REGENSBURG (David Hein’s Eye on the Future) - Last week we looked at Groups A and B of the draw for the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2017. Let’s not waste any time and break down the other two groups.
So, here are Groups C and D for the 1-9 July tournament in Cairo.
Group C is topped by Canada, who are making their sixth straight appearance but have been stopped in the Quarter-Finals in the last two editions - to the United States in 2013 and against Croatia in 2015.
The Canadians have produced more and more top level talent and the North Americans are slowly starting to have higher expectations - rightfully so with those highly-regarded prospects.
The big game in the tournament for Canada could be the second Group C contest against Spain with the winner likely to take first place in the group. That would mean the victor of that battle could not face the United States until the Final on 9 July - should the United States win their Group D.
Spain managed to advance to Cairo 2017 as the final team from Europe despite missing a number of players at the U18 qualifiers. Those players will be back for Spain, who also have had their issues with the Quarter-Finals, not winning in their three final eight contests since the 1999 title - losing to France, Australia and Greece in 2007, 2013 and 2015 respectively.
Japan meanwhile are back at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup for the first time since 1999 and Thorsten Loibl’s team knows they will be underdogs coming into the tournament. But U18 Asian runners-up will be looking to surprise a few teams in Cairo.
Mali’s first appearance since 2007 is the reward of improved hard work at the youth levels. The West Africans debuted at the FIBA U17 World Championship last summer after three podium finishes in the four FIBA U16 African Championships. Mali also have collected three third-placed finishes and one fourth-placed showing at the FIBA U18 African Championships since 2010.
The top team in Group D is Iran and the U18 Asian champions are back for their third straight U19 tournament. But the Iranians are out to improve on their past as they have never finished above 11th place.
Angola, for their part are happy to be back on the U19 global stage, reaching it for the first time since 2009 by winning the FIBA U18 African Championship last summer for the first time since 1988. Angola’s best showing at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup was 13th place on three occasions.
Italy failed to reach the U19 tournament between 1995 and 2013 but now have qualified for back-to-back events. The Italians finished sixth in 2015 and would love to get back to their best days in the late 1980s and early 90s when they finished third in 1987 and were runners-up in 1991.
To close up the groups preview is the two-time reigning champions and record six-time winners United States. Since losing to Russia in the 2011 Quarter-Finals, the Americans have reeled off 18 straight wins by an average winning margin of 32.3 points to go along with the 2013 and 2015 titles in undefeated fashion.
It will be interesting to see what the United States team looks like. First of all, University of Kentucky coach John Calipari has been rumored to be taking over as head coach of the team. And the USA regularly is a bit younger than other teams because many of the country’s elite players will be entering the NBA Draft - which takes place nine days before the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2017 tips off - or deciding instead to head to their colleges early.
Regardless, the United States team will be the overwhelming favourites coming into Cairo and will have the biggest targets on them.
By David Hein for FIBA.com