Gilas' road to China

Gilas will have to undergo a long process of joining China in the FIBA World Cup.
FIBA (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

WITH the Philippines losing to China for the hosting right of the 2019 FIBA World Cup, Gilas will now have to take the long road to get one of the remaining 31 spots for the said tournament.

But unlike the previous qualifications, the national team's journey will become longer (and maybe tougher). Let's take a look at the new format.

The 2015 FIBA Asia Championship will be the last continental tournament that will have a bearing on either the Olympics or the FIBA World Cup as separate tournaments will now be played for the slots available for the said competitions. Beginning 2017, the FIBA Asia Championship will now only be for bragging rights and will be played every four years.

After the 2017 FIBA Asia Championship, a qualification tournament for the FIBA World Cup similar to that of the FIFA World Cup will take place for six months from November of the FIBA Asia Championship year to February of the FIBA World Cup year.

By that time, the merger of FIBA Asia and FIBA Oceania will officially take effect and will be known as FIBA Asia-Pacific. The merger was proposed because the FIBA Oceania region has been dominated by Australia and New Zealand and that this will give the smaller nations more competitive games to gauge their basketball capabilities.

For the new FIBA Asia-Pacific region, seven slots for the FIBA World Cup are at stake. The way of making the Top 7 will be known at a later date.

Like the previous editions, the FIBA World Cup champion will gain an automatic berth in the Summer Olympics along with the host nation, but its inverse has been scrapped off, that is, the Olympic gold medalist will not anymore gain an automatic entry to the FIBA World Cup and will still undergo the qualifiers. Meanwhile, a tournament to be held every June of the Summer Olympic year will determine the other Olympic qualifiers.

Qualification for the FIBA Asia Championship will now be in the format similar to that of the FIBA World Cup qualifying.

Some analysis:

1. The FIBA World Cup will now have an expanded field as an additional eight slots are on the line. In the 2014 edition, three Asian teams and two Oceania teams made it. With the soon-to-be-merged mega-region given seven slots for the tournament and with Australia and New Zealand likely to reign among the Oceania nations anew, I can deduce that two (or even three if either Australia or New Zealand falters) more Asian nations will be going to China.

2. Gilas will now play its fellow Asia-Pacific powerhouses more often. And with the others getting the same treatment, the likelihood of having a "group of death" is now bigger.

3. Taking a look at the six FIBA World Cup qualifying months, only one (September of the year before the FIBA World Cup) falls in the club league offseason (FIBA encourages all professional leagues to have their season between October and June). With the other games falling on league months, it may force the PBA and even the CBA and the other Asian-based pro leagues to adjust their calendars. Even the NBA, a club league sanctioned by FIBA Americas, is not exempted from this, especially that February is usually its All-Star Month.

Bonus (not Gilas-related): Speaking of the NBA, with Team USA perennially lording over the Olympics like how it lords over the FIBA World Cup, going through the FIBA World Cup qualifying despite winning an Olympic gold may sound weird. Anyway, FIBA Americas will have seven representatives to the FIBA World Cup, and USA is expected to be one of them. Still, it may force Coach Mike Krzyzewski to bring in his "Team A" (many say that Team USA only brings its "Team B" in the FIBAWC).

In summary, Gilas' road to China may sound easier but is actually tougher. This is the real gauge if "Puso 2019" will really prevail.