The Road to Rio

How basketball teams qualify for the Olympics

provided by Wikimedia

Lucas Koprowski, Sports Editor

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Although the 2016 Summer Olympics seems far away, the qualifying rounds to participate in this historic event are just beginning. One of the most influential sports in the world, basketball’s precursor tournaments has already begun, starting in Mexico for the FIBA; or International Basketball Association, Americas qualifying tournament. Although the United States has already gained entrance into the Olympic tournament due to winning the FIBA World Cup in 2014, there is still some major competition within our regional tournament that will be exciting to watch.


The  tournament  in FIBA Americas is the national teams are split into two groups. Each group has five teams to start off with in the first stage, the group stage. The first stage is a round robin style tournament, where each team faces each other once and the rankings are based on their win-loss ratio. At the end, the bottom team of each group is eliminated from the pool and the 8 that remain go onto the second phase.


The second phase, like the rest of the tournament, is a knockout round. This means that every team plays only one game. The winner of those games go onto the next round, while the losing four are eliminated. Then comes the semi-finals, where the final four of this competition face off just like in the previous round. The only difference is that although the winners of these games still go onto the finals, the losing teams go onto a 3rd place matchup. Whichever team wins the finals is the champion of the region, but the two teams who have made it to the final match are automatically placed into the Olympic tournament. The 3rd, 4th and 5th teams are put into the FIBA Olympic Qualifying tournament, where they will go against other regions’ qualifying teams to earn a spot in the Olympic tournament.


All other regions, except Oceania, have identical tournaments with the same grouping style seen in not only FIBA, but in other sports as well like in soccer’s international association FIFA, the International Federation of Association Football. Oceania is the exception, because there are only two teams in this region that are able to participate in the Olympics out of the 21 national associations within the area; Australia and New Zealand. The team who places 2nd of the two is placed in the Qualifying Tournament, while the winner is placed into the Olympic tournament.


Each one of these regions that are part of FIBA put in a different number of teams into the Olympic and Qualifying tournaments. FIBA Americas and EuroBasket, the European branch of FIBA, put in their top two teams from their respective tournaments into the Olympic tournament, but EuroBasket places their 3rd through 6th place teams into the Qualifying Tournament; one more team than the Americas.

The AfroBasket, the African branch of FIBA, and FIBA Asia have their first place countries of their tournaments placed in the Olympic Tournament, while their 2nd and 3rd place teams are put into the Qualifying Tournament.


There are a total of 12 teams in the Qualifying Tournament, and the top three from it are placed into the Olympic Tournament. Finally, the host country for the Olympic Games is automatically placed in the Olympic Tournament; which in 2016 is Brazil.


That makes a total of 12 teams in the Olympic Tournament. In the London 2012 Summer Olympics, the U.S. beat Spain in the finals, while Russia defeated Argentina in the 3rd place match. The U.S. has taken home the gold in the past two Olympic tournaments, London 2012 and Beijing 2008, facing Spain in both finals. They beat Spain by 7 points in 2012 and by 11 points in 2008.


Although the U.S. breeds top tier basketball players like our farmers grow corn and soybeans, Spain has a very strong team that will certainly qualify for the Olympic Tournament and be a challenge for us like the past two Olympics. Then again, the U.S. has won 14 out of the 18 Olympic Basketball tournaments that have happened since the first one hosted in Berlin, Germany in 1936.


So while you wait for the NBA season to start on Oct. 27, why not watch a match or two of the Americas tournament happening right now? Although the AfroBasket tournament has already finished, with Nigeria claiming their first ever continental title and qualifying for the Olympic tournament, the Eurobasket has also recently started, and the Asian tournament is set to start on Sept. 23.