The FIBA Women's Asia Cup 2021 Power Rankings, Volume 2
AMMAN (Jordan) - With the FIBA Women's Asia Cup 2021 in Amman now heading into crunch time with medals ready to be handed out, it's time for the second volume of the Power Rankings
Taking into account the first volume of the Power Rankings and performances so far in the competition, here's how our panel think it could pan out, led by FIBA women's basketball specialist Paul Nilsen @basketmedia365
#1 China (-)
Current Record: 3-0
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 8th
Has anything changed since the first edition of the rankings to think that China might not finish top of the podium? Probably not. Of course, they now have to deal with the pressure of expectation with just two more wins sealing that eagerly awaited first title in a decade. But pressure can do bad things to teams at the worst time - China themselves know that from Tokyo 2020 when they blew a big opportunity to beat Serbia in the Quarter-Finals. That is the challenge - do they have the composure and the mental toughness?
They have still not played Xu Han and Yueru Li together(same as the Olympics) and this is a medium to long term issue that needs resolved. Han has been terrific and showed she can be a possible MVP. Her touch and shooting range are outstanding. Li has not been able to re-discover her Tokyo form but has still been a big handful for opposing defences. The guard play of both young Yuan Li and Liwei Yang has been excellent, while forward Sijing Huang has reminded everyone of her talent and really helped fill a gap left by Ting Shao. They are also shooting the ball great as a team from long range. It feels like this title in Amman is China's to lose and their destiny is in their own hands.
#2 Japan (-)
Current Record: 3-0
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 7th
While still in second place, there is every chance that Japan will still win this tournament because on their day, they are unstoppable when they are moving the ball and making those triples. Should they be at the top? Maybe but there have been some concerns. The rotations don't look quite as slick as in past tournaments which is maybe to be expected with a new head coach and lots of players who were not in Tokyo or at tournaments before this. They also need to tighten up and gang rebound better because giving up 18 offensive boards to Korea was poor.
The positives are also plentiful too. They were tested in a big way by Korea and came through that test in a close game which showed they still have that mental strength. They are leading the tournament in steals per game and still devastating in the open floor. Himawari Akaho is leading the team as expected and what about Saori Miyazaki with 9 assists per game? She has been the one to limit the impact of Rui Machida not being here in Jordan. Indeed she may also now challenge for the starting place next year if she continues with this level! Perhaps the one player who has really, really impressed is Monica Okoye. She is an ice-cold assasin from behind the three-point line and everytime she catches it, opposing coaches know what is coming - usually 'nothing but net'. Japan has work to do if they want to extend their title collection to five in a row. It is going to be fascinating!
#3 Korea (+1)
Current Record: 3-1
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 19th
Controversial? Switching out Korea with Australia for the last step of the podium was a coin-toss decision. However, the marginal advantage that Korea has is simply that they are not wholly reliant on a star player and have many, many potential game winners. The emergence of Isaem Choi has been a difference-maker in a big way. The forward has come from the shadows and taken center stage alongside a rejuvenated Hyejin Park who has been superb.
With Leesuel Kang warming up and perhaps still with a big performance to come, plus Danbi Kim typically influential around all of those things you don't see on the stats with her leadership, Korea have a golden chance to get bronze. The big issue is simply this - which Korea team is going to turn up? The one that was almost beaten by Chinese Taipei in the last game or the one that almost claimed the scalp of defending champions Japan and strode past New Zealand? This team is very dangerous and the way they have looked after the ball so far has been particularly impressive.
#4 Australia (-1)
Current Record: 3-1
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 3rd
It probably feels a bit rough to move the Opals down a place and especially when you place into context just what a tough job head coach Paul Goriss and his staff have had in somehow moulding his roster together with little to no preparation. The leadership and contributons of Sami Whitcomb have been awesome and from the team perspective. Australia have worked so hard on the court. They are collectively moulded in the image of their on-court leader, with everyone doing the dirty work, chasing defensive assignments and generally making smart decisions on offense - even if not necessarily always executing.
