22 September, 2022
01 October
Long Read
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Power Rankings: FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup, Volume 2

SYDNEY (Australia) - With the lineup for the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2022 now known, it's the perfect time to check in and provide the second volume of the Power Rankings.

Taking on board the first volume of the Power Rankings which were drawn up before the recent Qualifying Tournaments, plus subsequent results, performances and significant absences from rosters, here's how it looks with just 12 nations - the rankings led by our women's basketball specialist, Paul Nilsen @basketmedia365.

#1 USA USA  

FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 1st

It was a relatively straightforward process for USA, who despite missing a stack of leading lights, still collected a pair of wins against Belgium and Puerto Rico as a new cycle under the recently appointed Cheryl Reeve got underway. The camp prior to the games had the likes of Breanna Stewart, Elena Delle Donne and Sabrina Ionescu, while the list missed big-hitters like A'Ja Wilson and Brittney Griner. All of these could be back in the line-up when the action tips off in Sydney.

Cheryl Reeve tipped off a new chapter with her team by beating Belgium and Puerto Rico

That is why this tournament was more about those ballers pushing for a spot. Brionna Jones continued her red hot form from EuroLeague Women, along with ZVVZ USK Praha colleague Alyssa Thomas. Meanwhile Kelsey Plum was also rock solid and she made a case for inclusion, having won gold four years ago in Tenerife. There were things that could have been better, but overall it was a decent job by the USA. The defending champions remain the team to beat.

#2 China CHN  

FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 7th

Inject it into my veins! That was my reaction to watching this China team play such superb inside-outside basketball and all at a frantic pace when they want, but also with an ability to battle down low as well. They could be scary with more experience of big tournaments under their wing. But, from a purely basketball perspective on talent and style of play, they look a podium lock. It's just whether they have enough veteran leadership in 2022 to get past the usual stumbling blocks of the Quarter-Finals stage.

Yueru Li was outstanding under the basket for China and made the All-Star Five along with MVP Sijing Huang

Heading into this tournament, I had identified Sijing Huang as the best player in the global game that mainstream fans had not really heard of. Now a few more might be sitting up and taking notice after she took the TISSOT MVP award for Group B in Belgrade. The forward was immense - as was Yueri Li inside.  When she went off the court, Xu Han stepped in and that is like exchanging your Lamborghini for a Ferrari at the garage. With Meng Li also excellent on the wing and Siyu Wang handing out 15 assists against France, there's a whole lot to love. And, for those in the know, this rise of China has been coming and coming. It's exciting to see.

#3 Japan  JPN 

FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 8th 

It's true that handing Japan a ranking of third place, taking into account that they needed overtime to beat Canada and then lost to Bosnia and Herzegovina (albeit due to a jaw-dropping display by Jonquel Jones) could be viewed as being overly generous. It's jiust that it's hard to ignore their incredible offensive capacity and there was the strong mitigation of not having the Olympic record-breaker Rui Machida to pull the strings. She has become the heartbeat of this team. 

Japan witnessed the return of Ramu Tokashiki to major tournament action after missing Tokyo 2020 and the FIBA Women's AsiaCup

This tournament also saw the reintegration of Ramu Tokashiki and that undoubtedly is a work in progress. She has traditionally been a towering presence and struggled offensively, with the court time of amazing captain Maki Takada being reduced, having been amazing at Tokyo 2020. The big plus was that Himawari Akaho continues to be a defensive powerhouse and Stephanie Mawuli played some of her best ever basketball on this stage. It feels that Japan are making adjustments and they will still be a big threat in Sydney.

#4 Belgium BEL  

FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 6th 

Maybe this is another very generous ranking, since Belgium lost to a USA team missing most of its big-hitters,  beat a poor Puerto Rico team, then racked up a success against what was a 'Maria Vadeeva-less' Russia.  But still, with Emma Meesseman continuing her status as an incredible leader and performer, you always feel that Belgium can make deep runs. 

