Only three more days remain in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, beginning with the quarterfinals today. Can Iran run the tables and finish undefeated? Can host Philippines get past its first-round matchup? Will South Korea’s hot streak continue? Is Yi Jianlian completely recovered from an injury that forced him to sit four games?
Iran (6-0) vs. Jordan (3-3), 3 pm
Hamed Haddadi is my round robin MVP. The 7-2 big man with a fair NBA resume has been nothing short of dominant during the tournament, averaging 17 points and 8 rebounds in less than 20 minutes of action per game.
Iran, which is undefeated, faces a 3-3 Jordan team that edged Japan on Wednesday to clinch a berth in the quarterfinals. Two years ago, Jordan shocked the Asian basketball world by knocking Iran out in the quarterfinals. Can they do it again?
Buddha’s prediction: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. The only way Iran loses this game is if they beat themselves. Iran + 20
China (4-2) vs. Chinese Taipei (5-1), 5:45 pm
Basketball is a team game, but oftentimes one individual can carry the weight of the 14 others. For China, that individual is Yi Jianlian, who has only played two of his team’s six games. But the good news is he was on the court in China’s last contest against Bahrain, and should play his regular minutes today.
Chinese Taipei has been the Cinderella story of the tournament. Its three top scorers — Qincy Davis, Lin Chih-Chieh and Tien Lei — all average double figures in points. Taipei’s 5-1 record makes it the higher seed against China, but the team has taken the easier road here, having not faced either Iran or South Korea, the two teams that handed China its losses.
Buddha’s prediction: Yi Jianlian will be too much for Taipei. He’ll take over the game in the fourth quarter to seal the win. China +15
Philippines (5-1) vs. Kazakhstan (3-3), 8:30 pm
“I am really thinking that it could be Kazakhstan or South Korea for the Philippines in the quarters and I pray it would be South Korea,” said former Philippines national team coach Rajko Toroman before the tournament began.
Toroman’s wish did not come true.
“Kazakhstan is very scary,” Toroman added about the team that went toe-to-toe with China for 39.5 out of 40 minutes. “If I have a choice, I will pick Korea. The Kazakhs are working doubly good. They have a European coach, nine of his national players are playing in the same team [back home].”
This has all the makings to be the best match of the quarterfinals.
It’s safe to say most of the Philippines will be tuned in for this. Kazakhstan’s coach has already stated that he’s looking forward to playing in front of a sell-out crowd.
The Philippines will have to stop Kazakhstan’s lethal point guard, Jerry Johnson, while the Kazakhs will look to slow down Gilas Pilipinas’ uptempo style.
Buddha’s prediction: A few big dunks from the Philippine squad might cause a slight earthquake in Manila, but I think the weight of a nation causes the Gilas to crumble own the stretch. Shocker alert: Kazakhstan +5
South Korea (5-1) vs. Qatar (4-1), 10:30 pm
If Haddadi is the tournament’s top player, then Jae-Hak Yoo is the top coach. What Yoo has done with his Korean squad has been nothing short of impressive. Orchestrating set plays with a blitz of off-ball screens has allowed his players to get easy looks at the basket.
Yoo deserves credit for having four players shooting above 50 percent from the floor.
Qatar is no pushover, especially not with Jarvis Hayes, a seven-year NBA veteran, on its roster. Hayes will have to take over the game offensively if Qatar is to have any chance of keeping up with the speedy and streaky Koreans.
Buddha’s prediction: Qatar will need a Manila miracle to pull out a victory over the red-hot Koreans. Korea +12.