Thursday, November 30, 2006

Taiwan NT targets a top six finish in Doha

Taiwan men's NT will challenge a top six finish in the Doha Asian Games after a long six-month training, Taiwan NT head coach Lee Yun-kwang said prior to the team's departure.

Lee said Taiwan will have a hard time beating China or Lebanon, which has brought back head coach Paul Coughter. These two games are probably the ones Taiwan has to give up. (Lee did not use the term "give up" but it's basically what he meant.)

Taiwan needs to win at least two out of three games vs. Japan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to finish in the top three in the second round group, so it can have a prefereable matchup in the single-elimination quarterfinals.

The bad news is that designated starters Lee Chi-yi and Lee Hsueh-lin still have not fully recovered from their injuries, which forces Lee Yun-kwang to replace Lee Hsueh-lin with either Chen Shih-nian or Wu Yong-jen in the point guard position.

Chen Hsin-an is also a probable option in replacing Lee as the point guard, local newspaper reported.

The probable starting lineup for Taiwan is Chen Hsin-an, Lin Chi-jay, Tien Lei, Tsun Wen-din and Chen Shih-nian/or Yang Che-yi.

The first two games (vs. Japan on Dec. 2 and Kazakhstan on Dec. 4) will be the most important ones for Taiwan. This means Taiwan has a very short period of time to adjust to the environment after arriving at Doha, and its injured players need to recover quickly before it's too late.

Taiwan is bracketed in the same group in the second round with China, Lebanon, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Japan. It need to finish in the top four to advance to the single-elimination quarterfinals.

It's not easy for Taiwan to beat Japan and Kazakhstan, in my opinion. Japan will be a different team from the past few years, when the team went through a youth movement under former head coach Zeljko Pavlicevic -- a Croatian. New head coach Kimikazu Suzuki brought back a couple veterans and will obviously rely on their experience a lot.

Led by 6-10 phenom Anton Ponomarev, Kazakhstan has been a surprising team in Asia in the last two years. Any team that underestimate the Kazakh will be in trouble as they are prolific from the three-point range and have vastly improved in the paint.

Taiwan needs to beat Japan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan not only for a better seed in the quarterfinal but also for boosting its self-confidence, which has been lacking in the past.