FIBA rules that Australia did not lose a World Cup game on purpose

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During FIBA World Cup play last summer, the Australian team appeared to lose to Angola on purpose.

Slovenia’s Gora Dragic said as much, which likely was what caused FIBA to open an official investigation into the matter to see if some type of punishment would be justified.

Why would they do such a thing?

The format of the tournament is to blame, as Kurt Helin explained at the time:

Here’s the deal: Australia, Slovenia, Lithuania and Angola are all in Group D of the World Cup (along with Mexico and Korea). The top four teams out of the pool advance to the single-elimination knockout stage that starts Saturday in Barcelona (which is a straight 16-team tournament).

This is the key: In the knockout round Group D matches up with the USA’s Group C in the bottom half of the bracket. What teams in Group D want to do is avoid the USA as long as possible, so they want to finish first or third in the group (then they don’t see the USA until the semifinals, if you’re second in Group D you’ll get the USA in the quarterfinals). Even if you lose in the semifinals you get to play for the bronze medal.

Going into Thursday Slovenia was atop Group D at 4-0, with Australia and Lithuania tied for second/third at 3-1, however Australia was the two seed having the tiebreaker after beating Lithuania.

On Thursday at the half Australia is up by 10 at the half over Angola and realizes if they win this game they will finish second in Group D no matter what. So the Australian coach benches everybody good — I’d call that “going the full Popovich” except the Spurs often win those benching games. Then the rest of Australia’s guys play just sloppy, terrible basketball in the second half. Angola is motivated because with a win they have a chance to make the knockout stage (if Mexico loses to Korea). Angola comes from behind and wins.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that (of course) the Australian team dropped the game intentionally, FIBA concluded its investigation by ruling otherwise.

From The Associated Press:

FIBA secretary general Patrick Baumann says its investigation “cleared Australia of violating the internal regulations.” …

FIBA says it “can count on Basketball Australia to wholeheartedly endorse the principles of fair play and ethical behavior.”

FIBA says any future match manipulation can lead to “suspensions, substantial fines, reprimands or warnings.”

Without any punishment coming for such an obvious offense, and without a change to the format so that this behavior isn’t incentivized, FIBA can expect teams to continue to employ this tactic in the future.