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Asia Cup Group B preview: Who will come out of the Group of Death?

BEIRUT (FIBA Asia Cup 2017) - The FIBA Asia Cup 2017 is closer than you think, and this time we will look at the competition's Group of Death composed of China, Qatar, Iraq and Philippines.

China

7 Terrence Romeo (PHI) - Malaysia v Philippines, 2017 SEABA Men Championship (PHI), Manila - Smart Araneta Coliseum, Manila(Philippines), , 14 May 2017
Players to Watch: This is Guo Ailun's team. Without Yi Jianlian and Zhou Qi for China, the mantle of leadership and production falls on Guo, who should be a leading contender for one of the All-Star Five spots in the tournament. Helping him out will be rising star Hu Jinqiu, who, at just 19 years of age, is being heralded as the future cornerstone of the national team. Hu has the size and skill-set to be a nightmare matchup in the paint, and everyone in Group B will see how good he is first-hand.

Outlook: Size? Check. Speed? Check. Shooting? Check. With Guo Ailun at the helm, China's traditional weakness at the point guard spot has been addressed, and they still have an abundance of size and depth at every other position. Yes, the country's top two big men aren't around, but with a veritable walking Great Wall of Hu, Han Dejun and Li Muhao patrolling the paint, coach Du Feng doesn't have to worry about his frontline. And with seasoned wingmen Zhou Peng and Li Gen running alongside Guo, this Chinese team is poised to top this group easy.

Qatar

Players to Watch: It seems with almost every passing tournament, Qatar have a new naturalized player to parade, and this time it will be veteran import Sammy Monroe, who has had stops in Mexico, the Philippines, Uruguay and Spain to name a few. The 1.98m wingman is deadly from practically every inch of the floor, so opposing teams need to constantly shadow him. They will also need to keep their eyes peeled for Al Annabi's new leading player, Hassan Mohamed, or more popularly known as Mizo Amin. Amin has averaged double-figure scoring in every competition where he has played, and nobody should be shocked if he is among the tournament's best scorers this time around.

Outlook: Qatar have a good mix of veterans and up-and-comers in this squad. They have five guys who are 25 or younger, and the rest have considerable experience at the international level. Aside from Monroe and Amin, seasoned campaigners like Mansour El-Hadary, Erfan Ali Saeed and Mohd Yousuf Mohammed will carry Qatar's fortunes on their shoulders. On a good day, they may upset China, but in all probability, coach Qusay Hatem's unit will finish 2nd or 3rd in the group.

Iraq

Player to Watch: Iraq were supposed to have Demario Mayfield as their naturalized player for the Asia Cup, but they switched back to old reliable Kevin Galloway at the eleventh hour. Who knows the reason behind that, but the more important thing to consider is that Galloway is tried and tested at this level. He powered Iraq to a top 4 finish in the FIBA Asia Challenge 2016 and once again carried them to 4th place at the WABA Championship this year. Galloway is an uber explosive scorer who can drain the trey, drive strong and finish with contact. The 2.00m small forward will certainly be a tough defensive assignment for guys like Zhou Peng, Gabe Norwood and Sammy Monroe.

Outlook: As good as Galloway is, he will need a lot of help from Iraq's other key contributors, especially Dhulfiqar Al-Hchaimi, Mohammed Al-Khafaji and Ali Hamad. Al-Khafaji is a potentially dominant center who loves running the break and sliding into open spaces, while Al-Hchaimi and Hamad are very versatile and physical forwards. If all those cylinders click, Iraq can give even some of the top teams fits, but all things considered equal, they have the smallest chance of advancing from this group.

Philippines

Players to Watch: Hopes were high that Gilas Pilipinas would do well in this tournament, but those chances took a hit with the recent injury to three-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo. The 2.08m big man was expected to have a breakout campaign here, but his calf strain may potentially sideline him for the entire competition. This means even more pressure will fall on experienced players Jayson Castro, Japeth Aguilar and Terrence Romeo to lead this team to glory. That will be easier said than done, however, especially since the last time Gilas played without either Andray Blatche or Marcus Douthit, they finished outside of the top 8.

Outlook: To say that it will be rough sailing for coach Chot Reyes and the Philippines is a gross understatement. The injury to Fajardo, absence of Blatche and the fact that the players have rarely been complete in their preparation sessions (due to the PBA schedule conflicting with Gilas training) all seem to spell disaster and may be too much to overcome. The Filipinos, though, are nothing if not for their boundless #Puso, and they will need that now more than ever if they are to sustain their lofty billing in Asia.

Source: http://www.fiba.com/asiacup/2017/news/asia-cup-group-b-preview-who-will-come-out-of-the-group-of-death

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