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FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments: Top things to know with final Tokyo spots at stake

The tournaments are the last opportunity for men's teams to qualify for the basketball tournament at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021.
By Will Imbo

The final four spots at the men’s basketball tournament at the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021 are set to be decided at the Olympic Qualifying Tournaments (OQTs) taking place between 29 June and 4 July.

Four cities will each host a tournament involving six teams, with the winners of each OQT completing the 12-team field for the men’s basketball competition at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Here at the top things you need to know about the OQTs.

Venues & teams for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments

The cities of Victoria (Canada), Split (Croatia), Kaunas (Lithuania), and Belgrade (Serbia) will host the tournaments. Taking part in the OQTs are the 16 best-placed teams from the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup that did not qualify for Tokyo 2020, as well as the two highest-ranked countries per region in the FIBA World Ranking.

On 19 September 2019, FIBA announced those teams, which are Angola and Senegal (Africa), Mexico and Uruguay (Americas), China and Korea (Asia-Oceania), and Croatia and Slovenia (Europe).

Seven teams have already directly qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by virtue of their finishing position at the FIBA 2019 Basketball World Cup, and Japan received automatic qualification as the hosts of the event.

Learn more about the basketball competition at Tokyo 2020 here.

The teams competing in each OQT are as follows:

Victoria: Group A - Canada (Hosts), Greece, China. Group B - Uruguay, Czech Republic, Turkey.

Split: Group A - Germany, Russia, Mexico. Group B - Croatia (Hosts), Tunisia, Brazil.

Kaunas: Group A - Lithuania (Hosts), South Korea, Venezuela. Group B - Poland, Slovenia, Angola.

Belgrade: Group A - Serbia (Hosts), Dominican Republic, Philippines (replacing New Zealand, who withdrew from the competition). Group B - Puerto Rico, Italy, Senegal.

Players to watch at the OQTs

Luka Doncic is arguably the biggest name currently confirmed to play at the OQTs. The 22-year-old announced he will have ‘no vacation’ following the Dallas Mavericks’ elimination from the 2021 NBA playoffs as he will attempt to lead the Slovenia men’s basketball team to their first-ever Olympic Games.

Yet while Doncic has confirmed his participation, there are questions as to whether two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo will play for Greece in their OQT. With the Milwaukee Bucks currently locked in a tough battle with the Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference semifinals, not to mention the possibility of the Bucks advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals - or even NBA Finals - there is a possibility Antetokounmpo will miss the OQT altogether.

Similar questions surrounded reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic following the Denver Nuggets' exit from the NBA playoffs on 13 June, but three days later Jokic released a statement on Serbian state news agency Tanjug announcing he won't join his Serbian teammates in Belgrade for their OQT, nor for the Olympics themselves if Serbia does qualify.

“To my great regret, this is the moment when I have to announce that despite my great desire, I am not able to play for the national team. Simply, the condition of my body requires a longer absence from the court to recover. I have to accept that. I am sure that the guys have the quality to make a result without me, which will bring us all a lot of joy,” Jokic mentioned in his statement.

Lithuania are one of the favourites to win their OQT, and with good reason. The Baltic Giants boast NBA pair Jonas Valanciunas (Memphis Grizzlies) and Domantas Sabonis (Indiana Pacers) on their roster.

Don’t overlook Canada, either. While the Canadians may be ranked lower (21st) in the FIBA world standings than their competitors Greece (6th), Turkey (15th), and the Czech Republic (12th), they have considerable NBA talent of their own, including Andrew Wiggins (Golden State Warriors), Tristan Thompson (Boston Celtics), and RJ Barrett (New York Knicks).

Schedule for the OQT events in 2021

Each OQT tips off on 29 June with the group stage, which runs through 1 July.

The top two teams from each group progress to the semifinals on 3 July, with the finals all taking place on Sunday, 4 July. The winner of each OQT will qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, where the men's basketball tournament begins on 25th July 2021.