On Tuesday, FIBA conducted the group draw for the 12 countries represented in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan for both the women’s and men’s tournaments in Mies, Switzerland. The games will start on July 25 and end on Aug. 7.
Women’s Tournament: USA in Group B, Belgium and Australia in Group C
Here are the groupings in text along with the team’s FIBA world ranking:
Group A: No. 3 Spain, No. 4 Canada, No. 8 Serbia, No. 19 Korea
Group B: No. 1 United States, No. 5 France, No. 10 Japan, No. 14 Nigeria
Group C: No. 2 Australia, No. 6 Belgium, No. 9 China, No. 22 Puerto Rico
As you might expect, the USA is favored to win the Gold Medal regardless of what group they are in, which is B in this case. France will be the only country who can provide a competitive match in this stage.
Since we’re based in D.C., we’ll focus on what this means for the players on the Washington Mystics and Wizards.
For the women’s tournament and Team USA in particular, Elena Delle Donne has played on two Olympic teams for the Americans in 2012 and 2016. We can expect to see her a third time this summer if she is up for it. Also, it is possible that Ariel Atkins may also get a spot on the team since she has played in AmeriCup qualifiers before, but she remains a long shot because the top American women’s players generally do play for the Olympic and/or World Cup teams.
Belgium will be in the same group with Australia (Group C), who were the bronze medalists in the 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup. We can expect to see Emma Meesseman represent the Belgian Cats as they face off against fellow Mystic Leilani Mitchell and the Australian Opals. Mitchell was on the 2014 and 2018 World Cup teams and should be on the Olympic team as well, considering that she was expected to be on it last year if the coronavirus pandemic didn’t hit. I say that both teams should make it to the elimination round.
Men’s Tournament: Japan in Group C, USA in Group A
Here are the groupings for the men’s tournament:
Group A: No. 1 United States, No. 6 France, No. 23 Iran, (Winner of a Victoria, Canada-based tournament between No. 7 Greece, No. 11 Czech Republic, No. 21 Canada, No. 25 Turkey, No. 28 China, No. 43 Uruguay)
Group B: No. 3 Australia, No. 22 Nigeria, (Winner of a Split, Croatia-based tournament between No. 9 Russia, No. 10 Brazil, No. 14 Croatia, No. 17 Germany, No. 24 Mexico, No. 33 Tunisia), and (Winner of a Belgrade, Serbia-based tournament between No. 5 Serbia, No. 12 Italy, No. 18 Puerto Rico, No. 19 Dominican Republic, No. 25 New Zealand, No. 35 Senegal)
Group C: No. 2 Spain, No. 4 Argentina, No. 41 Japan, (Winner of a Kaunas, Lithuania-based tournament between No. 8 Lithuania, No. 13 Poland, No. 16 Slovenia, No. 20 Venezuela, No. 30 Korea, No. 32 Angola)
If you are following the qualifiers to the men’s Olympic tournament closely, you will notice that the final 12-team field hasn’t been selected yet. Unlike the women’s tournament, where all spots minus the defending World Cup champion and Japan, the host were determined at a continental tournament like the AmeriCup, only some of the men’s tournament spots were determined at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup while Japan hosts.
There are four groups of six teams still fighting for a spot with those tournaments happening from June 22 to July 4. Most of the teams are from FIBA Europe, the best continent in men’s basketball based on the rankings.
Since Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura has played for Japan in the 2019 World Cup and is one of the country’s most famous athletes, he will be on the Olympic team barring injury. That said, Japan will have a rough time being in the same group with Spain, the defending World Cup champions and Argentina.
As for the USA, they finished in seventh place in the World Cup, behind some teams that aren’t officially in the Olympics and are competing for spots in these tournaments. But the Americans still qualified for the games because they had the second-highest finish among all teams from FIBA Americas. Argentina finished second in the World Cup and was the FIBA Americas “winner.”
Group A, the USA’s group will be competitive since they will play against France who beat them in the quarterfinals of the 2019 World Cup. Though the USA has the most talent in men’s basketball, many of the top American NBA players don’t play in the Olympics. This year, it will be difficult, though not impossible for players on national teams making the NBA Finals to play in Tokyo due to the current season ending in July.
Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook are the Wizards players officially in consideration for the USA men’s team, according to a release in Feb. 2020. They may have a pretty good chance to make the team, in part because the Wizards are almost definitely not making the Finals. Westbrook was part of the USA team that won the Gold Medal in 2012, but Beal has yet to participate officially in senior international play.
Is it possible that the Olympics will be cancelled due to the coronavirus?
There are reports saying that the Olympics may be cancelled, so it’s possible.
However, it’s not official yet. So for now, we’re assuming the games are going on until otherwise. If the current NBA season is being played in front of mostly fan-less arenas, it isn’t unreasonable to think that a Tokyo Olympics can be played in front of empty stands as well.