Author: Scott Schroeder

Dominican Republic's Martinez celebrates after defeating Canada during their FIBA Americas Championship basketball game in Caracas

FIBA Americas: Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Argentina and Mexico qualify for 2014 FIBA World Cup

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The 2013 FIBA Americas Championship tournament will wrap up this week, but the important part was concluded on Sunday when the semifinalists were finalized. The top four teams of the tournament automatically earn berths to next year’s FIBA World Cup (an Olympic qualifier) meaning Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Argentina and Mexico are one step closer to appearing at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The first three teams were all expected to be in this position, but Mexico’s bid comes as a surprise considering they weren’t even going to play in the tournament until Panama was ruled ineligible. North America’s neighbors to the south earned their surprising bid, though, with back-to-back victories over Jamaica and Puerto Rico over the weekend.

For USA fans wondering about recognizable names on the rosters of the qualifying teams, Puerto Rico has J.J. Barea, Carlos Arroyo and Renaldo Balkman; Mexico features Gustavo Ayon, Jorge Gutierrez, Orlando Mendez-Valdez and Lorenzo Mata-Real; the Dominican Republic had internet sensation Jack Michael Martinez and Francisco Garcia; and Argentina was dragged to the semifinals on the back of Indiana Pacers big Luis Scola.

Two teams eliminated at the FIBA Americas tournament could be in the running for a wild card bid for next year’s world cup, but their early-round losses at the FIBA Americas tournament have hurt their chances of having an easy path in the 2016 Olympics. Team Canada featured four NBA players, but were missing Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Olynyk due to injury — and eventually were eliminated with a loss to the Dominican Republic squad. Brazil is the one of the best teams in international competition, but they went 0-4 with a roster decimated with the absence of Nene, Anderson Varejao, Tiago Splitter and Leandro Barbosa.

The two semifinals are for bragging rights, mostly, but will tip-off Tuesday with Mexico taking on Argentina and Dominican Republic facing Puerto Rico for a berth in Wednesday’s championship game.

EuroBasket, FIBA Americas top plays from Thursday (VIDEO)

Martinez of the Dominican Republic goes for a basket against Jamaica's Jordan during their FIBA Americas Championship basketball game in Caracas
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There’s quite a bit going on abroad right now as both the FIBA Americas and EuroBasket competitions are happening as teams attempt to move one step closer to qualifying for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The games aren’t quite to the point of must-watch considering both tournaments are still in the pool-play rounds, but please watch the below highlights to find out what you’re missing when you decide not to tune into ESPN3 for the most meaningful basketball happening this month.

The EuroBasket has taken quite a bit of attention away from the FIBA Americas competition considering it features more teams, more NBA players and a generally better brand of basketball. FIBA Americas consists of Dominican Republic big man Jack Michael Martinez dropping dimes, though, and that’s sometimes much more fun to watch.

The rest of the top plays in Caracas, Venezuela, on Thursday featured Luis Scola passing, Renaldo Balkman dunking, Carlos Arroyo assisting, Jack Michael Martinez (again) and former Atlanta Hawks wing Donta Smith putting on a full-court show while masquerading as a Venezuelan.

EuroBasket’s top play from Thursday featured former Boston Celtics big man Semih Erden putting an unsuspecting Italian on a poster. It was mean and not something big men should do, but Semih Erden did it:

The rest of the top plays taking place in Slovenia on Thursday were compiled in a handy Top Five format and feature Erden, a pair of game-winning corner 3s, Jan Vesely of the Washington Wizards putting back an offensive rebound with ferociousness and former Portland Trail Blazers wing Rudy Fernandez nutmegging someone to set up current Portland Trail Blazers forward Victor Claver for an easy dunk:

Who says basketball in September has to be boring?

FIBA Americas down to 8 teams after Brazil, Paraguay eliminated

Venezuela World Qualifier Basketball
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The 2013 FIBA Americas tournament is taking the day off on Wednesday, but it’s not just because the most star-laden Eurobasket tournament tipped off. The first portion of round-robin play was completed Tuesday night, meaning two eliminations had to be made.

One was surprising, one wasn’t: Brazil was sent home after losing to Jamaica in a loser-gets-eliminated affair while Paraguay¬†was finally put out of its misery after only being involved when the United States decided to skip the tournament due to already having an automatic berth in the 2014 World Championships.

Brazil’s elimination is quite shocking considering the team finished in fifth place at last year’s Olympics, but this squad was far from the best Brazilian basketball has to offer. Nene, Anderson Varejao, Tiago Splitter and Leandro Barbosa all sat out this summer, leaving Marcelino Huertas as the team’s best player — and although he’s one of the best point guards in Spain’s top professional league, he wasn’t enough to keep Brazil competitive in this year’s 2014 FIBA World Cup qualifier.

All isn’t lost for Brazil, however, as they’ll likely earn one of the wild card spots for next year’s tournament — and are automatically qualified for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro anyway due to their host-nation status.

The remaining eight teams fighting through a second round of round-robin action are undefeated Puerto Rico, Canada, Argentina, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Jamaica, Uruguay and the hosting Venezuela squad. The final four teams will qualify for next year’s World Cup.