Did the Boomers tank?
With an investigation being launched by FIBA into Australia's loss to Angola, social media has blown up with varying opinions of if Australia did "tank".
Your definition of "tanking" will go a long way to determining which school of thought you align with.
Did Australia "tank" / give itself the best chance of winning the game?
Did Australia "tank" /give itself the best possible chance of winning a medal?
Did Australia "tank" / field it's best available team and still try to win?
Did Australia's players "tank" / do their best but were not put in the best position to win?
I've just re watched the last 13:20 of the game to make my decision. I chose this section of the game as Australia were still up by 15 at this point (60-45) and seemingly well on their way to a win.
So what happened? Here's a blow-by-blow account.
3:20 Chris Goulding nails a 3, giving Australia a 60-45 lead. Timeout called by Angola.
Australia returns with a lineup of Gibson/Goulding/Exum/Motum/Bairstow
3:05 Moreira drives past two defenders, Australia 60-47
2:49 Bairstow misses a 20 footer
2:39 Moreira catches an ally, Australia 60-49
2:29 Goulding misses a tough 3
2:19 Mingas drive past a "hands down" Goulding, Australia 60-51
2:05 Gibson nails a corner 3, Australia 63-51
1:58 Jawai enters for Bairstow
1:57 Moreira scores off an inbounds pass, jumps over Jawai for the 2, Australia 63-53
1:45 Goulding misses a tricky layup
1:32 Moreira draws the "And 1" over Motum, Australia 63-55
1:32 Moreira makes the free throw, Australia 63-56
1:02 Fortes hits the uncontested 3, Australia 63-59
0:54 Jawai scores an easy 2, Australia 65-59
0:35 Mingas hits an uncontested lay up over Jawai, Australia 65-61
0:14 Moreira scores an easy transition dunk after a missed Motum 3, Australia 65-63
0:01 Goulding misses a 28 footer, Australia 65-63
So Australia was outscored in that last 3:20 by 18-5.
Australia opens with Gibson/Goulding/Newley/Motum/Jawai
9:15 Moreira nails open 20 footer, all tied up at 65
9:01 Motum nails open 3, Australia 68-65
8:52 Silly Goulding backcourt foul
8:32 Mingas scores inside on an offensive rebound, Australia 68-67
8:19 Goulding nails an open 3, Australia 71-67
8:03 Australia triple teams Moreira in the post and fouls on an entry pass
7:43 Jawai takes, and misses, a 12 footer for some reason
7:23 Barros scores on nice layup, Australia 71-69
7:04 Goulding nails corner 3, Australia 74-69
6:35 Bairstow,Exum enter game for Motum, Gibson
6:18 Newley fouls Costa on the drive. He drills both free throws. Australia 74-71
Broekhoff enters game for Newley
6:06 Angola throws an outlet pass off an Aussie turnover. Moreira again. Australia 74-73
Timeout Australia. Lemanis warns guys about the foul situation, need to box out and poor
decision making on offense.
5:54 Bairstow nails 18 footer. Australia 76-73
5:29 Mingas fouled inside. Australia in the penalty. Mingas hits 1, Australia 76-74
4:59 Mingas fouled inside. Hits 1 but the Angolans get the rebound. Australia 76-75
4:44 "You know who" hits an outside jumper. Angola takes the lead 77-76. That's 30 for him in the second half.
4:27 Goulding throws a wishful ally to Dante. No luck
4:07 Dante throws a nice ally to Jawai. Australia 78-77
3:49 Offensive foul on Costa. Aussies get the ball
3:41 Bairstow travels. That's 10 turnovers for the half with the team only having 6 in the first half. Timeout called.
3:20 Mingas grabs an uncontested offensive rebound and scores. Angola 79-78
3:09 Goulding misses an open 3
2:52 Fortes blows by Goulding for the layup. Angola 81-78
2:25 Goulding misses another 3.
2:01 Mingas hits another warm-up jumper. Angola 83-78. Timeout Australia.
Gibson on for Broekhoff
1:44 Another Goulding turnover and Angola runs. Moreira gets an offensive rebound and scores. Angola 85-78
1:24 Motum in for Jawai (Heal: "31 minutes is the most minutes he would have played in any competition for months)
1:14 Dante drains a 3. Angola 85-81
0:55 Mingas fouled down low by Exum. Nails both freebies. Angola 87-81
0:42 Bairstow scores off a rebound. Angola 87-83
0:33 Australia fouls. Both free throws missed but Angola gets the rebound.
