As well as discussed last week, The FIBA Men’s Basketball Olympic Qualifiers are underway this week and will run until July 4, determining each of the four final teams to compete in Tokyo this summer.
As of Day 1, the show-stealers were Team Canada, who entered the Victoria-based qualifier with the most talented NBA of the six teams, even though they are currently ranked No. 21 in the world, back, in particular. Greece at No. 6, which they defeated yesterday evening 97-91. Both teams, and apparently everyone else in the qualifiers, are missing some of their top guys, such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and his brother Thanasis for Greece, as well as Jamal Murray and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for Canada. However, it has been a growing notion that Team Canada tends to become an international basketball powerhouse, and although it has yet to be demonstrated, it is difficult to dismiss them after last night.
A few weeks ago, probability of bet on Bovada he classified Greece as an underdog of +2500 to win gold at the Olympics and Canada at +10,000, but it was not relevant yesterday.
Andrew Wiggins, RJ Barrett, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker combined for 63 of Canada’s points. Wiggins rated the offensive effort with a team of the best 23 points on 9-for-16 shooting from the field and 3-for-6 from three. Barrett scored 22 points, 19 of which came in the second half, on shot 8 of 14, hitting 7 for 8 from two and 5 for 7 from the free throw line. Alexander-Walker, who came off the bench, added 18 points on a 7-for-12 display.
Other current NBA players who appeared to represent the Canadian roster were Luguentz Dort, Dwight Powell, Cory Joseph, Mychal Mulder and Trey Lyles. In fact, everyone on the Canadian team has played in the NBA except for Aaron Doornekamp and Trae Bell-Haynes, who are both productive international players. Of the outstanding NBA alumni on the Canada team: The No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft, Anthony Bennett.
Canada is as talented as any of the 23 teams (Senegal is left out because of four positive COVIDs) fighting for the last four places. For talent they’ve become in the last 20 years – coach Nick Nurse calls him golden age of Canadian basketball – have not appeared in the Olympics since 2000. This list was highlighted by RJ’s father, Rowan Barrett, and RJ’s father, Steve Nash, alongside then-Philadelphia 76er Todd MacCulloch and the top scorer. Michael Meeks. Part of the reason for Team Canada’s continued absence is that, well, of the nearly 170 men’s ranked teams in the world, only 12 qualify for the Olympics, making it nearly impossible to be a recurring participant. And, on top of that, world basketball is incredibly difficult, but those rooted for Team USA probably don’t realize it.
How far Canada could go is a fun discussion because of the numerous young NBA talents on their roster who are starting to break into the league, and even overseas. They finished seventh in the year 2000 after advancing to the knockout stages, and given the unpredictability surrounding this season’s basketball, they could launch another special race.
In Victoria Group B, Turkey defeated Uruguay 95-86 yesterday and will play the Czech Republic today in a match-up that will likely determine the team to beat between the group.