FIBA Americas Championship 2007 Preview
Posted Mar 22 2007 1:29PM
Groups set for tournament, Argentina and U.S. expected to lead the pack
SECAUCUS, NJ, March 21, 2007 -- The FIBA Americas Championship 2007 - Tournament Draw took place Wednesday, March 21, in Las Vegas. The draw determined how the 10 participating teams in the tournament, which is scheduled to be played Aug. 22 through Sept. 2, 2007, in Las Vegas, would be split into two groups of five for preliminary round play. The results were as follows:
The top two finishers will earn a qualification spot for the 2008 Olympic Games that are being held Aug. 8-24, 2008 in Beijing. The third, fourth and fifth place finishers will qualify for the 12-team 2008 FIBA (International Basketball Federation) World Olympic Qualifying Tournament (July 7-13, 2008, site TBD) that will qualify the final three teams for the 2008 Olympics.
After conclusion of the First Round and establishing first to fifth places for each group, the top four finishers in each First Round group will advance to the Second Round. Teams finishing in the fifth position will conclude their participation in the tournament. The top four finishing teams of Group A and Group B will then form a single Second Round group, carrying with them the results obtained in the games played against each other in the first phase.
In the Second Round, each team will play against the four advancing teams from the other First Round group. At the conclusion of the Second Round, the top four placed teams will advance to the third phase and the bottom four teams will conclude their participation in the tournament.
In accordance with the standings after conclusion of the Second Round, the semifinals will be held on Sept. 1 and feature the No. 1 ranked team playing the No. 4 team, while the No. 2 ranked team will face the No. 3 ranked team. The finals will be played Sept. 2, with the losers in the semifinals playing for third and fourth, and the semifinals winners will play in the gold medal game for first and second places.
Dark Horse: Puerto Rico
Long Shot: Uruguay
The Skinny: Argentina failed to medal at the 2006 FIBA World Championship, losing to the United States in the Bronze Medal Game. The squad took Gold in the 2004 Olympic Games and silver in the 2002 FIBA World Championship. Because its players have competed together dating back to their days at the junior national level, Argentina's offense is like a well-oiled machine, with Ginobili able to bail it out if it breaks down and the shot clock is dwindling. In the Finals of the FIBA Americas Championship 2007, Argentina could find itself in a rematch with the United States, who prevented the Argentineans from medaling in Japan thanks to a 96-81 U.S. victory in the third-place game.
The Skinny: Mexico has size. It remains to be seen whether Najera, its star forward, will join the team in Las Vegas this summer. His presence would be a significant boost to Mexico's Olympic hopes, though they'd still likely have to qualify through the 2008 World Olympic Qualifying Tournament rather than being able to secure an automatic bid this summer. Mexico lacks depth in the backcourt and speed on the wing to match many of its opponents. Should he play, Quintero, who once participated in the NBA Pre-Draft Camp, is a player to watch.
The Skinny: With Panama's load of talent, they were regarded as a sleeper at the 2006 FIBA World Championship. The team played with no cohesion, however, and finished 0-5 in the preliminary round. Still, Panama must be considered a dangerous team -- it has too many high-level players for opponents to take it lightly. The trick for Panama's coaching staff is getting the players to compete as one unit. Pinnock has experience with the Lakers, Garces with the Suns, Douglas is an elite Euroleague player, Cota is well-known from his days at UNC, and Hicks, Levy and Lloreda have all been scouted by NBA teams.
The Skinny: This team is deep with talent in the backcourt and in the middle. Arroyo and Ayuso represent one of the better backcourts in national team play. Arroyo seems to thrive in international play, often burning opponents with large scoring totals. Apodaca and Rivera, who have been in training camp with the Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers, respectively, complement their backcourt-mates. At center, Santiago and Ramos are a pair of twin towers, both of who stand over 7-1 and possess NBA experience. Puerto Rico went just 2-3 in the 2006 FIBA World Championship and is looking for redemption.
The Skinny: Uruguay placed second in the 2006 South American Championship for Men and finished eighth in the 2005 Tournament of Americas. The star player from the nation is unquestionably Batista, the 23-year-old center of the Atlanta Hawks. With few other players boasting high-caliber experience at the professional level, however, Uruguay is a long shot to do damage in Las Vegas.
Favorite: United States
Dark Horse: Brazil
Long Shot: U.S. Virgin Islands
The Skinny: Brazil was disappointing in the 2006 FIBA World Championship, finishing just 1-4 and failing to advance past the preliminary round. It did, however, play without the services of NBA centers Nene and Araujo, who could be with the team in Las Vegas. Even with as much talent as Brazil has had in recent years, it's been two decades since they've achieved anything significant in the realm of international basketball. Nevertheless, their depth upfront --should Nene, Varejao, Splitter and Araujo all play -- will overwhelm weaker opponents in this tournament. The presence of Barbosa, a true difference maker who's having a career year with the Suns, could spell an upset against Team USA or Argentina.
The Skinny: Steve Nash is retired from the Canadian National Team, and it's a different era for the squad, which relied so heavily on Nash's contributions for more than a decade. Canada now fields a markedly younger team that will pin its hopes on the efforts of players like English, who has been in training camp with the Indiana Pacers, Kendall, who once scored 40 points against the U.S. in Junior National Team play, and Brown, a 2006 draft pick of the Sonics who has spent his rookie year in the D-League.
The Skinny: Team USA would have liked to have secured an automatic bid to the Olympic Games with a Gold Medal in Japan this summer, but a loss to Greece in the semifinals ended that hope. Instead, it will have to qualify with a top-two finish in the FIBA Americas Championship this summer, or, should it finish in places 3-5, at the World Olympic Qualifying Tournament in July 2008.
The United States has competed in three of the last four FIBA Americas championships that have been used to determine the Olympic representives for the Americas zone. Team USA has compiled a perfect 26-0 record in those three competitions, claiming gold medals in 1992, 1999 and 2003 . Already qualified for the Olympics as the host country in 1996, the United States did not participate in the 1995 FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
The United States National Team is coming off a bitter sweet tournament run at the World Championship in Japan in which a loss to Greece in the semifinals put an end to its gold medal hopes. Though its third-place finish was something to hang its hat on, many considered it a disappointment given the high expectations and commitment to preparation the United States showed prior to the start of the competition. It was the second straight bronze the national team had earned following a third-place finish in the 2004 Athens Games.
As the United States continues its goal to prove its supremacy in the sport of basketball at the international level, make no mistake about it: players like Wade, James and Stoudemire will be playing with a chip on their shoulders in Las Vegas this summer.
The Skinny: Despite the U.S. Virgin Island's tiny population, they have produced some talent. Bell and Vanterpool both have NBA experience, Rhymer has played in the D-League and Victor is an athletic shot-blocker. Former Nuggets guard Julius Hodge and former Pittsburgh guard Carl Krauser both also reportedly have U.S. Virgin Islands nationality. Spurs Tim Duncan, though born there, is only eligible for the U.S. National Team because of his participation in the past with the USA Basketball program. The U.S. Virgin Island's hopes in this tournament largely is dependant on its roster turnout.
The Skinny: Though they aren't a basketball powerhouse, Venezuela finished third in the 2005 Tournament of Americas and fifth in 2003. Either of those finishes this year would keep them alive in the hunt for an Olympic berth. In the 2006 FIBA World Championship, Venezuela went 1-4, as it lacked the talent to compete with the world's best teams. Nevertheless, there are a few names on Venezuela's roster, such as Torres, a former guard for the Warriors and Rockets, Marriaga, a talented young prospect, and Lugo, a rugged rebounder.