Path to Canadian men’s Olympic basketball qualification revealed

The 2015 FIBA Men’s Championship, Zone of the Americas, will take place from August 25 to September 6 in Monterrey, Mexico.

The draw for the preliminary rounds took place last Wednesday. Canada can expect to have a solid men’s team, whose goal is to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio.

Canada will be part of an improved Group B, with Argentina, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. Group A includes Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Brazil and Uruguay. This information can be found on the Canada Basketball website. Canada may be able to put together the best roster it has fielded since the Sydney Summer Olympics.

The official draw ceremony took place on Wednesday, March 25, 2015. Photo: Canada Basketball Twitter.

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The team’s first advantage will be its deep pool of talented players. Head coach Jay Triano will have at his disposal players with a lot of ability.

The Canadian team’s lineup could be led by Andrew Wiggins, who is likely on his way to a Rookie of the Year award in the NBA, a first for a Canadian. At only 20, the Minnesota Timberwolves player is known for his improving offensive power and defensive astuteness ahead of his age. Furthermore, Canada may be particularly effective from downtown, as the three-point line on this international court is closer to the basket than in the NBA.

Jay Triano and his players at the 2013 FIBA Championship.

The team’s general manager and newly retired NBA player Steve Nash could very well see his team bring home an Olympic medal if they get their ticket for Rio, even though they are not favoured to win. Canada’s lack of international experience, as well as their lack of experience as a team, will prove to be challenging.

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The ideal lineup on paper would be Cory Joseph and Nik Stauskas in the back court, Andrew Wiggins at small forward, and Kelly Olynyk with Tristan Thompson pounding the boards. Tyler Ennis, Andrew Nicholson, Anthony Bennett, as well as Robert Sacre could all be key components of Team Canada.

Above all, Nash, Triano and assistant general manager Rown Barrett will have to juggle the thirty or so available players after Toronto’s Pan Am Games in July in order to put together the best possible lineup.

Cory Joseph at the 2013 FIBA Championship, where the Canadian team finished in sixth place.

The last time Canada competed at the FIBA Championship was in 2013, when the team finished in sixth place. The team had previously taken fourth place in 2009 and in 2003, when Nash had been named the tournament’s most valuable player. In 1999, with players like Nash and Barrett, Canada had reached the final, thereby automatically qualifying for Sydney 2000.

If Canada does not manage to reach the final in Mexico, this tournament provides the country with another opportunity to earn a spot at Rio. However, they will still need to finish in third, fourth or fifth place. These three teams will be invited to a tournament in the summer of 2016, a month prior to the Games, where the three best teams out of the twelve competing will get their Olympic tickets stamped.

At FIBA, the four best teams from Group B will qualify for the second round and will be pitted against the four strongest teams from Group A. It is very likely that Mexico and Brazil will be there. Then, the four winning teams will meet in the semifinals.

Reaching the final involves a total of nine games played in up to twelve days. At the end of this tournament, the two finalists will receive a direct bye to Rio.