Japan vs China preview: Here we go again
SENDAI (Japan) - It was less than half a year ago that Japan and China were battling for FIBA Asia Cup 2022 qualification in the Philippines. The stakes are a bit different this time, as well as the venue, but it’s Japan and China that will be taking the court against each other once again in Group B of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers.
For two countries rich in basketball history as Japan and China and as close in vicinity, it’s a bit surprising that there aren’t as many marquee matchups between these two teams in major competitions as you would expect.
This leaves a lot of room for a potential rivalry to bud. With these two upcoming weekend games on November 26-27 being their 4th game against each other being their 3rd and 4th encounters, this could get interesting.
There’s plenty of talent up and down the roster for both squads to make this intensely competitive and that’s what the fans will be looking forward to see.
In the recent years, Japan has kept the games close against China and even pulling off a win at the 2014 Asian Games. For the majority of these matchups, however, China has had the upper hand.
There’s been a lot of changes, though. Japan have boosted the development of basketball in the country led by smart tacticians holding the head coach position, currently Tom Hovasse, and a solid domestic competition system. The players have improved and so has their level of play.
China haven’t slowed down either as one of the top teams in Asia, continuously stacking up new and exciting talents to represent the country. The usual suspects like Guo Ailun and Wang Zhelin are still there, but fresher faces and names like Sun Minghui and Zhang Zhenlin are also making things interesting.
China might have won the last two games in the qualifiers, but it was only by an average of 7.5 points per game. It also took some key plays near the end of the game for the momentum to swing China’s way.
This could end up being another pair of close games once again in Sendai.
Key Matchup: Guo Ailun (CHN) vs Yuki Togashi (JPN)
There really not much more to say about this matchup other than the fact that it’s a clash between two of Asia’s finest guards. Both are speed demons with a deep bag of tricks, trusted by their teams to lead.
Guo might have a size advantage over Togashi, but the Japanese guard has the range and accuracy from beyond the arc to even things out.
Star: Zhou Qi (CHN)
Unlike his teammates, Qi has been playing in Australia for the past few weeks. He’s only seen some preseason action with the South Melbourne Phoenix, but what he’s been able to do against the big and physical opponents there should continue to make China confident that their star is still shining brightly.
Qi was key to China’s last win over Japan in Asia Cup Qualifiers with 18 points on 7-11 shooting from the field, 12 rebounds, and 2 blocks. This should continue to be the case over the weekend.
Player to Watch: Yuta Okada (JPN)
Coach Tom Hovasse has called up a mix of old and new names for this first Window. One of the newly listed players to keep an eye on is Yuta Okada who will be wearing number 77.
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Okada is a B.League Rookie of the Year from back in 2018-19, an award also won by fellow national team star Yudai Baba. Now in his 4th season, Okada has emerged as a star with career-high averages of 19.1 points, 3.2 assists, and 2.1 rebounds per game on 51.3 percent shooting from the field. All career-highs.
The B.League monthly MVP of October might now have the chance at a senior national team debut and it’ll be interesting to see how it goes.