian Qualifiers which is a big reason why they are undefeated. This also makes it easy to question whether they can keep up their conversion rate or if they will come back down to earth.

Their performance over the past 4 games in the Qualifiers have looked pretty convincing, though.

Iran IRI

Do Iran have a second gear in them?

Losing to Kazakhstan doesn’t look good, but Iran have been at this point. They had lost their very first game of the World Cup 2019 Qualifiers to Iraq, but they ended up qualifying for the World Cup regardless. They might not have started strong, but they definitely finished by flexing their muscles.

Therefore, It probably wouldn’t be smart to doubt a team like Iran right now, especially after a close loss to a solid team like Kazakhstan. They have more than enough talent to go through the rest of their games without a loss, but it’s also fair to question how strongly they can bounce back as well.

Syria SYR

Where is the spirited Syria team that beat Iran?

It’s only been a year and a half since Syria beat Iran in the Asia Cup 2022 Qualifiers, but it feels a bit longer than that considering how much Syria has changed.

Syria have not been bad, however. They played well against Kazakhstan in the first two games of Window 1, but there just seemed to be a bit of a step missing in how confident they were in these games.

It’s most likely that the spirit of that team is still within Syria, it just needs a bit of a nudge or an awakening. As they are now 1-3 in the Asian Qualifiers, they might need to figure out how to get into that mindset quickly.

Bahrain BRN

Who is Bahrain’s first option?

Bahrain are a structured and balanced team. They have 6 players averaging at least 8 points per game, with Hesham Sarhan only 0.2 points per contests away from being the seventh.

The team has a good collection of talent with many players being able to positively do multiple things on the court. What they might be lacking at the moment is one player that anyone can turn to when the team needs to put points on the board in a hurry. CJ Giles is the team’s leading scorer, though the center serves better as a defensive stalwart and a one-man clean-up crew on the boards. Can it be Mohamed Kowaid who has played in that role in the past? Or will it be Muzamil Hamoda who looks like he has the potential to assume that role in the future?

Whichever answer Bahrain decides on, they had better come to a conclusion quickly as they are already 0-4 in the Qualifiers.