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Asia Cup Group A preview: Will powerhouse Iran sweep Jordan, Syria and India?

BEIRUT (FIBA Asia Cup 2017) - The FIBA Asia Cup 2017 is just 4 days away, and it's time present our preview series starting with Group A, which has three-time Asian champions Iran along with Jordan, Syria and India.


14 Arsalan Kazemi (IRI) - Jordan v Iran, 2016 FIBA Asia Challenge (IRI), Tehran(Islamic Republic of Iran), Semi-Finals, 17 September 2016
Players to Watch: Iran will bring an imposing, experienced and highly skilled frontline to Beirut that's led by maybe the most intimidating player in the tournament, Hamed Haddadi. The one-time CBA champion center may not be 100% when he plays at the Asia Cup, but playing alongside him are veterans Arsalan Kazemi, Oshin Sahakian and Rouzbeh Arghavan. All three are strong and relentless inside operators, and they give coach Mehran Hatami a terrific rotation at the 4 and 5 positions.

Outlook: Iran finished a "disappointing" third place in 2015 - disappointing because they have been so synonymous and used to success at the continental level. For the first time in a decade, though, Team Melli will be without icons Samad Nikkhah Bahrami and Mahdi Kamrani, and this is a sign of the new generation beginning to take over for the national team. This entire competition is going to be a big test for Iran, but at least for the first round, they remain very strong favorites to top their group.


Players to Watch: The guy who will really stand out for Jordan is their new naturalized player, Kevin Ware. Most basketball pundits know Ware for his infamous leg injury from years ago, but he has since recovered and has done well as an import in the Czech Republic and Greece. The 1.88m guard brings great athleticism, attacking power and perimeter defense, and he should be a good complement to Jordan's towering frontcourt made up of Mohammad Shaher Hussein, Ali Jamal Zaghab and Yousef Abuwazaneh.

Outlook: Al Nashama will be relying a lot on Ware in the same way they heavily used Dar Tucker at the FIBA Asia Challenge 2016. That means that they will go as far as Ware will take them, but a ton of pressure will also be on veterans Hussein, Zaghab, Ahmad Alhamarsheh and Mahmoud Abdeen to tie it all together. Without stalwart Zaid Abbas, these veterans need to step up for Jordan to reach the Top 8.


Players to Watch: Without a doubt, the excitement of seeing Syria's return to the continental level revolves around living legend Micheal Madanly. The last time Madanly played at this level was ten years ago, and he actually led the entire tournament in scoring back then. The 1.92m wingman scored 33.1 points per game in 2007, besting the likes of Fadi El Khatib and Rasheim Wright, and he will need to be at his best again here, too, for Syria to make a splash. Another guy to see is new naturalized player Ivan Todorovic, who, at 2.14m, adds a lot of size and experience to this team. Paired with 2.18m Abdulwahab Al-Hamwi, Todorovic gives Syria one of the most intimidating big men combos in the entire field.

Outlook: Syria have some intriguing talent and a lot of size on this team, but the last time they were at this level was way back in 2011. That means there will be some significant adjustments for most of their players when they square off against the other teams in this group who have been competing at this level virtually on an annual basis. They got blasted by Iran in the WABA Championship, though they did hold their own against Jordan, so there is credence in not taking this squad for granted.


Players to Watch: It's all about the big three for India. In their steady rise these past several years, the trio of Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, Amritpal Singh and Amjyot Singh have propelled India to new heights. The versatility of those three players makes this squad such a challenge to defeat, but the flipside is if those three guys have an off night, India have nearly nothing else in their back pockets.

Outlook: One x-factor here is the return of NBA draftee Satnam Singh, who has finally rejoined the national squad after toiling to in the States. With him, India may have the final piece of the puzzle to potentially advance further than they ever have, but that's just on paper. In reality, the big question is this - do India have an extra gear or have they plateaued? They have great size, but do they have the depth to defeat three formidable WABA teams in their group in order to have a clear shot at making it back to the Quarter-Final?

Source: http://www.fiba.com/asiacup/2017/news/asia-cup-group-a-preview-will-powerhouse-iran-sweep-jordan-syria-and-india

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