TAIPEI - Iran coach Dirk Bauermann expects the Philippines, South Korea and his team to crowd ''favorite' China for the championship in the Fiba-Asia Men's Basketball Championship three weeks from now.
Speaking on the eve of Iran's first match-up with Gilas 3.0 in the 37th Jones Cup, Bauermann, who took over the iran job this year, said a China team to be led once again by NBA veteran Yi Jianlian is the favorite in the September 23 to October 3 tournament simply because it is the host.
But at the same time, Bauermann expects Gilas, Korea, his team and 'probably another dark horse' to crowd the hosts for the lone berth allotted for Asia in next year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
"I think for me, the Chinese team is the favorite (because) playing at home is always a huge advantage," Bauermann said. "And then I think it’s the Philippines, it’s us, and Korea and maybe a dark horse, maybe Japan, or Qatar or Lebanon, who knows, you know."
Bauermann, a former head coach of the German and Polish national teams, got his first look at the latest Gilas side assembled by fellow veteran internationalist Tab Baldwin - minus naturalized player Andray Blatche, of course - and is obviously impressed with what he has seen so far.
"They’re very good, they’re very deep, they play super hard. I like the way they play," he said. "In Tab, they have a great coach with a lot of international experience. So it’s gonna be a very interesting game (in the Jones Cup)."
Bauermann said he will likely make 'one or two changes' to the current Iran lineup in the Jones Cup for the Asian showpiece, with Samad Bahrani set to rejoin the Hamed Haddadi-led team after sitting out the Taipei trip due to injury.
But regardless of how his team will shape up, the German said it is tough to call the odds in a two-week tournament like the Fiba Asia showcase where "anything is possible."
"In a two-week tournament, anything is possible. Over a long nine-month season, usually the best team is going to end up winning the championship. But in 10 days, anything is possible," he said.
"Like I said, the Philippines has a very good chance, I think we do, too. Same with China, Korea, Lebanon…. It’s gonna be an interesting tournament."