BEIRUT (Lebanon) – The second window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers is approaching, and there’s tension is starting to build up.
Whether it’s the teams that are vying for their first victory after a winless window, undefeated teams looking to keep their records squeaky clean, or teams that will be playing in the Qualifiers for the first time, there are questions that they will need to answer to better their chances at World Cup qualification.
Can New Zealand stand tall against budding rivals Korea?
The Tall Blacks will be playing 4 games in the upcoming window, but one of their most important games will be against Korea. For those who have closely followed Asia basketball, these are two teams that have crossed paths many times in the past whether it was in the past World Cup Qualifiers or Asia Cup 2017. Korea has had the upper-hand so far with 3 wins across 4 encounters, so the task here the New Zealand is how they will come out of the gates in this rematch on February 25.
Can Korea overcome the Philippines’ home court advantage?
This has already been addressed as a storyline to watch for the upcoming window, and a juicy one as well considering the history between these two teams. Korea’s leader, Kim SunHyung, has already come out to express his feelings regarding this matchup in particular, so the fans know that he and the team will be determined to exact revenge. There hasn’t been pleasant memories in the recent years for the Korea national team in the Philippines, but that’s something Korea will definitely want to create in the second window on February 24 and 28.
How quickly can the Philippines adjust to internal changes?
The two games against Korea, as mentioned above, are the featured games of the window for the Philippines. However, their priority at the moment might be focusing on how to play with the recent adjustments that have been made. The major shift is obviously the appointment of coach Chot Reyes in the place of coach Tab Baldwin, but fans should expect some major changes in the roster as well. Nonetheless, Reyes is far from a “new” element in the national team program as he has had several stints as the national team head coach, so the adjustments might be kept at a minimum.
Can India remain consistent through the tough window ahead?
In their talent pool, India have the talent of established stars from Vishesh Bhriguvanshi and Amjyot Singh and rising prospects like Mui Bek Hafeez and Princepal Singh. Each have had their moments in the recent years, which has been enough for India to qualify for the World Cup Qualifiers. However, these key players have also had their ups and downs, resulting in India being one of the last teams to qualify for this competition, having to scrape a win in their very last game at the FIBA Asia Cup 2022 Qualifying Tournament for Third-Ranked teams. It’s a tough 4-game window for India with 2 games against New Zealand, but if their stars can maintain a consistent level of play, they have the potential to come out as winners.
Can Japan find their identity?
For Japan, there’s no pressure to qualify for the World Cup at this point as they already have a seat at the main event in 2023 as co-hosts. However, what Japan are in search for could be a brief outline of what the team should be expected to look like next year. The team has had only one window to play under Tom Hovasse who was recently appointed so there’s still time to figure out their identity, but this should be something to focus on in the games ahead. This is important for the February 26 game against Chinese Taipei where Japan should be expected to have an advantage, especially as they will be playing in Okinawa.
Will there be enough firepower for Australia to avoid another upset?
Nick Kay is an Olympic bronze medalist and an Asia Cup champion which means that he is pretty good at basketball (jokes aside, he is very good at basketball!). He will be the one leading the charge in Okinawa, starring for a relatively young Boomers squad. There is no doubt that there is talent in that lineup, but fans might have some concern about the level of experience in the team heading into these away games. Japan, who they on February 27, can be tough to play against at home (see JPN vs AUS, 29 JULY 2018) and Chinese Taipei have potential to surprise, so the young Boomers should be on the tips of their toes.
Who will be the anchor in the paint for Chinese Taipei?
There is more than enough talent on the perimeter for Chinese Taipei whether it’s Lin Ting-Chien or Chen Ying-Chun, both of whom starred in the team’s crucial games against Guam last year. What they need to figure out now is how to balance that out with some inside presence for these upcoming stages. In the past, they’ve had Quincy Davis as that anchor, but as that generation has already begun passing on the torch to the next wave, someone else needs to step up. Jonah Morrison has flashed promising potential, but it’s possible that Chinese Taipei might need a little bit more, specifically for their February 25 and 28 games against the physically imposing Australia.
Can Lebanon keep this up?
