Who are the men’s favorites to qualify for the Olympics at the 3x3 OQT?
GRAZ (Austria) - Instagram has been on fire over the past few weeks, showcasing the best 3x3 teams in the world getting ready for the FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament on May 26-30 in Graz, Austria.
The wait is finally over and it’s almost time to find out who the next three squads will be to join the other Olympic qualifiers. So far, Japan (host nation), China, the Russian Olympic Committee and Serbia have all qualified in the men's category.
With 20 teams in the OQT field, who are the contenders and the pretenders? We're breaking down the favorites and the underdogs and which top teams to keep your eyes on in Austria...
USA - No. 2 in Rankings
The FIBA 3x3 World Cup 2019 winners bring back underhanded free throw king Canyon Barry, MVP Robbie Hummel, and Kareem Maddox while adding 'Disco Domo' Jones to the mix. The Americans will look to continue the country’s decades-long dominance of basketball at the Olympic Games, but first, they need to make it.
Slovenia - No. 3 in Rankings
One of the most decorated teams in FIBA 3x3 international history, Slovenia has 6 medals in their trophy case. Simon Finzgar, a 3x3 OG is looking to bring Slovenia to the Olympics for the first time in the country’s history.
Latvia - No. 5 in Rankings
Latvia, aka ‘Riga’ on the World Tour, have been dominant on the pro circuit and bring arguably the best chemistry to the qualifiers. They boast four of the top 11 players in the world, including Nauris Miezis, the number one player in the world, and the World Tour 2020 MVP.
Lithuania - No. 6 in Rankings
Lithuania has a wealth of 3x3 talent. Led by Aurelijus Pukelis, who was part of the FIBA 3x3 Europe Cup 2019 bronze medal team, he enters this event with a new group of teammates, including the World Tour 2020 Most Spectacular Player Ignas Vaitkus, to get the country qualified for 3x3's Olympic debut.
The Netherlands - No. 7 in Rankings
We finally get to see Dimeo van der Horst and Arvin Slagter team up, and the rest of the field better be on notice. Add the athleticism of Jessey Voorn and you have a matchup nightmare for most teams. The Netherlands has as good a chance as any side in its current form.
Mongolia - No. 8 in Rankings
One of the best teams in Asia over the past few years, Mongolia could enter the 3x3 upper echelon by beating the best competition in the world on their way to Tokyo. Their women’s team is already qualified and the men have a chance to reach new heights for the 3x3-crazed nation.
France - No. 10 in Rankings
We know about the French women’s dominance on the international stage, but the men have also had their share of success. They were the FIBA 3x3 Europe Cup 2019 silver medalists, and enter the qualifier led by Charly Pontens, Raphael Wilson and a new addition with a big basketball resume in Antoine Eito aka 'Mr Big Shot'.
Poland - No. 13 in Rankings
They earned their way into the qualifying tournament after winning a bronze medal at the FIBA 3x3 Europe Cup 2019. They will rely on Szymon Rduch, the 64th ranked player in the world, alongside a less experienced group.
While the rest of the field has earned their chance to make it to Tokyo, there are a few teams that will need to overcome the odds to advance. The Philippines, ranked 20th in the world will star Joshua Munzon, the often dominant playmaker. But how far can he take the Filipinos? We’ve seen his abilities but will he be a one-man wrecking crew or will his teammates step up to the challenge?
Also of note is South Korea, the number 21 team in the Rankings. They bring four of their top five ranked players into the competition. Despite not having great international success, they enter Pool B with nothing to lose.
We have our eyes on Qatar, the 26th ranked team and a country that has embraced 3x3 to the max. This would be their first appearance at the Olympics in basketball, and despite no 3x3 medals since the FIBA 3x3 World Cup 2014, don't sleep on the Qataris; the nation breathes 3x3 and has the tools to earn their spot.
Last but not least, the hosts Austria may only rank 27th in the Federation Ranking but their foursome got our attention when they played together as Team Graz at the FIBA 3x3 World Tour Doha Masters two months ago. They may have lost in the quarter-finals but on Day 1 they won 4 straight games and beat the 2 best U.S. teams in the professional circuit in NY Harlem and Princeton. Add to that the homecourt advantage and you may have the best underdog story in the field.