MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas has its back pressed against the wall as it seeks to advance to the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
Here is where things stand heading into the sixth and final window of the Asian Qualifiers:
New Zealand* 9-1
*Qualified **Qualified as host ^Eliminated
Host nation China gets an automatic slot, making it a total of 8 countries that will represent the Asia/Ocenia region in the World Cup.
To boost its chances of qualifying, the Philippines must repeat over Qatar on Thursday, February 21 (Friday, February 22, Philippine time) and exact revenge on Kazakhstan on Sunday, February 24, in back-to-back road matches.
However, solely winning those games are not enough.
Here are the scenarios how the Philippines can reach the World Cup for the second straight time:
1. The Philippines reclaims 3rd place
The best chance the Philippines qualifies for the World Cup is by beating both Qatar and Kazakhstan at their home turfs. (READ: Thirdy, Barroca in for Gilas lineup vs Qatar)
It does not stop there, though. The Philippines needs a little help from Japan.
Should Japan lose at least one of its last two assignments against Iran and Qatar, it will end the qualifiers with identical 7-5 records with the Philippines.
By virtue of sweeping Japan in their first-round duels, the Philippines will secure 3rd place in Group F and earn a World Cup spot.
If Japan drops both of its games for a 6-6 record, the Philippines likewise puts a lock on the 3rd spot.
The Philippines can also advance through a three-way tie with Japan and Iran at 7-5.
What the Philippines needs is for Japan to lose to Qatar and beat Iran by at least 8 points and for Iran to also drop its match against Australia.
That way, Japan improves to 2nd place while the Philippines climbs to 3rd and relegates Iran to 4th by way of a superior quotient.
A Japan triumph over Iran 7 points or lower, however, leaves the Philippines in 4th place.
Here is the quotient among the 3 teams before the sixth window:
2. Gilas becomes the best 4th placer
Considering Japan has won 6 straight games behind NBA prospect Rui Hachimura and naturalized player Nick Fazekas, hoping it loses at least one game in the sixth window is a stretch.
If Japan sweeps the sixth window to fortify its place in the top 3, the Philippines must also go undefeated to finish in 4th place and gain a shot as the best 4th placer.
How can the Philippines achieve that?
The Philippines needs China, currently ranked 3rd in Group E, to avoid finishing the qualifiers lower than 4th place.
Since China has an outright World Cup berth and "shall not be included" in determining the final standings, finishing within the top 4 means teams under it – Lebanon and Jordan – will move up the rankings.
If China remains in 3rd place, Lebanon and Jordan occupies either 3rd or 4th depending on how the two teams perform in the sixth window.
Chances are high that China ends up inside the top 4, especially since its last two games are against Jordan and Syria – teams it demolished months back.
With that in mind, what the Philippines must do is win its final two games to improve to 7-5 and hope Lebanon or Jordan finish with an inferior record.
Lebanon will battle New Zealand and Korea while Jordan will tangle with China and New Zealand.
Since the two teams went winless against the aforementioned opponents in the previous windows, there is a high chance Lebanon and Jordan end the qualifiers with 6-6 and 5-7 records, respectively.
That means the Philippines will become the best 4th placer for the last World Cup berth.
What if China falls out of the top 3?
The favorable situation for the Philippines is if China and Lebanon drop all of their sixth window games and Jordan wins one. All will finish with identical 6-6 records.
Since Jordan has a superior quotient over Lebanon, it will improve to 3rd place. Lebanon will then remain in 4th while China, owing to the rule that it shall not be included in determining the final standings, will fall to 5th.
Provided that the Philippines hikes its record to 7-5, it will then edge Lebanon and become the better 4th placer.
3. What the Philippines does not want to happen?
There are plenty of ways the Philippines ends up bowing out of World Cup contention.
Even if the Philippines raises its record to 7-5 for 4th place, it has its fingers crossed that China does not go winless and slip to 6-6 for 5th place while Lebanon and Jordan go undefeated to improve to 8-4 and 7-5, respectively.
That situation paves the way for Lebanon to move up to 3rd place in Group E and secure its World Cup seat while Jordan earns the chance to become the better 4th placer.
