In the FIBA Qualifying Tournament taking place in Italy, the Tunisian men’s basketball team fought for the Arab World’s last chance at a spot at the Rio 2016 Olympic basketball tournament.
Unfortunately, the team failed to do so and was eliminated from the tournament after being defeated by Italy and Croatia.
The tournament, whose winner will qualify to Rio 2016, brought together six nations: Greece, Mexico and Iran in Group A, along with Tunisia, Italy and Croatia in Group B. Tunisia lost 41-68 to Italy on July 4 and 52-72 to Croatia on July 6.
Tunisia faced several setbacks, such as Makram Ben Romdhane's sprained ankle and the absence of star Salah Mejri due to knee surgery. Mohamed Hadidane was also unavailable for the tournament.
Tunisian-American guard, Micheal Brandon Roll, had a great impact on the Tunisian team, ranking joint-fifth in the tournament in total points scored (30) and average points scored per game (15). He is also among the three players in the tournament with a 100 percent free-throw rate and is the second best in assists, with an average of five assists per game.
Additionally, Tunisia’s power-forward Makram Ben Romdhane is the second best rebounder in the tournament, with nine rebounds in the only game he played. However, he committed five turnovers, the second greatest number per game. Meanwhile, power-forward Mohamed Mokhtar Ghyaza is the second best blocker, blocking 1.5 times per game. When it comes to steals, forward player Hamdi Braa is joint-first at a rate of two steals each game.
Nonetheless, the team performed poorly in offense, scoring the lowest rate of points per game (46.5) in the tournament, 15 points less than the second lowest rate. Tunisia also has the lowest field goal (27%) and three-point (22.5%) percentages among the six teams. With 15 turnovers per game, Tunisia is second in turnovers after Iran.
This was Tunisia’s second time competing for a 2016 Olympic basketball berth. Tunisia won bronze in the 2015 Afro Basket it hosted, where gold-medalist Nigeria booked a spot in Rio.
The African nation took part in an Olympic basketball event for the first time in London 2012, ranking 11th out of 12 competing teams.
Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Qatar, Lebanon, Kuwait, Palestine and Jordan also fell short of qualifying to the 2016 Olympics. After finishing fifth in the 2015 Asia Championship, Lebanon was stripped of its right to compete in the 2016 World Olympic Qualifiers in Philippines.
According to NBC Sports, the Lebanese federation was behind in payment, so FIBA invited Turkey to the Qualifiers instead, claiming Lebanon is "currently not in good standing with FIBA Asia."