A matchup with powerhouse Australia awaits the Philippine national men’s basketball team in the first round of the home-and-away qualifiers for the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
The qualifiers draw conducted in China on Sunday saw Australia, Chinese Taipei and Japan joining Gilas Pilipinas in Group B of the 16-team competition.
The Filipinos haven’t formally qualified yet for the qualifiers, as they first need to win the SEABA Championship that will tip off this week to clinch the lone berth reserved for Southeast Asia. But in the meantime, FIBA put the Philippines in the draw by virtue of being the No.1-ranked team in Southeast Asia.
Australia is making its debut in the Asia zone this year after FIBA’s overhaul of its competition system. The Boomers boast a number of NBA players including Andrew Bogut, Matthew Dellavedova, Patty Mills, Dante Exum, Joe Ingles and Ben Simmons, among others.
But with the schedule of the qualifiers in conflict with the NBA regular season, Australia isn’t expected to feature all of its best players in the games.
Still, Australia, which finished fourth place in the 2016 Rio Olympics, remains to be the top threat in the group.
The home-and-away games, where the squads will play each other twice, are scheduled in November this year, February and June of 2018. Two games are scheduled for each of the three windows. The top three teams from each bracket will enter the next round.
Here are the other draw results:
Group A: China, New Zealand, South Korea, Hong Kong
Group C: Syria, Lebanon, India, Jordan
Group D: Iraq, Qatar, Kazakhstan, Iran