A clash between China and South Korea in one of today's opening-day games of the FIBA Asia Championship is expected to draw interest from teams looking for chinks in the armors of the two squads which are likely to advance deep into the tournament.
Of particular interest to scouts is China which at the last moment dropped three of its stalwarts due to injuries and put in replacements led by the veteran Wang Zhizhi who was originally dropped from the line up.
But China may not show all the tricks in its bag, perhaps just a few, unless really threatened by South Korea. The Chinese will likely pull everything out in the semifinal and final, should they reach that phase.
The two teams collide at 5:45 p.m., the fourth game of a seven-game schedule that will also feature Jordan against Taiwan, Iran versus Malaysia, Japan against Qatar, Kazakhstan against Thailand and India versus Bahrain.
The main fare, of course, as far as Filipino fans are concerned, is the clash between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia at 8:15 p.m.
All the games will be at the Mall of Asia Arena, save for the game between India and Bahrain which will be played at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium at 6 p.m.
For the record, the Chinese have won 15 FIBA Asia gold medals, three during the Yao Ming era, while Korea, which snapped a Chinese streak in 1997 in Riyadh, and Japan each has two. The Philippines has won five titles but the lasat one came in 1973.
The last time they met, China whipped Korea, 56-43, in the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship semifinals in Wuhan. The Koreans then beat the Filipinos, 70-68, for third place while the Chinese, behind former NBA player Yi Jianlian edged Jordan in the final, 70-69, to qualify to the London Olympics the follower year.
Wang Zhizhi's return has beefed up China and his presence, along with Yi and former Laker Sun Yue, will be a big problem for the Koreans, led by Cho Sung-Min, Kim Joo-Sung and Lee Seung-Jun, especially if their outside shots don't fall early.
Jordan against Taiwan, both bracketed with Gilas Pilipinas, should go the Taiwanese's way since the Jordanians are without key players from their successful past - Rasheim Wright, Sam Daghlas and Zaid Abbas, most notably.
"We have eight young players. We hope to do good job here in the Philippines," said Jordan's team manager Zuhair Fuad Nassar during Tuesday's press conference.
Though little is known about the Taiwanese except that their pony-tailed power forward Tseng Wen-ting, an almost unstoppable offensive force, is back to carry the load, they had recently walloped South Korea, 73-60, to take second place in the 35th William Jones Cup.
Taking the cudgels for Chinese-Taipei was naturalized player Quincy Spencer Davis III of Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana who had 26 points and 17 rebounds.
The clash between Japan, behind forward Hiejima Makoto, and Qatar should determine the top Group B team going to the second round of the eliminations. With Lebanon out of the picture, both teams plus Hong Kong have clear passage to the next level where they will be joined by the top three teams from Group A, the RP team's bracket.
The other games should be a breeze for the heavyweights, with Iran expected to plaster Malaysia, Kazakhstan favored against Thailand, and India a cinch over Bahrain.