You could argue that making the Semi-Finals with a roster that contains no Tokyo 2020 members is an achievement in itself. They could yet make the Final or take bronze - of course they could. The only question is whether there is a plan B if Whitcomb is shut down or has an off-night and having most of their eggs in her basket is risky. In fact, even if she has a good game, it's still about who is supporting behind her headline contribution. Additionally, the Opals need to take better care of the ball and their shooting has been ok, but nothing special, while they were dismantled by China in the last quarter which maybe exposed their lack of experience at this level.
#5 New Zealand (0)
Current Record: 1-3
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 36th
If there is one team that I do have some real sympathy for, it is the Tall Ferns. I have been hugely impressed with head coach Guy Molloy because New Zealand have been really good with their in-game sets and any sideline or baseline plays. They have always tried to run something and often, very smart stuff. But when those things break down and they have to go freestyle, they have not had the athleticism, quickness and composure to put them in winning positions. A big chunk of that is probably down to conditioning and you feel that with more prep, they could have caused an upset - or two.
Having not played for two years together, their team play and team spirit was impressive. Penina Davidson has been tremendous in the paint, while Tessa Boagni and Mary Goulding have also been solid. The biggest issue has been that one on one, and particularly those taking the bulk of shots in the backcourt and when penetrating, have not shown the level and verve needed to make tough buckets. Too many spin moves, too many off balance stuff and that goes against some of the real nice set plays which serve the team so well. Finishing off with a win against Chinese Taipei is a must.
#6 Chinese Taipei (+1)
Current Record: 1-3
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 34th
The common agreement with most people who have watched this tournament is that Chinese Taipei have done a really good job. Individually they have good fundamentals, make smart decisions and perhaps unusually for many Asian teams who like to take quick shots, they show incredible patience offensively and often use the whole shot-clock. They also execute well and that is down to some fluid offenses with good spacing and lots of cutting.
They are also really well coached, with Wei-Chuan Chen visibly engaged in every play and generally making good decisions on rotations and time outs. With some additional height they could do some very good things. In fact, they could challenge for medals.
#7 Philippines (-1)
Final Record: 1-3
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 51st
They may have survived for another tournament in Division A and they deserve credit for winning the crunch game with India, some may feel that they were the worse team in the competition. While they have so much energy and commitment and support each other individuallt, a lack of team concepts and fundamentals almost cost them dearly.
While they lack height in the paint and that is a major factor in the difficulty they have trying to win games at this level, a lack of screening actions and ball movement compared to Chinese Taipei for example was laid bare for everyone to see. It was all one on one action for much of the time and only a set of fortunate circumstances for them and unfortunate circumstances for India probably paved the way for their survival. Both that, and of course, the amazing leadership of Afril Bernardino who was excellent. They have much to work on for next time and in mitigation they were missing some leaders who are playing club basketball in Europe.
#8 India (0)
Final Record: 0-4
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 70th
India did not have much luck at this tournament, since they had to endure a lengthy quarantine before even entering the bubble and that impacted on preparation time. They also lost one of their starting and most influential players to injury in Navaneetha Patemane Udayakumar ahead of the big survival game with Philippines.
Being with just two players from the 2017 edition and five from 2019 didn't help either - even with the leadership of Shireen Vijay Limaye which was super as usual. The positives were that Pushpa Senthil Kumar enhanced her reputation and they did show some glimpses of massive potential. But the three-point shooting let them down and while they used their size on certain ocassions, they found life tough living with the quickness of their opponents. If they manage to gain promotion again in 2023, they should be able to post a much better Division A showing in 2025.
*The power rankings are entirely subjective and are in no way a true, accurate ranking system. All comments are purely those of the author.
The FIBA Women's Asia Cup Power Rankings are put together by our panel, led by FIBA's women's basketball specialist Paul Nilsen. He eats, sleeps and breathes female hoops and is incredibly passionate about the promotion of the women's game at all levels. Paul uses an extensive network of players, coaches, clubs and Federations to shape his work and opinions.