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FIBA World Cup Qualifiers: Successes and Struggles of Latin American Squads Through the First Qualifier

📸 Photo Credit: FIBA Basketball World Cup

Starting August 25th, 2022, the second round of the FIBA World Cup Americas qualifiers will begin and the qualifiers will decide which seven teams from the continent will make it to the 2023 tournament. So now seems like a fitting time to take a look back at all of the Latin American teams who have played in the qualifiers and give an update and letter grade on each squad’s performance. 

Argentina (5-1, 11 points)

Through six games, Argentina has been a well-polished and solid overall team. They have generally been dominant in all of their games — barring a 58-71 loss in February at the hands of Venezuela — and after advancing to round 2, currently sit tied for 2nd place in the Americas, along with three other countries. Leading scorer and Denver Nuggets guard Facundo Campazzo (25.1 points per game in round 1) is leading the team as they look to continue their success and solidify their spot as a top seven team in the continent for the World Cup.

Grade: A-

Brazil (5-1, 11 points)

This Brazil team, which had been a perfect 5-0 up until a recent July 3rd upset loss to Colombia, has looked like a formidable threat thus far. They have dominated their competition, with an overall plus-minus of 122 and a whopping 88.8 points per game, good for third best in the Americas. Led by the one-two punch of 39-year-old guard Marcelinho Huertas (19.5 ppg) and former Houston Rockets forward Bruno Caboclo (13.3 ppg, 7.2 rebounds per game), Brazil is in a great position to make a run into qualifying for the World Cup, and even beyond. 

Grade: A

Chile (1-5, 7 points)

After a disappointing 1-5 record in the first round, Chile did not advance to the second round. However, despite an underwhelming record, the squad fought hard, winning their only game in a 14-point victory over Colombia and losing in a nail-biting 67-66 loss to Colombia, followed by a 10-point loss to Uruguay to finish things out. The team never really got things going in their very tough group but was highlighted by a great showing from small forward Manuel Suarez (15.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG). 

Grade: C-

Colombia (2-4, 8 points)

Colombia barely snuck into the second round with a measly 2-4 record but was able to make it thanks to a worse showing from Chile. However, the squad had some shining moments, including close wins over Chile and undefeated Brazil, the latter of which was a huge shock to everyone watching. Their offensive firepower is led by Braian Angola, who is averaging 20.0 points in his matches and is responsible for the best single-player performance in round 1 without a monster 37-point game in a loss against Uruguay. Although they haven’t looked great, Colombia has shown that they are capable of pulling off an upset and could surprise some viewers with an upset win as they have Mexico and USA on their upcoming schedule. 

Grade: C+

Cuba (0-6, 6 points)

Cuba was never really able to get things going. The team played solid basketball in all of their first five games, losing by an average of seven points, including a near-upset win over the USA in November. Put in the toughest of the four groups (with USA, México, and Puerto Rico), Cuba stood little chance from the beginning and fought as much as they could to stay in it, to no avail. Center Jasiel Rivero put on a show with 15 points and eight rebound averages for his team but could not do enough to get Cuba to move on. 

Grade: D+

Dominican Republic (4-2, 10 points)

The DR’s experience in the first round was a story of blowouts: their winning margin was 25 points; their loss margin was 13. Against the weaker competition, the Dominican Republic squad took advantage, grabbing all of their four wins against the Bahamas and the Virgin Islands and dropping both losses versus undefeated Canada. The two anchors of the squad, Victor Luz (19.3 PPG) and Angel Delgado (12.0 PPG and 12.5 RPG), were huge for the team in moving on to the next round, as they currently sit tied for the seventh spot in the Americas with Mexico and look for a berth into the World Cup. 

Grade: B

México (4-2, 10 points)

México sits in the same position as the just-mentioned Dominican Republic squad, with four wins and two losses, placing them in a very tough position fighting for the last spot available. However, Mexico faired well in their difficult group, fending off the likes of Cuba twice and grabbing wins over Puerto Rico and the USA in an impressive showing. Pako Cruz and Gabriel Giron (combined 34.3 ppg) have both been prolific for the solid Mexican offense and want to continue their success as they face Colombia and Brazil next.

Grade: B+

Panama (2-4, 8 points)

The Panamanian team had a very mid-level performance in the first round of the qualifiers. Although it was nothing special, things definitely could have been worse. They managed to get their only two wins against Paraguay and couldn’t string any wins together in their six games. Nevertheless, Ernesto Oglivie was the bright spot for the squad, averaging 16 points and seven rebounds, and pushing them just barely into round 2. 

Grade: C

Paraguay (0-6, 6 points)

Similar to Cuba, Paraguay struggled for the entirety of their six-game stretch in the first round, dropping six of six during the period. Losing by 20+ points in every match, there was nothing very noteworthy about the team’s performance. Moreover, the team seemed to lack any ‘spark’ to guide them to a win, or anything close to it, as leading scorer Ramon Sanchez averaged just 9.7 points per game. 

Grade: F

Puerto Rico (3-3, 9 points)

Splitting their six games, Puerto Rico had a decent performance, but there was nothing to boast about. The Boricua squad played well in many close-game situations, with every game being within 1o points, except for their blowout loss in the opener against the USA. Led by sneaky-quick Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado, who has become widely known around the league for his tenacious lockdown defense, has put the team on his back, leading in points (21.0 per game) and assists (5.5) and is the clear focal point of the squad. 

Grade: B-

Uruguay (4-2, 10 points)

Uruguay played exactly as expected, taking care of business against all the teams they should’ve but dropping two against the stronger Brazilian team. The clear number one option is point guard Jason Granger, who has been averaging 20, followed by a sufficient second option in Bruno Fitipaldo (16.8 points, 3.3 rebounds). Though they have a very hard schedule in front of them, with matches versus the USA and Puerto Rico ahead, they look to continue their game and remain a solid team. 

Grade: B

Venezuela (5-1, 11 points)

Venezuela has been nothing short of impressive during the qualifiers. Although they dropped one game in a three-point loss to 5-1 Argentina, the team has played near perfect within their group. Despite having no go-to scorer or big-name guy on the roster, nothing has been able to stop them indefinitely, and they seem like a very capable team to make some heads turn when the time comes for the World Cup. Some of the biggest contributors have been Jhornan Zamora (14.2 ppg) and Nestor Colmenares (11.2 ppg, 7.0 RPG), although the entire team has worked together relatively equally. Watch out for this squad as a potential dark horse candidate. 

Grade: A

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