Without question, the clearest takeaway from the group rounds of FIBA Asia 2013 has been Iran's dominance. The Iranians are 5-0 and have followed up the momentum they gained in the William Jones Cup with a strong effort in the Philippines.
Led by the stellar play of center Hamed Haddadi, Iran has been too much on the inside for all of its opponents. Rarely has any contest with Iran even been close. The team is winning by an average of 25 points. Most recently, Iran hammered Kazakhstan 85-53 on Wednesday.
This tournament is very top heavy and there is a great deal of distance between the bottom feeders and the teams that will qualify for the FIBA World Cup. Only the top three squads will receive an invite.
As the field trims down to the top eight teams, the competition will get stiffer, but Iran may still prove to be the cream of the crop.
If there are any teams that have a chance to knock off the Iranians, they are listed below.
The Chinese team may have been biding time during the preliminary round. They barely qualified for the second round and looked vulnerable with a 1-2 record heading in.
All the team did was respond by going 3-0 in the second round. What was more impressive was that China went on the run without their best player Jianlian Yi, who has been held out of action with nagging injuries.
It's true, China didn't have to face Iran in the second round, but it may have been holding Yi back for the knockout portion of the tournament. China lost to Iran 70-51 in the preliminaries, but it played without Yi and shot a miserable 26 percent from three-point range in the game.
With better shooting and Yi back in the lineup, things could be different in a rematch, but Iran would still be the favorites.
Korea and Qatar are both 4-1 through group play, but neither team has the size on the inside to contend with Iran. The Philippines not only have the size, but they are also the host country.
The home crowd will be a major factor in every game moving forward and it could help propel them into the finals. The 6'11" Marcus Douthit has the size and defensive prowess to give Haddadi as tough a matchup as anyone in the field.
Douthit is averaging 14.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and two blocked shots
Gilas Pilipinas also has a good balance of outside shooters to vary their attack. Jeffrei Allan Chan and Ranidel de Ocampo have been amazing from three-point range. Both men are shooting over 43 percent from beyond the arc.
If this team gets hot and gets the crowd behind them early, any opponent could be in trouble—even Iran.
Guarding against inconsistency is the biggest potential pitfall for the Philippines. It suffered a letdown in a 84-79 loss to Chinese Taipei on Aug. 3. The latter was on fire from deep making 15-of-30 from long range.
In the second-round finale, the Philippines allowed a lowly Hong Kong team to stay within 12 points. Those two B-level performances causes the Philippines to fall short of being called Iran's biggest threat, but the team has every tool to make a serious run at a first-place finish.
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