Top 10 reasons to be excited about the FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2017

22.09.2017, 10:00    Views: 861
Source: FIBA

The continent's biggest and best international club tournament is set to tip off, and we're here to look at some of the most interesting storylines to follow.

1 — Blatche versus Filipinos

Andray Blatche has been an icon of Gilas Pilipinas since he debuted in 2014, but this time around he will find himself on the opposite end. If the Filipinos do face their naturalized brother, it'll be in the knockout rounds, where the pressure is so heavy anything can happen.

2 — Riyadi's Revenge

Al Riyadi Lebanon marched to last year's Final unbeaten, but they fell short against hosts China Kashgar in an exciting collision of talent. With no more Fadi El Khatib and two new foreign players, the Lebanese's chances of making it back to the Final are up in the air, but they are certainly highly motivated to serve up some revenge.

3 — Iranian Redemption

From 2007 to 2013, no Iranian club team ever finished below 2nd place at the Champions Cup, but that all changed last year when they sank to 3rd place. Petrochimi are back again, and this time they seem hungrier than ever, and they are definitely aiming for no less than the top prize in their road to redemption.

4 — All local, all day

A hallmark of the Champions Cup is how teams are able to tap foreign players to enhance the size and depth of their talent pool. Two teams — ONGC India and AL Shabab UAE — did not sign up any foreign players, which may ruin their chances of going far. It does, however, open up the opportunity for their locals to show everything they've got and really shine through.

5 — Foreign flavor!

For most of the teams here, the presence of foreign players will be crucial and will cover for some of the squads' weak points. For instance, Justin Anthony Carter will likely be BC Astana's lead guard, Mirza Begic will surely be the main man in the middle for Petrochimi and Sareyyet Ramallah Palestine will definitely rely heavily on Anthony Weeden. Which foreign players will make waves? We will just have to wait and see!

6 — The Replacements

Japan were supposed to send the Shibuya Sunrockers to this tournament, but their withdrawal opened the door for Chooks-To-Go Philippines to get in. Yes, this replacement side was hastily formed, but that does not mean they will be doormats. With some promising young stars like Kiefer Ravena, Jeron Teng and Carl Cruz, the Filipinos may yet spring some surprises.

7 — The Playmaking Wizard

Speaking of Filipinos, Andray Blatche is not the only Philippine player donning another team's colors. Playmaking wizard Jason Brickman will be wearing the orange and black kits of Mono Vampire Thailand, and he is expected to be among the tournament leaders in assists. Brickman led the US NCAA assists for two seasons, and his production here will be a barometer for how far the Thais can go.

8 — Supersize Sim

From Brickman's diminutive stature, we go to the hulking presence of 2.16m Sim Bhullar. The Indian-Canadian slotman will be the biggest threat on both ends for Taipei Dacin Tigers, given his ability to bully his way against smaller defenders and protect the rim with authority. He should be a crowd favorite in Chenzhou.

9 — Oldies but goodies

Watching rising stars is exciting, but there's a deeper emotional connection when we see veterans continue to do what they do best. Guys like Jean Abd El Nour, Salim Sakakini, Rustam Yargaliev and Oshin Sahakian have remained relevant for their respective teams despite being among the most seasoned players in this competition.

10 — Can anyone catch up with Iran's golden haul?

Iran are the winningest country in the history of this tournament, having earned 5 1st place finishes. China, Lebanon and Philippines are all just one behind with 4 1st place finishes each, and it will be interesting to see if any of those countries can claim the title here and tie Iran's total golden haul. China as hosts and defending champions have the strongest chance, but talent, passion and intensity make both Lebanon and Philippines pretty good contenders as well.