The 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup draw will take place this Saturday at 6:30 a.m. ET from Shenzhen Bay Arena in Shenzhen, China.
The ungodly hour aside, what happens Saturday morning will be a significant moment for Canada Basketball, and potentially, the future direction of the men’s national program.
How so, you ask? And how exactly will Saturday’s draw, and this summer’s FIBA World Cup, work in general? Have no fear. This FAQ is designed to help you navigate the murky waters of FIBA’s flagship event and what Saturday means now, and going forward, for Canada’s men’s program.
When and where will the 2019 World Cup take place?
The 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup will take place in China beginning Aug. 31, concluding Sept. 15. It will consist of 32 countries.
Canada is among a group of a seven-nation contingent from the Americas region. The others regions are Europe, which has 12 entrants, Africa (five) and Asia and Oceania (eight), a region that features the host China.
The tournament will be played across eight different Chinese cities: Beijing, Dongguan, Foshan, Guangzhou, Nanjing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Wuhan.
The final will take place in Beijing.
What’s unique about the 2019 World Cup?
For the first time in this event’s history, it will also serve as an Olympic qualifier, in this case for Tokyo 2020.
At the moment, the only country assured to be take part in the next Olympic basketball tournament is host nation Japan, leaving 11 remaining spots up for grabs. Of those 11, seven will determined based on results at this summer’s World Cup, while the reaming four will be determined in four separate last-chance qualification tournaments, consisting of six countries each taking place July 24 to Aug. 9, 2020.
This handy graphic below breaks it all down nicely:
If Canada is going to qualify for the Olympics via the World Cup, it needs to finish as one of the two best teams from the Americas region in the tournament which, should the United States take the tournament seriously, mean finishing ahead of the five other Americas region countries: Argentina, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.
If Canada isn’t one of the two best Americas-region teams, if it finishes among the top 16 next best teams in the World Cup they will automatically for one of the last-chance qualifying tournaments next summer. If Canada isn’t among those 16 teams, it can only hope to be among one of eight nations FIBA will grant a last-chance qualifier tournament berth to.
Make no mistake, the World Cup is a big deal, but the Olympics is an even bigger event. The fact that the two are now closely intertwined is what will make the 2019 event so thrilling.
How will the World Cup draw work?
The 32 teams have been broken up into eight pots of four teams and will then be split up into eight different groups of four teams each during the tournament proper.
On Friday, FIBA unveiled what the eight pots will look like, with Canada in Pot 6.
Here are the pots! Find out the final groups tomorrow during the #FIBAWC draw!
— Basketball World Cup (@FIBAWC) March 15, 2019
In order to strike balance among the group stage of the tournament, Pots 1, 4, 5 and 8 will feed Groups A, C, E and G, while Pots 2, 3, 6 and 7 will feed Groups B, D, F and H. This means Canada, coming from Pot 6, will be in one of Groups B, D, E or G to start to the tournament.
The United States is in Pot 1, meaning Canada can’t be grouped with them.
And in a further effort to strike balance, teams from the same region can’t be placed in the same group. So, from a Canadian perspective, this means it can’t be put into the same group as Argentina or Brazil, countries who are in pots that also will be fed into the same groups as Canada.
What is the format of the tournament itself?
The World Cup is broken up into three phases: Two group stages and a final bracket stage.
The first group stage, which will take place from Aug. 31 to Sept. 5, will see the top two teams from each of the eight preliminary groups advance to the second group stage, with the bottom two teams from each group moving into a classification round for places 17-32.
This graphic below shows where each of the groups will play:
Taking place from Sept. 6-9, the second group stage sees the top two teams from each group in the first stage split into four new groups, with the top two teams from each of these four new groups advancing to the quarter-finals. The bottom two teams in this second group stage will be eliminated from the tournament and ranked in places 9-16.
The final stage is an elimination bracket beginning with the quarter-finals, taking place Sept. 10-15. The losers of the quarter-finals will play classification games for places 5-8.
What’s the best/worst case group scenario for Canada?
Canada will enter the tournament as the No. 23 ranked basketball nation in the world, according to the latest FIBA rankings.
Despite its relatively low-looking ranking, Canada should enter the tournament with some confidence as it finished with an Americas-qualifiers best plus-282 point differential during the qualification process while playing higher-ranked countries such as Brazil and the Dominican Republic.
Now that we know how the pots shake out, we know that Canada will be in a group that features one of Serbia, Lithuania or Greece from Pot 2, Russia, Australia or Italy from Pot 3 (the amount of European teams means there can be more than one in a group) and any one of the teams from Pot 7 (Nigeria, Senegal, New Zealand or Angola).
Based on these possibilities — and their FIBA rankings — here are the best and worst case groups for Canada following the draw:
Greece (No. 8)
Italy (No. 13)
Canada (No. 23)
Angola (No. 39)
Serbia (No. 4)
Russia (No. 10)
Canada (No. 23)
Nigeria (No. 33)
Make no mistake, this will be a challenging tournament for the Canadians from the get-go.
What’s next for Canada following the draw?
The next step for Canada after the draw will be attempting to assemble what could be the most talented roster in Canadian basketball history.
The task will fall on Canada GM Rowan Barrett. It’s a big task, but in the absence of no player coming out and announcing they won’t play for Canada, for now, the sky is the limit.
“We’re building something, we’re developing something,” Barrett told Sportsnet’s Michael Grange. “And now we have the opportunity for the first time to really put it on the world stage and really see where we stack up.”
This will be a long process and no Canadian is guaranteed to suit up — for a variety of reasons — but that’s for Barrett to navigate and to ensure that Canada puts the best team possible on the floor in China.