VALENCIA (Jeff Taylor's Eurovision) - The next FIBA Basketball World Cup won't tip off in China until 2019, yet there is already a charge the tournament is giving international basketball.
Thirteen teams that are going to fight for the right to play in the qualification round now know the sides they will have to compete against next August when the pre-qualification takes place. Yesterday's draw in Prague has left the following groups.
In Group A, Sweden will for the second straight year go up against Bosnia and Herzegovina, a team that edged them twice in the FIBA EuroBasket 2017 qualifiers.
In Group B, familiar foes Austria and the Netherlands will meet again. They split their two encounters in the FIBA EuroBasket 2017 qualifiers.
In Group D, Portugal and Belarus will square off for the second straight summer. These teams also went 1-1 against each other in 2016.
"When we consider the European Championship qualification round that we did not survive, everyone looked at our last defeat against Germany, but the first defeat against Austria might have been a lot more decisive for the final result." - Netherlands coach Toon van Helfteren
I'm excited for the likes of Sweden, who know that no matter what happens next summer, the pre-qualifications will be good for basketball in the country.
"Now we get more opportunities to play at home and to go to the Basketball World Cup," Swedish Basketball Federation secretary general Lena Wallin-Kantzy said.
"It gives Swedish basketball a lot more opportunities to be seen and to perform."
The federation's marketing and communications manager, Johannes Wohlert, has something hugely important to prepare for. Home games will put the national team in the spotlight.
"We have a young team (of players) that really like each other and is fighting hard," Wohlert said. "They are like brothers and we have a fantastic crowd that carries us forward, this is really fun."
Sweden last played at a EuroBasket in 2013.
A comment often made about the Swedish team is that they have a very good coach in Vedran Bosnic. By the looks of it, he's already drawing up practice plans ahead of the team's clashes with the Slovak Republic, Armenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Another team I'm excited for is the Netherlands. They were one of the surprise packages that reached EuroBasket 2015 but this summer, the Dutch suffered heartbreak and came up short of qualification for next year's EuroBasket.
Their combative, determined coach Toon van Helfteren, knows the presence of Austria in his team's group poses a big challenge.
"Finishing second in this group of three - we should be able to," Van Helfteren said. "But if I prefer first over second in the group, looking ahead to the World Cup qualifiers, then I consider Austria a tough opponent."
As well he should. Austria beat the Dutch in the Netherlands on 31 August this year, 75-72, in their very first FIBA EuroBasket 2017 qualifying game. Remembering that Van Helfteren's side finished 4-2, like group winners Germany, and did not reach the Final Round, then the home loss to Austria was a killer.
"When we consider the European Championship qualification round that we did not survive, everyone looked at our last defeat against Germany, but the first defeat against Austria might have been a lot more decisive for the final result," the Dutch coach said.
The Netherlands did win in Austria, 75-61.
"Austria remains a difficult opponent for us," Van Helfteren said. "We will also have to wait and see who is on the court for Austria next August with this new form of qualifying."
The 24 countries to compete at FIBA EuroBasket 2017? They're already in the 32-team qualification round field for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019. It won't be long before we find out which sides will join them.
And once the World Cup qualification round begins next November, when the 32 teams commence their battles for the 12 European spots available for the tournament in China? Now that's going to give us an even bigger charge. As Wohlert said, this is going to be fun.