0:26 Another Aussie foul. Barros nails both. Angola 89-83
0:25 Angola steals the inbounds pass.
0:18 Angola timeout.
0:01 Australia can't get the steal or foul and Moreira scores on the buzzer. Angola win 91-83
You certainly can't watch that last 15 minutes and extract that the Australian players didn't try at all or put up decent shots.
Did they have some "defensive lapses"? Absolutely
Did they take show ill-advised shots? A couple.
There was a lot of sloppy play but that can probably be explained by the personnel. Here's a rundown of the guys that hit the court in the last 15 minutes.
Gibson- nailed a 3 but otherwise quiet.
Goulding- scored 9 but committed a bunch of turnovers and defense was very poor.
Broekhoff- no impact
Exum- a couple of good plays but defense was average
Jawai- minimal impact and was struggling to get up and down the court for a lot of the time.
Motum- nailed a 3 but otherwise no impact
Bairstow- hit some other jumpers and that's about it.
Newley- only a few minutes but also no impact
So basically there was no standout player besides Goulding, who hit a few threes but that was largely nullified by the rest of his play.
So the questions that are fair to ask are......
-Was it even considered by the brains trust to play Baynes,Ingles, Andersen and Dellavedova down the stretch or were they that fatigued they couldn't play?
-Was Lemanis simply trying to give his reserves some experience and seeing if they could pull off a win?
-How did Moirea finish with 38 after only having scored 4 at the half? Why wasn't he assigned a "stopper".
-How did Australia only allow 29 points in the first half but 62 in the second?
My major issue around the investigation is: why Australia and why now? Regardless of whether they are guilty, the timing and selection of Australia to be targeted seems odd. Very much like the investigation into the Melbourne Demons in the AFL a few years ago, this seems to have largely been sparked by a player (Slovenia's Goran Dragic).
It's clear to me Australia didn't set out to lose the game. They fairly thought they had enough depth to rest Baynes and Ingles and still win. Much like the US didn't set out to lose a few years ago when Tim Duncan sat against his native Virgin Islands.
The B team even managed to build up a nice lead with Andersen and Dellavedova anchored to the bench after the first quarter.
The question would be why did none of these 4 get back on court when the game was in doubt, or Newley, who sat the last 6 minutes?
Australia will argue it believed it's bench, who had got the team to a healthy lead in the 3rd, was good enough to win. They simply fatigued and the coaching roster was reluctant to bring on their key injured/fatigued players.
Australia surely would have had a different attitude in an elimination game though and, rightly or wrongly, that's a large reason for the investigation. Can any legitimate sport be seen to feature games with teams not going all out to win?
In most sports and tournaments around the world this practice is accepted when a team is simply doing all it can to be in a stronger position where there are real stakes at hand, be it a World Championship or finals spot. Geelong, Hawthorn and Fremantle have all rested stars in the dying rounds of the AFL season when their finals spots are set.
Why FIBA have gone down this road now is strange but don't be surprised if we start to see the issue of "tanking" become much more closely scrutinised around the world, especially in light of the sports betting boom. Fundamentally, this is the biggest problem with "tanking" in 2014. Once word broke Thursday night that Baynes and Ingles were being rested, there was a flurry of bets placed on Angola (there were lots of winners too going by Twitter).
As it has been well documented, Australia's loss to Angola didn't guarantee avoiding the US but losing was a worthwhile "roll of the dice", as it gave Lithuania a huge incentive to win. History tells us Lithuania were incentivized and "wore down" Slovenia in the last quarter.
I'm hopeful that Australia's actions won't draw a penalty but instead lead to FIBA reviewing it's group rounds and reviewing the whole structure of their tournament. They might even take on my idea......
-After the World Championships, create a Top 64. This will be worked out from results of the top 24 from Spain plus then seeding 40 more teams from their regional championships.
-The Top 24 from Spain automatically qualify for 2019 (yes, the next one is 5 years).Between now and 2019, the other 40 teams play a series of games against each other by region to work out ranking spots 25-64.
-The World Championships will then see 4 brackets of 16, much like the NCAA. Seed 1 plays seed 64, 2 plays 63 etc. Format is elimination.
-Yes there will be some horrible early round games with this format (US vs Rwana anyone?) but after two rounds, you're down to the Top 16. You get 63 games all up, as opposed to the 35 we get currently.You'll get much wider interest and ensure teams like Russia, China, Canada, Germany, Italy,Great Britain and India get there. That leads to a pretty big viewing audience.
-The best part: elimination means no "tanking"
Problem solved. You're welcome, FIBA. As a reward, please don't penalise my country!