Enough with the arbitrary rankings argument

Yesterday we found out that Finland would be playing in the 2014 World Cup of Basketball. Some people were upset because of Angry Birds but plenty thought Finland’s FIBA ranking meant they were undeserving. Emmet Ryan has a problem with these arguments, especially the latter.

We’ve got a pretty intelligent readership. You guys understand concepts like ELO rankings, used for chess, and how they are based on pretty heavy amounts of data. International basketball doesn’t use an ELO system and even if they did, they wouldn’t have the data to back it up. In simple terms, there really aren’t a lot of games played internationally. We live in a what have you done for me lately world not by choice but by necessity. The rankings don’t recognise said need. These rankings place China, losing quarter finalists in AsiaBasket, at 12th in the world. Turkey who, since finishing second at the 2010 World Cup (which they hosted) are 7th despite being utter turkeys in international play in the years since. Great Britain, a team for whom this writer has a heavy bias in their favour, sit 22nd by virtue of automatically qualifying for the 2012 Olympics having never got past the first stage of EuroBasket.

Yet yesterday we saw some good basketball writers lean on Finland’s ranking of 39th in the world as a reason to leave them out, ignoring their superior performances to Turkey in the last two EuroBaskets. Now don’t get me wrong, having a wild card system is a joke in and of itself but we’ll get to that in a second. If you exclude the Finns, you simply have to drop Turkey because they have been objectively worse for the last three years.

Were merit the deciding factor, I’d have sent Italy and Canada to Spain but even there we need to apply a giant caveat. The selections of those two teams is based only on what they did in 2013 on the court. Were there no wild cards, the complexion of the qualifying system would have unquestionably be different. Italy and Canada delivered their performances in full knowledge of the off-court route of qualification.

Now about that off-court route. Let’s assume nobody here likes the idea of basically buying your way into a world championship. Ideally we don’t see that option. That however was the situation and it immediately weighted the playing field on off-court criteria in favour of certain nations. TV rights and audiences make larger nations more appealing to FIBA. What the Finns did was no different in terms of its objective and basketball value to Greece, Turkey, Russia, or anyone else. The only difference was they hustled hard and found a way to make up for their deficiencies in conventional resources. If they couldn’t deliver TV, they could deliver something. The Angry Birds are that something. You may find it a novelty but as the most popular mobile download in the world. it’s a big place to put some ads.

The rankings suck, off-court factors mattering suck, Finland sure as hell don’t suck. They play fun ball and they made what should have been a dull wild card process interesting. Good for the Susijengi.

We’ll have an interview with one of Finland’s bid team up next week, I have to hold it for a piece I’m working on for my day job.


FIBA Facing World Cup Wild Card Dilemma

Greece’s double-overtime loss to Croatia compounded a problem that has been growing for FIBA since the continental tournament season began. Who gets the four wildcards?

Who says you can’t get too much of a good thing? FIBA has four World Cup wildcard slots to award and plenty of willing suitors. Whatever happens, somebody is going to be upset. The headache for FIBA began at the FIBA Asia Championship where China, went out in the quarter finals to Chinese Taipei. That made on of the big draws in world basketball and immediate front runner for a wildcard spot.

Fast forward a few weeks to the FIBA AfroBasket and two of last year’s Olympic participants, Nigeria and Tunisia, failed to secure a bid for the World Cup. As it stood there was actually a reasonable chance that one of these sides would get a wildcard. There just needed to be no major upsets in the Tournament of the Americas or EuroBasket.

Yeah about that. Brazil went 0-4 in Venezuela, leaving the 2016 Olympic hosts in need of a wildcard to make the World Cup. Canada, with a NBA stacked roster, almost did FIBA a solid. The Maple Leaf nation looked on course to secure an automatic spot but lost its last two games to come fifth, one place short of an automatic ticket to Spain next year. So far so crazy but it took EuroBasket to turn this into a full-on migraine.

The first round saw Germany, Russia, and Turkey, all fall. Turkey hosted the last World Cup and Turkish companies, Beko and Turkish Airlines most notably, provide major sponsorship to the sport in Europe. Russia is Russia and Germany’s Bundesliga has brass across the world excited by its development. Things were pretty bad as they stood before Monday. Then Greece lost in double overtime to Croatia, ending their involvement in EuroBasket. With that defeat, the Greeks joined the list of teams FIBA would like in the World Cup that failed to qualify automatically. Let’s go through these teams in the order they fell to see their shot at earning a reprieve.
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March Madness: Taylor, Kilicli, Harris, Somogyi headline Euros in NCAA tourney day one

Taylor drives Vanderbilt

You may have heard that across the ocean, they’re tipping off something called The NCAA Basketball Tournament, a.k.a. March Madness. BallinEurope naturally has one eye on The Big Dance with feet grounded on The Continent. Happily, Europe is decently represented in the tournament and, after looking over the rosters, BiE definitely now has installed his personal favorites to take it all (since beloved alma mater University of New Mexico did not receive an invite).

Today, then, a brief look at the 13 Europeans participating in today’s first round action.

Headlining the Europack is definitely Vanderbilt’s Jeffery Taylor. Hailing from Norrkoping, Sweden, the junior averaged a fantastic line of 15.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.7 stocks (steals plus blocks, stat category courtesy Bill Simmons) – all career highs excepting the boards – while representing the centerpiece of the Commodores’ offense after packing 25 pounds on during the offseason.

Worse yet for Vandy opponents Richmond: Local media covering the SEC tournament report that Taylor has found “a part of his game that has been missing at times this season,” namely aggressiveness – to the tune of 20.66 points per in three tourney games on 19-of-27 shooting on twos. “I think before [the SEC Tournament], I kind of faded in and out of aggressiveness,” the Swede was quoted as saying. Said aggression would prove useful in the bigger tournament: Vanderbilt has run up a record of 17-3 this season when Taylor scores 15 points or more.

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Ten spots filled for Jordan Brand Classic; two each to Turkey, France, Serbia

Another Jordan Brand Classic Camp is in the books, wrapping in Istanbul, Turkey, yesterday. The camp saw 40 European players dueling on the court (and, in a serious sign of our times, apparently also in media relations) over eight days – including an all-day “presser” – in order to gain an invite to the prestigious Jordan Brand Classic game in New York.

A total of 10 invites were handed out to the under-17s at the camp, and Nike officials have announced that the European representatives in the Jordan Brand Classic game will be Tayfun Erulku (Efes Pilsen) and Talat Altunbey of Turkey; Serbians/FMP Belgrade players Vasilije Micic and Nikola Jankovic; Frenchmen/INSEP players Charly Maraux and Alexandre Chassang; Marius Grigonis (Sabonis Basketball School, Lithuania); Francesco Candussi (Isontina, Italy); Kyprianos Maragkos (Panathinaikos, Greece); and Malik Mueller (Urspringschule, Germany).

Six other international players will be selected to fill out rosters for the “International Game” as part of the third international ‘Classic.

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