In Basketball, There Are Two Worlds

I've previously argued that the Olympic men's basketball tournament could be more competitive if the field were expanded. Too high a percentage of the current 12-team field is granted to automatic qualifiers from the world's weakest regions. Adding more at-large spots would open up the tournament to more good teams, such as Turkey, who missed out on the Olympics because of a bad performance at EuroBasket 2011. Now we have some current evidence on how far behind Europe and the Americas the rest of the world is in the sport.

Four of the 12 teams in the Olympic field were from Asia, Africa or Oceania. Three of the teams won their regional championships to get here. The fourth, Nigeria, finished a surprising third at the (field-restricted) wild card tournament in Venezuela in early July. Against the eight teams from Europe and the Americas in the Olympics, these four African-Asian-Oceanic teams are a combined 2-14. Australia has both of the wins. One of them came against host Britain, who would otherwise not belong in the tournament as the 13th or 14th best team in Europe.

Against teams from Asia, Oceania and Africa, the squads from the Americas and Europe (weak Britain included) are a combined 14-2.

Why is a full quarter of the Olympic field guaranteed to come from these weak regions? It makes no sense. Expand the field, IOC.

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