Ever since the start of the Asia Cup Qualifiers in 2019, Lebanon have won all of their games in convincing fashion – 8 straight victories with sizable margins. This is impressive, considering that Lebanon are a young team that are transitioning from their established senior players. They’ve been able to translate that youthful energy into explosive firepower on the court so far, but that is never something that is easy to keep up. If Lebanon are able to harness this power, and emerge victorious against friendly rivals Jordan on February 24, they might become even more tough to stop in the future.
Can Saudi Arabia make their three-pointers?
It’s been surprisingly simple to see what has been a big factor in Saudi Arabia’s wins so far – making three-point shots. In their first game against Jordan, Saudi Arabia shot only 24.2 percent from downtown in a loss. In the following game against the same team, Saudi Arabia shot 32.1 percent in a win. The three-point shooting makes life easier for big man Mohammed Alsuwailem on the offensive end, which in turn saves him energy to use on the defensive end. Saudi Arabia’s long range shooting will be taken to the test against Indonesia on February 24 and Lebanon on February 27, with both games played at home.
Can Jordan take care of the ball?
Jordan are a tough and talented team. Qualifying for the World Cup in 2019 is proof of that. However, their campaign towards qualification for the 2023 edition of the World Cup hasn’t really took off as well as they might have wanted to after suffering a loss to Saudi Arabia. While Saudi Arabia are certainly not too shabby themselves, Jordan’s 19 turnovers in that game didn’t help their chances at avoiding an upset either. That is something that the Jordan guard will have to focus on controlling. Their first game against Lebanon on February 24 will be tough already, but if they still can’t figure things out, the game against Indonesia on February 27 might also cause some concern.
Can Indonesia get a fresh start?
Having to face the on-form Lebanon in their first two games ever in a World Cup Qualifiers was definitely harsh for the World Cup co-hosts. However, Indonesia can look at it as a rookie hazing that is now in the rear view mirror. Now, they can focus on getting back on track in search of that first W. The first game against Saudi Arabia on February 24 could be a very good opportunity for Indonesia, but even that is not an easy game to play.
Can Iran silence the doubters?
Again, this is a storyline that has already been emphasized, and is worth revisiting. Iran had lost in a major upset to Syria in the Asia Cup Qualifiers and while that might seem like ages ago, it’s most likely still fresh in the memories of the fans. Iran have still been dominant in the Asia basketball scene, but that loss has been a smidge in what has consistently been a clean record for Team Melli. Iran will get a rematch against Syria on February 27, most likely a date that the team has circled in their calendars for a while now.
Can Kazakhstan make some noise?
The Steppen Wolves have been quietly flying under the radar as one of the better, yet not so much talked about teams in Asia basketball. Kazakhstan claimed two solid wins against Syria in Window 1, specifically the 81-71 win in Damascus which is a tough environment to play in, but there still isn’t a lot of buzz around the team. They will start Window 2 with a game against Iran on February 24, and if they are able to pull off the upset here, fans will have no reason to not talk about this team.
Can Syria find their true star?
Syria have paraded talented squads over the course of the Asia Cup Qualifiers and first window of the World Cup Qualifiers from Trey Kell to Doug Herring to, most recently, Amir Hinton who averaged 32.5 points in his first two games. The important thing for Syria now is to figure out who will be the one carrying the torch as their star moving forward as the level of competition continues to heighten. They will begin the window with a favorable game against Bahrain on February 24, but will have to close things out against Iran on February 27. Syria also will not have a home game here in February, so they will certainly need to identify where their firepower will come from in these two games.
Will Bahrain come out of the gates with confidence?
In their first ever appearance in the World Cup Qualifiers, Bahrain were treated to two straight games against Iran. These were obviously not easy games for Bahrain, especially with star center CJ Giles limited to only one appearance in the window. Nonetheless, those results in the first window probably won’t make any fan think less of this team. Iran are just that good. That’s why it is key for Bahrain to move on from those two games as fast as they can. The positive for Bahrain here is that they have two home games, starting with a February 24 clash against Syria who are also coming off two straight losses. Claiming a win to start the window could be the advantage they need to barge into the Second Round.