Tuesday, June 28, 2011

FIBA U19 2011 World Championship -- The Field is Set

16 Teams, Three Stages
The FIBA U19 World Championship field includes 16 teams (see Preliminary Pool below). FIBA will operate this tournament in three phases to determine the champion and set the finish for each participating team. ;

The pool for the preliminary round will include four groups (A, B, C & D) of four teams each:

Group AGroup BGroup CGroup D
TunisiaTaiwanSouth KoreaUSA

The first preliminary round will have each group play three games, round robin style, with the other teams in the group. The top three teams from each group will be reorganized into two groups (E & F) of six teams each (Groups A & B will be assigned to Group E; Groups C & D will be assigned to Group F) for a second sequence of three games against the three teams from the other original group (A teams will play B teams; C teams will play D teams). The four teams not assigned to a second round group will play a two round classification sequence to determine places #13 - #16 in the tournament. The USA schedule for the first preliminary round is below; all first preliminary round games can be found at the USA Basketball and the FIBA World Cup sites. Team USA will play all three Group D games in Liepaja, Latvia...

Est. Time
06/30/11 ThursEgypt9:00am
07/01/11 Fri.Serbia9:00am
07/02/11 Sat.China11:15am

Note start times are given in Eastern Daylight Savings time, approximately -7GMT from the time scheduled in Latvia.

From the second round of group play, the top four teams from Groups E & F (eight teams total) will advance to the medal round to play a quarterfinal game against an opponent from the other group (each group will be seeded for quarterfinal play). The winners will advance to the semi-finals, the losers will play a two round classification match for places #5 - #8. The last two teams from Groups E & F will advance to a two game classification round to determine places #9 - #12. Medal round quarterfinal winners will advance to a semi-final round, the semi-final winners to play for #1 and #2 place (gold and silver), while the semi-final losing teams play for places #3 and #4 (bronze and fourth place).

Sorting Out the Field in Groups C, D & F Play
A single loss in either of the two preliminary round robin phases would not, depending on the standing of the other teams in the group, doom Team USA to a classification round game in the third phase of the tournament. Since four teams will advance out of Group F, more than likely spots #3 and #4 (F3 and F4 in the medal round quarterfinal) will be settled on points and tie-breakers. A lower seed going into the quarterfinal medal round would not be fatal, but it would mean facing three (should Team USA continue to win...) of the most competitive teams in the field in the last three games. Team USA should advance out of Group D, the game with Serbia serving as an early indication of how the team will fare against the more competitive teams they will encounter in Group E (and medal round?) games. Canada, Croatia and Lithuana should advance out of Group C. Both Crotia and Canada advanced to the medal round(s) in the 2009 U19 tournament before falling to Team USA. The Team USA-Team Lithuania exhibition game being played today (Tuesday June 28) in Vilnius, Lithuania should give a hint on how that second round, Group F, matchup should go. Though Team Canada and Team Croatia should be capable of surprises, it is the games with Teams Lithuania and Serbia that will determine whether Team USA can advance to the medal rounds with a #1 or #2 Group F seed, or finish the tournament in a classification game.

Other Teams & Matchups of Interest
Group A teams that should advance to Group E include Poland, Russia and Brazil. Given the proximity of the tournament, expect both Poland and Russia (and Lithuania), along with host Latvia to enjoy a home court advantage against teams from outside the Baltic region. Poland and Russia in particular should be worth following, but Team Brazil, which finished strongly in the U18 competition last year (and returns the nucleus of that team) maybe the surprise candidate and advance to the medal round at the expense of one of the European teams. Out of Group B, expect Argentina, Australia and host Latvia to advance. How far can the hometown crowds carry Team Latvia? Over the past few years, Team Latvia has finished FIBA zone and world tournaments somewhere in the middle of the field...they may get to the Medal Round quarterfinals (beyond typical expectations), but most likely fight for a place in the #5-#10 standings. The older age classification teams for Argentina have done better in international competition than the younger teams. Matchups with the Poles and Russians (and Brazilians) in the Group E round should be a good barometer on how far the Argentines can go. Team Australia advanced by sweeping a very small field in the Oceania Zone, their games against Argentina and Latvia should provide a preview on how far the Emus can advance beyond Group E play.

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