Trans-Tasman rivals Australia and New Zealand will do battle in the first window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers on 20 February 2020.
The current world number 11 ranked Boomers and reigning Asian Cup champions have been pooled with 2017 semi-finalist Tall Blacks (ranked 38) in Group C. Joining the Oceania heavyweight duo are Asian minnows Guam (77) and Hong Kong (ranked 101).
Australia is set to host New Zealand for their opening game on 20 February at a yet to be named location, before then travelling for an away game against Hong Kong on February 23.
The home and away series of games in each group will be played across three qualifying windows. The first window (17-25 February) will be played early in 2020 from 20-24 February, includes the duel between Australia and New Zealand, while China visits Japan on the following game day in Group B.
In the following window (23 November – 1 December), games will then be played later in the year from 26-30 November 2020, allowing for national teams prepare for and play at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games across July and August. The Boomers are slated to play in Guam on 27 November before playing the return leg against the Tall Blacks in New Zealand on 30 November.
Games in the final window (15-23 February) of the Asia Cup Qualifiers will be from 18-22 February in 2021, finalising the results to determine which teams will move on to the final stage. Australia host Hong Kong on 18 February and then Guam just three days later on 21 February to close out qualifying.
The top two teams from each Group will directly qualify for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup, while the 6 third-placed teams will advance to play a qualifying tournament for the remaining four positions in the event.
With Australia and New Zealand clearly the standout two teams in Group C, it is hard to see how Guam or Hong Kong could cause a massive upset.
With the NBL season ending on 16 February, it will be interesting to see if player availability impacts either the Boomers or Tall Blacks in their opening window of their qualification campaigns given the potential playoff commitments key players may have.