23 September, 2015
03 October
15 Hamed Hadadi (IRI), 14 Samad Nikkhah Bahrami (IRI), 7 Mahdi Kamrani (IRI), 7 Mahdi KAMRANI (Islamic Republic of Iran); 14 Mohammadsamad NIK KHAHBAHRAMI (Islamic Republic of Iran); 15 Hamed EHADADI (Islamic Republic of Iran)
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Iran start out in front as favorites in Group E

CHANGSHA-HUNAN (2015 FIBA Asia Championship) - The 2015 FIBA Asia Championship closed first round of hostilities yesterday with three teams emerging unbeaten. Defending champions Iran and newcomer Palestine have advanced to the second round unscathed, but will they be able to continue their unbeaten runs as the stakes get higher in Group E?

Iran (2-0 carryover record)
Coach Dirk Bauermann’s wards have dominated nearly every possession they had in the first round. They blew out their opponents by an average of 47 points! And Hamed Haddadi hasn’t really even flexed his muscles that much to boot! Mohammad Hassanzadeh has been the revelation for this team, but expect the veterans to take over from this point on.

Palestine (2-0 carryover record)
The Palestinians have been the darlings of the tournament so far, but that may be over soon as coach Jerry Steele continues to overplay his big three of Sani Sakakini, Jamal Abu-Shamala, and Imad Qahwash. Coach Steele tends to play all three the entire 40 minutes in every big game, and, well, it’ll all be big games from here on. The jury is out on whether that strategy will be sustainable or not.

Japan (1-1 carryover record)
The Japanese impressed on days two and three, especially in their big win over India, but their blowout loss to Iran on day one seems like a more accurate measure of their worth. Joji Takeuchi will need to put up big numbers every game now just for Team Hayabusa to stand a chance, and against guys like Andray Blatche and Sani Sakakini, that will be a tall order. For sure, Keijuro Matsui, Takatoshi Furukawa, and Makoto Hiejima all need to be consistently sharp.

Philippines (1-1 carryover record)
The ghosts of that opening day upset will continue to haunt the Filipinos unless they can manage to somehow finish ahead of Palestine in round two. That will be easier said than done, though, but the fact that the Pinoys are second most efficient team right now is proof of their true quality. Andray Blatche, however, looks like a shell of the guy who dominated in the 2014 FIBA World Cup. If Blatche can summon his old magic and guys like Terrence Romeo and Jayson Castro provide able support, the sky is the limit for the Philippines.

India (0-2 carryover record)
India has had some flashes of real brilliance (their fast start against Japan was very promising), but they have also shown stretches of sloppiness, which may kill their chances in round two. Amjyot Singh and Vishesh Bhriguvanshi have been stellar, but they will certainly need more production from slotman Amrit Pal Singh, who has been a little inconsistent. Their match with Palestine will be one of the most critical in this round and may determine who goes through to the knockout phase.

Hong Kong (0-2 carryover record)
Without a shadow of a doubt, Hong Kong will be tremendous underdogs in round two. Even if guys like Lee Ki, Chan Siu Wing, and Duncan Reid do well, the Hong Kongers aren’t favored to win enough games to advance.

The Big Picture: Iran look solid enough to win all their games in this group, while the rest of the slots are up in the air. Much of the Filipinos’ chances are hinged on the underwhelming Andray Blatche, while it will be interesting to see how Palestine fare against much tougher competition. Japan and India are both talented enough to qualify for the Quarter-Finals, but, in all actuality, probably only one of them goes through.