ALGIERS (FIBA AfroBasket 2017) - Three North African national teams on Thursday will begin a battle for two places for the FIBA AfroBasket 2017 Final Round in Congo-Brazzaville in August.
Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia - the three FIBA Africa Zone 1 national teams available for the qualifier - will play the first leg in Algeria from March 16-18 with the second leg to follow in Tunisia from March 24-26.
Thursday will see Algeria take on Morocco, before Morocco go up against Tunisia on Friday and Saturday's final action will see Algeria and Tunisia square off.
While Morocco and Tunisia have become regulars at recent editions of FIBA AfroBasket, Algeria are trying to mix among the top-16 African teams.
Two years ago, the Algerians needed a wild card invitation for FIBA AfroBasket 2015 while Morocco successfully finished top of the regional qualifier ahead of Libya and Algeria.
At first glance, Morocco and Tunisia emerge as the strongest contenders, but Algeria head coach Ahmed Loubachria is not backing down and they look a lot more confident for the qualifiers.
"The best teams will win," he said. "Those two teams have dominated the region over the last decade but anything is possible in basketball. We are going to play against teams with 12 players like us."
Meanwhile, Tunisia will enter the qualifier with a new head coach - Mario Palma replacing Adel Tlatli who was with the team over the last decade - and without two key players: Salah Mejri and Michael Roll, who are expected to join the team if the former African champions advance to Congo-Brazzaville.
Dating back to FIBA AfroBasket 2013, Tunisia currently hold a 2-0 head-to-head advantage over Morocco.
Players to watch at the FIBA Africa Zone 1 Qualifiers: Mehdi Cheriet (Algeria), Abdlehakim Zouita, Soufiane Kourodu and John Williams (Morocco) and Makrem Ben Rondhame (Tunisia).