If that happens, the Philippines is doomed.
With the Philippines and Jordan carrying identical 7-5 records, it goes to a tiebreaker.
According to FIBA's 2017 Official Basketball Rules, the tie will be broken through these criteria in the following order:
Since Jordan and the Philippines did not meet in the qualifiers, the tiebreaker will first be determined by the higher goal difference of all games in the group.
After 5 windows, the Philippines has scored 793 while allowing opponents a total of 814 points for a goal difference of -21. In Jordan's case, it has scored 865 and allowed only 809 points for a goal difference of +56.
By applying the rule, Jordan will become the better 4th placer and the Philippines will bid farewell to its World Cup aspirations.
The same thing will happen for the Philippines if China falls to 6-6 for 5th place in Group E, Lebanon splits its two games for a 7-5 record and Jordan goes perfect to improve to 7-5.
With a superior quotient over Lebanon, Jordan will then leapfrog to 3rd place and advance to the World Cup. Lebanon, meanwhile, will stay in 4th and will vie for the best 4th placer tag with the Philippines.
Applying the same tiebreaker rule, Lebanon, which has scored 806 and allowed only 705 points for a goal difference of +101 through 5 windows, bests the Philippines, which has a goal difference -21.
The Philippines can drop at least one of its sixth window games, but not exactly the one against Kazakhstan.
Should Kazakhstan upset Australia and repeat on the Philippines – which it beat 92-88 in the fifth window – and the Philippines sweep Qatar, the two teams will be tied at 6-6.
Assuming Australia, Iran and Japan maintain their positions in Group F's top 3, Kazakhstan beats the Philippines for 4th place thanks to ruling their head-to-head matchup.
The Philippines will then fall to 5th place. Goodbye World Cup.
If the Philippines loses to Kazakhstan, it must first topple Qatar and hope that Kazakhstan also falls prey to Australia.
That way, the Philippines and Kazakhstan remain in 4th and 5th behind 6-6 and 5-7 cards, respectively.
To become the better 4th placer, the Philippines needs No. 4 in Group E – excluding China – to finish with a record lower than 6-6.
Another way the Philippines can still vie for the best 4th placer even if it yields to Kazakhstan – assuming that Kazakhstan stuns Australia – is if it tops Qatar first and Japan drops its two games.
A three-way logjam at 6-6 will be formed.
Japan and the Philippines will then land in 3rd and 4th places, respectively, while Kazakhstan remains in 5th due to an inferior quotient.
To improve to 4th, Kazakhstan must thwart the Philippines by 35 points. To jump to 3rd, Kazakhstan needs to pummel the Philippines by a whopping 48 points.
Here is the quotient among the 3 teams before the sixth window:
If the Philippines succumbs to Qatar and Kazakhstan and falls to 5-7, can it still finish in 4th place in Group F? No.
That is because Kazakhstan, even if it loses to Australia, will improve to 5-7 and beat the Philippines for 4th place by virtue of winning their head-to-head matchup.
End of the road for the Philippines.
To avoid further complication, the Philippines must first dispatch Qatar and Kazakhstan to improve to 7-5.
The Philippines will then bank on the possibility that Japan loses at least one of its games against Iran and Qatar. If both teams end up tied at 7-5, the Philippines occupies 3rd place since it swept Japan in the earlier windows.
Should the Philippines remain in 4th place in Group F, it could only hope that China stays within the top 4 in Group E and that Lebanon and Jordan – potential threats for best 4th placer – finish with an inferior record.
China automatically qualifies for the World Cup as hosts and "shall not be included" in determining the final standings, meaning a top 4 finish will push Lebanon and Jordan up the ranks in Group E.
But even then, Lebanon and Jordan – whichever lands in 4th place – are disfavored to beat the Philippines for best 4th placer no thanks to a difficult sixth window schedule.
Lebanon has New Zealand and Korea as its final two assignments while Jordan has China and New Zealand. Lebanon and Jordan have not won a single game against their aforementioned opponents. – Rappler.com
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.