Belgium got the job done and were led as usual by Emma Meesseman

Julie Allemand gives them a top class backcourt presence and with Kyara Linskens growing in influence under the basket, things have settled down a little for new head coach Valery Demory after his losing start in the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2023 Qualifiers. The Cats have a nice crop of younger players coming through as well, so the future looks bright. 

#5 Canada CAN  

FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 4th 

Canada certainly took their time in selecting Victor Lapena, or at least announcing his appointment and after this opening salvo, things immediately look brighter. Sure, it's tough to truly assess the two games (big win against Bosnia and Herzegovina and overtime loss to Japan) because of that lack of pressure with no qualification on the line. But surely it is the case that in just two games, the playcaller has given Canada a new identity - in essence, the handbrake is off and they will be able to play with more freedom offensively.

The new era of Victor Lapena started on a positive note in Osaka

Of course, without pressure it's easier to 'free wheel' in games and cut loose. Still, the performances of Natalie Achonwa and Bridget Carleton were excellent, with Kayla Alexander also impressing too. Considering one of their leaders Kia Nurse missed out through injury, the signs are good for Sydney. It looks at face value like Canada could be medal contenders again and actually look like the fourth ranked team in the world. 

#6 Serbia SRB 

FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 10th 

Serbia always seem to find a way with Marina Maljkovic to get  through some tough situations and this was potentially one in Belgrade. While they had home support in their favor, as well as a reasonable draw with Korea and Brazil not the toughest of opponents, they also had to deal with huge pressure and all in the context of having lost legendary duo Sonja Vasic and Jelena Brooks. 
 Defensive intensity was a familiar recipe for success for Serbia as they went unbeaten

When you then take into account the absence of the  ever-reliable Nevena Jovanovic to injury, then Dragana Stankovic getting injured after the first game (having been brilliant), to finish 3-0 was immense. Having scraped past Korea, Serbia proved that this new chapter could be one to enjoy when they were inspired to a win against Australia with 30 points from TISSOT MVP, Yvonne Anderson. She was a big difference-maker and basically provided the spark to help Serbia get the job done. With their trademark defensive intensity, they could still make the Quarter-Finals in Sydney. It proved to be a very satisfying tournament in general for the hosts.

#7 Australia AUS  

FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 3rd

The focus on transitioning from a side with a marquee player like Liz Cambage to total teamwork based around a defensive calling card continues. This in itself, alongside home support, should be enough to secure the Opals a Quarter-Finals spot in Sydney. They must deal with the pressure of being hosts, but will welcome back Ezi Magbegor - things playcaller Sandy Brondello discussed in Belgrade.

                            Bec Allen was impressive for the Opals who finished 2-1 in Group A

Australia beat two average teams (Korea and Brazil) relatively comfortably and then lost when squeezed by Serbia. So, it was a real mixed bag.  Bec Allen and Sami Whitcomb showed they are two leaders, with Steph Talbot, Marianna Tolo, Cayla George and Darcee Garbin all rock solid. The only issue and one that is a stark fact, is that amazing defense and teamwork will get you so far - but do they have enough 'star dust' and clutch performers to span making the last eight and touching the podium?

#8 Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina

FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 27th 

The truth is, Bosnia and Herzegovina could be absolutely anything when they go 'Down Under' in September. With Jonquel Jones in the mood, they can beat anyone - as they demonstrated when she almost single - handedly took down Japan. But expecting that level of performance in a tournament environment more than one or two times is a lot - even for someone as brilliant.

As usual, there was absolutely no stopping Jonquel Jones

Perhaps more than any other team than Korea, Bosnia and Herzeogovina rely most heavily on one marquee star to get wins at the very highest level. If she can't produce her incredible magic, they struggle - as was demonstrated when blown out in a big way by Canada. The main point is that they have other talented players who need to get ballin again with the national team like Marica Gajic and Melisa Brcaninovic. to support Jones and to a lesser extent the impressive Nikolina Babic. Overall though, what's not to love? They have nothing to lose and will take historical footsteps at the event when they hit the court in Sydney! 

