Wednesday, June 30, 2010

FIBA U18 America's Cup -- 2010

Home Court Advantage?
The FIBA America's Cup is the last U18 American Zone qualifying tournament for the U19 World's Cup play next summer. Tournament sites have varied over the years, but Argentina and San Antonio, TX have become favored sites over the past decade. This year was San Antonio's "turn", and the USA squad has capitalized on the home court advantage to clear Group B play with a 3-0 record. But the record is only a hint at the level of domination exercised by the Americans. The scores -- 131-63 over the US Virgin Islands, 114-38 over Mexico, 88-67 over Argentina -- convey a much better sense of how the Americans have handled the field so far. International basketball competition tends to produce either very close or very large margins of victory for USA teams, at times in the same tournament, but the Argentina scoring difference (a 21 point margin of victory) is a strong indication that this USA team is here to win. The Argentines beat the U18 American team in the 2008 America's Cup, held in Formosa, Argentina, in July. The Argentines, led by Temple guard Juan Fernandez, handed the Americans a 77-64 defeat...and a silver medal. A "four factors" look at the tournament through Group play...

Puerto RicoA81.9-23.576.838.531.521.1
US V. IslandsB85.7-

Puerto RicoA81.9-23.5100.351.633.341.1
US V. IslandsB85.7-33.1112.153.739.839.8

the USA, Argentina, Brazil and Canada will advance out of group play to compete (single elimination rounds) for the gold, silver and bronze medals. Those four teams all qualified for the 2011 U19 FIBA World Cup with victories on Sunday night (a full round before the end of group play). The Efficiency Difference is calculated by subtracting the Defensive Efficiency from the Offensive Efficiency (ED = OE - DE). Pace (possessions) are calculated using Oliver's basic formula (FGA + TO - OR + (0.45 * FTA). I have tweaked the free throw constant (0.45) a bit over the college game because the teams seem to get to the line less frequently than their American Collegiate counterparts. Like the 2008 American's Cup, nearly everyone, host team excepted, has shooting problems.

The Medal/Placement Rounds
The USA will play Canada, the #2 seed out of Group A, while Argentina will face Brazil. The possession-based stats suggest the Canadians are the stronger team in Group A, but the Canadians lost their last pool game to Brazil, 83-78, to draw the USA in the medal round. Puerto Rico will face the US Virgin Islands and Uruguay will play Mexico to kick off a two round series that will determine places #5 through #8 in this field. If the Group B results are a true reflection of the field, the Argentines may well have been team USA's most competitive game. The Americans may see them again in the Finals Round. Of course single elimination tournaments have been known to produce surprises...

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