No more dropping games? EuroBasket stars debate on new format idea

Donatas Urbonas
Senior Staff Writer
2022-09-07 07:31

Should FIBA introduce a playoff draw idea to avoid dropping games for the easiest path to the medals? Most of the EuroBasket 2022 stars support a potential format change.

Credit: FIBA
Credit FIBA

"Are they really going to lose on purpose to finish the group in the fourth seed?" fans were attacking Lithuanian journalists with personal messages before the France vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina game.

If Bosnians had won against France, Lithuania would have been eliminated from the tournament.

Also, France most likely would have finished fourth and avoided Greece or Serbia in the quarterfinals.

Domantas Sabonis

Domantas  Sabonis
Position: PF, C
Age: 26
Height: 211 cm
Weight: 109 kg
Birth place: Portland, United States of America

Long before the group phase in Cologne started, many people understood that the 4th seed in the group of death might set up the easiest path to the semifinals.

"So should I start my three assistants - Pascal Donnadieu, Laurent Foirest, Ruddy Nelhomme, and the team PR Fabrice Canet?" Collet smiled before the game.

"No… Given our level right now, even considering not playing would be a very dangerous path to take. To play Greece in the quarterfinal would be a tough but not impossible mission," a long-time French NT coach said.

France started slowly but was boosted to a tough win by hundreds of Lithuanian fans. Lithuanians were chanting "France! France!" throughout the course of the game. Soon they switched to "Merci! Merci!" when France was closing the victory 81-68.

"Some teams, especially Spain or Serbia in the Olympics, have done it in the past," Evan Fournier told BasketNews.

"The truth is you follow the rule. So if the rule says you can do whatever you want, then you should. Because at the end of the day, you have to play games and win. But for us, we're not thinking about seeds or stuff. We feel like we can beat anybody on a good night," the New York Knicks shooting guard added.

"There was no intention at all to lose the game and have a favorable seed being fourth. We want to win, play hard, to get to know each other on the court. Basketball dictates what's going to happen. If Lithuania is going to be fourth, it is what it is," Fournier concluded.

In 2014, FIBA even opened disciplinary proceedings against Australia, claiming they lost their World Cup group game to Angola on purpose to avoid the USA until the semifinals. However, Australia has been cleared of allegations.

Also, teams that participated in FIBA World Cup 2014 complained that the group stage and playoff bracket were a setup for the final between USA and Spain.

Throughout the years, there were more questionable situations where teams were examined for playing right away.

There is an idea that would stop any speculation. And the example was set the last summer.

The Olympic basketball tournament introduced a new format with a draw for the final phase of the tournament that determined the pairs for the quarterfinals.

Such a solution would also be possible in FIBA-organized competitions, such as FIBA World Cup or EuroBasket.

For example, 16 advanced teams would be divided into four pots. Pot A would be made of four group winners. All four second-placed teams would go into Pot B, third-placed teams into Pot C, and fourth-placed teams into Pot D.

FIBA could even televise such an event that would draw a lot of attention between participants and fans.

"This is a perfect idea. NBA is always trying to find new ideas, such as play-ins or in-season cups. Fans like such things," the Sacramento Kings center Domantas Sabonis said to BasketNews.

Would it be fun for the players too?

"It puts more unpredictability. Of course, it upsets you if you get a stronger opponent than maybe it would have been with a current format. But these are rules," Sabonis added.

"I completely agree. There wouldn't be any possible scenario where you could choose your opponent," former New York Knicks forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas approved.

France and Vincent Collet already went through such a format last year. They got Italy in the quarterfinals and beat Slovenia in the semifinals before losing the gold-medal game to the United States.

"For me, I think it would be a solution. Especially when you see groups this year," France NT head coach recalled.

"It seems it would be much better for the balance of the competition. I agree 100%. But I can't control this," Collet smiled.

On the other side, his player Fournier thinks that FIBA should continue with the current format.

"To do it like in the Olympics? It could be a solution," Fournier analyzed.

"But I don't think teams are cheating right now or cheating the game. Teams are playing to win, so there is no reason to change it right now," Fournier concluded.

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