Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Power Rankings – FIBA


SYDNEY (Australia) – With the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 only now a month or so away, it’s time to check back in with an updated Power Rankings and the third volume. 
The  first volume of the Power Rankings were drawn up before the Qualifying Tournaments back in February 2022 and then updated with volume 2 after the field for Sydney was set.
This third volume focuses strongly on the draw for the competition and what looks to be a ‘Group of Death’ in respect of Pool B. The rankings will be updated again on the eve of the tournament when more rosters have been confirmed. 


FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 37th

Is it a case of the glass being half full or half empty for Mali? They were delighted to be given what is only their second ever appearance at the event, but have been thrown into the ‘Group of Death’ and every game will be so tough. They might have fancied their chances in Group A for example against Korea, but instead have some seriously tough games and will have to be at their very best.

The experience of Touty Gandega will be important for underdogs Mali
Sika Kone will be top of every opponents’ scouting report after her heroic displays at the  Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade. They will be huge underdogs but Mali almost beat Nigeria with a great comeback in February. They have to get other players stepping up to support the jewel in their crown aka Kone. Touty Gandega’s experience will be vital, butt it’s tough seeing them getting a win.
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 17th 
Probably relieved to be in Group A, rather than Group B like Mali, it’s time for Puerto Rico to show they can at least be super  competitive on the global stage. Winless at the 2018 edition and off the pace at Tokyo 2020, they need to show ,more. But that task will be difficult if Jazmon Gwathmey is not available, since there is an injury concern which threatens her availability for Sydney.
Jennifer O’Neill scored more than 11 points per game at Tokyo 2020
She’s the anchor, so it would be a big blow if she misses out. At least they have enlisted a naturalized option in Mya Holingshead which bolsters their roster. They need Jennifer O’Neill back firing on all cylinders as scoring will be the issue – along with defending bigger teams in the post. It looks tough, but Puerto Rico have surely learned from the last couple of tournaments and will be better.
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 13th
You could argue that with Puerto Rico now in Korea’s group, their prospects of getting a long overdue win in this competition havre improved.  They were winless in 2018 and also 2014 – a distant feeling from the positivity of other times further back in their history when they challenged and made deep runs. With Jisu Park they have a world class talent and her display in Belgrade was seriously epic. Danbi Kim will use the event as her career swansong and that know-how will be as important as ever.
Danbi Kim may decide that this is the last event in a Korea vest having confirmed she will not play Women’s AsiaCup again
The one massive problem for Korea remains their lack of overall shooting accuracy from the backcourt and the wings – perhaps combined with a lack of that killer instinct needed at the highest level, as well as consistency. You never quite know what you will get. On their day and playing well, they can hurt you, but too often there are no cameos to support Park. The jury is out on their prospects.
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 6th
France should be higher – right? Well, maybe. But reputation and tradition counts for absolutely nothing unless you produce the goods on the floor. They were somewhere between poor and mediocre at the Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade when played off the court by China and then sustaining a shock defeat to Nigeria. Yes, they were without Sandrine Gruda who is their marquee player and a legend, but at this stage, even her return might not be enough to fix some issues. France has much depth under the basket, that is true.
France will welcome back Sandrine Gruda, but have issues in the backcourt and their group is tough.
But an already thin-looking backcourt has been further hit by the recent withdrawl of Olivia Epoupa. Throw in the fact that Valeriane Vukusavljevic won’t be coming back to the wing and the fact that France is in this ‘Group of Death,’ there is much for head coach Jean-Aime Toupane to think about. Right now, it seems a long, long time since they took that Olympic bronze in Tokyo.
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 26th 
It’s all about JJ aka Jonquel Jones. Still. Yes, having one of the best ballers in the global game as your centerpiece has transformed Bosnia and Herzegovina into a bonafide team capable of causing upsets. That was seen by their 5th place finish at the FIBA Women’s EuroBasket last year and their super win against Japan in Osaka back in February at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup Qualifying Tournament. 
Jonquel Jones will be one of the most watched and talked about ballers in Sydney
The other upside is that the draw has been kind to them. On paper at least. The first-timers will expect to get at least two group wins against Puerto Rico and Korea, making more history. The danger is that they have all their eggs in the Jones basket, but as long as she is available and not in foul trouble, they are tough. Especially with Marica Gajic and Nikolina Knezevic alongside her. 
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 10th
It’s a modest drop of one place for Serbia based simply on the fact they are in Group B. Something that means this mind-blowing sentence reading ‘At least one of Serbia, Canada, Japan, France and Australia will go home early. That is guaranteed.’ Yes, it’s going to be the group to watch for sure. We will truly get to see how much of a void, the now retired Sonja Vasic and Jelena Brooks have left.
                            Sasa Cado came up with a huge block in the closing seconds against Korea in the Qualifying Tournament
Serbia used home advantage well in the FIBA Women’s Qualifying Tournament to punch their ticket and win their group. Once again, the muscle of Tina Krajisnik under the basket and the dynamic Yvonne Anderson in the backcourt will be hugely important. But as Belgrade showed, Serbia are a true team, with Dragana Stankovic terrific before getting injured and Sasa Cado coming up with that amazing block to help beat Korea in a tense and tricky tie. Anything is possible!
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 4th 
If we get more of what we saw in Osaka at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup Qualifying Tournament  earlier this year, then we can continue to be excited for what lies in store for Canada. The evolution under new head coach Victor Lapena may now even gather more momentum after he ended his association with club side Fenerbahce to solely focus on the Canada role. If this more dynamic, quicker and aggressive approach persists, they could do some damage.