#9 France   

FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 5th

You can't sugar coat it. Everyone conneted with France were embarrased with their campaign - the coaches, players and the staff. There was a modest win against Mali, a shock first ever defeat Nigeria and then a capitulation (leaking more than 100 points) against China. This was a humbling. Also an epic wake-up call and opportunity to re-focus. There was some mitigation and no need to press the panic button. But, things are not going to script under new head coach Jean-Aime Toupane (2 wins and 3 losses in total). 

France has much to think about after results in Belgrade, losing for the first time ever against Nigeria and being crushed by China

It's maybe the backcourt that is most in need of some bolstering. Too many turnovers, out of sync and only Marine Johannes playing to her potential. Marine Fauthoux is going to be fabulous in time, but it's a lot to ask her to be a leader by September. Even after this car crash of a tournament, they could still make the top 8 or even the top four. After all, they are the European vice champions and Olympic bronze medalists and they do have veteran duo Sandrine Gruda and Endy Miyem to come back, maybe along with Sarah Michel and Valeriane Vukusavljevic. But right now, things don't look or feel right.

#10 Nigeria NGR  

FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 15th 

Oh my - what a roller-coaster!  It looked potentially misson impossible due to no preparation whatsoever, players absent (including Ezinne Kalu their main playmaker), players arriving late and then a one-sided opening day loss to China. But with head coach Otis Hughley Jnr, they have such an inspirational and impressie coach. Within 24 hours they were making global headlines. Not only did they collect a first ever win against France, they did it by coming back from a 20-point deficit. Victoria Macaulay was on a serious mission and a standout team MVP. It was amazing stuff. 

Victoria Macaulay was a pillar of strength during the landmark win against France

They then led Mali by 21 points in the last group game (a must win game) but came close to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, with their opponents making it a one-shot game inside the last minute. Nigeria clung on and it showed that they still have a lot of work to do, but have incredible strength in adversity. The competition also allowed players like Promise Amukamara and Amy Okonkwo to show what they can do at this level with more court time.

#11 Russia RUS

FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 12th 

The biggest positive was that Russia qualified for a global event for the first time since the London 2012 Olympics, a decade-long wait finally ending for one of the greatest ever nations in the history of the women's game. One other positive is that they will hopefully get Maria Vadeeva back for the  flagship event in Sydney.

Russia missed their leader Maria Vadeeva who was absent with an injury but Raisa Musina stepped up in a big way

On the flip-side though, the game against Belgium highlighted just how over-reliant they are on Vadeeva and her immense leadership qualities and production. Raisa Musina was the standout performer, along with Nina Glonti, who showed glimpses of the form that wowed fans last year at the FIBA Women's EuroBasket. But, without a top quality backcourt rotation, it remains a big reason they might struggle to make a splash in Sydney. For now though, it's mission complete as they just needed to get back to the global table!

#12 Korea KOR 

FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 14th 

Korea headed to Belgrade always looking like they would need to win a 'mini Final' against Brazil to qualify and so it proved. On opening night they could and maybe should have taken down Serbia - as was the case at Tokyo 2020. It was almost an exact carbon copy as they missed a second bite at the cherry, before playing their bench against Australia and losing heavily.

Ji Su Park produced the best performance of her career in a national team vest with her amazing triple-double

Sandwiched in between was the pulsating 76-74 win against Brazil. The one that mattered. It was facilitated with a game for the ages from Ji Su Park - an  epic triple-double of 20 points, 13 rebounds and a mind-bending 11 blocked shots. With her healthy and playing well, Korea could cause an uspet against somebody in Sydney. The bad news is that there was very little to cheer outside of their marquee player and also consistency of veteran Danbi Kim. They will be underdogs for sure.

*The power rankings are entirely subjective and are in no way a true, accurate ranking system. All comments are purely those of the author.

Paul Nilsen

Paul Nilsen

The FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2022 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.