 Natalie Achonwa is the anchor for Canada at both ends of the court
Bridget Carleton has shown she can be a big-time baller for her country, with Natalie Achonwa always a force too. So, why the drop of a place? Well, cut and paste the answer to the question posed for Serbia. Yes, Group B is going to be seriously challenging. Plus, there have been some doubts over Kia Nurse who missed Osaka through injury. Now, let’s see what preparation throws up for Canada.
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 5th 
Belgium suffers a fall merely due to the rise of Australia above them and nothing much has changed. They had that wobble in the FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2023 Qualifiers when losing to Bosnia and Herzegovina but then recovered at the Qualifying Tournament for Sydney with wins against Russia and Puero Rico. You would expect the Cats to be too strong for Korea, Puerto Rico and maybe to extract revenge on Bosnia and Herzegovina, but USA and China could be tough.
 
Valery Demory will  have to figure out a way to make up for the loss of Kim Mestdagh’s experience and scoring
With the one-two punch of Emma Meesseman and Julie Allemand, they have a proven duo of top class performers, although now they don’t have Kim Mestdagh, those points will need replaced and that will not be easy. The shooting guard was regularly the second or third best scorer on a consistent basis and a pivotal part of the Cats’ rise to prominence. 
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 8th 
What happened at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup Qualifying Tournament in Osaka back in February was the kind of wake-up call that Japan needed. They didn’t quite seem to have the same kind of discipline or edge as usual. After losing to Bosnia and Herzegovina and needing overtime to see off Canada it was not convincing. Throw in the fact that Rui Machida could miss Sydney and the prospects of a medal look to have faded slightly.
Ramu Tokashiki missed Tokyo 2020 and will want to make up for that with a big Sydney performance
On the positive side, Japan has such a vast array of talent and especially from a shooting perspective, that they can bury the very best on any given day. It’s probably the way they cope and react inside the paint defensively that will matter most. There will be a huge onus on Maki Takada, Himawari Akaho and Ramu Tokashiki. If that trio plays well, then they can seriously challenge for the podium.
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 3rd 

The feel good factor is huge for the Opals right now. The Lauren Jackson saga is over and the FIBA Hall of Famer and legend is in the lineup for Sydney with everyone excited to see how she will do! With some really good experience not just from LJ but several other ballers, another medal is not out of the question. The options in the frontcourt look to be excellent with Ezi Magbegor back and tearing it up the WNBA, Bec Allen always a threat, plus Marianna Tolo and Cayla George giving a boost at both ends.
There’s a lot of positive noises about the frontcourt, but guard Sami Whitcomb could have the biggest role 
There was  perhaps still some question marks over the backcourt, although with Sami Whitcomb always willing to step up as she did four years ago when Australia made the title game, the Aussie fans can buy tickets expecting a good show from their team. 
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 7th

Amazing at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade when they went unbeaten and dismantled France in brutal fashion, China has a lot of expectation on their shoulders but they have the talent and competition for places to finally realise their potential. With almost two class players for every position, they have no excuses now and must take a podium finish.
Belgrade  Group MVP Sijing Huang will be a big danger in the 4/3 spots for China
Yueru Li and Xu Han are a great rotation under the basket, forward Sijing Huang was MVP in Serbia back in February, Li Meng is a class act and the guards are always relentless intheir defense, can shoot and penetrate. Liwei Yang in particualr could be ready to have a big tournament. There is still a lot to love about China. They are now in Europe to get some good preparation under their belts.
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike: 1st
Still the team to beat, the nation that sets the standard and has already wrapped up a staggering 10 titles. However, things might feel a little different this time around, without the vast experience of backcourt legends Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi doing their thing in the backcourt. It will be interesting to see what happens in this respect and who picks up the slack and tries to fill this vast void.

2018 MVP Breanna Stewart should be back to lead USA in Sydney
Naturally the USA’s talent pool runs deeper than anyone else’s so they will have the talent to get it done and not least because of their power in the paint and on the wings in particular. They should have Breanna Stewart back in full flight, A’Ja Wilson continuing her red hot form from the WNBA and a multitude of other standout players. The matchup with China might give them a good early test.
*The power rankings are entirely subjective and are in no way a true, accurate ranking system. All comments are purely those of the author.
The FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 Power Rankings are put together by our EXPERT PANEL, led by FIBA’s women’s basketball specialist Paul Nilsen. He eats, sleeps and breathes female hoops and is incredibly passionate about the promotion of the women’s game at all levels. Paul uses an extensive network of players, coaches, clubs and Federations to shape his work and opinions. 

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