BORDEAUX (France) - After a rare stumble, top-ranked Ub Huishan NE (SRB) are aiming to rediscover their best form at the FIBA 3x3 Bordeaux Challenger on July 21-22.
Ub headline a loaded 16-team draw and there are also three tickets available for the Cebu Masters, which is the 10th stop on this season's FIBA 3x3 World Tour.
Let's preview all the action.
It feels strange to start this off and not wax lyrical over Ub's latest triumph. But the Serbs fell at the quarters of the Novi Sad Challenger for the first time from eight events this season.
You can't blame them because Ub are in the midst of a gruelling schedule where they will play their seventh tournament in the last month.
In a bid to freshen up, Ub have tweaked their line-up with legendary Dejan Majstorovic and Macau Masters MVP Marko Brankovic skipping Bordeaux.
But Vladimir Dordevic and YuXuan Liu are more than handy replacements with the pair already tasting Masters glory this season.
Other contending teams, however, will smell blood including No.2 seeds Antwerp TOPdesk (BEL) who boast a strong line-up led by young gun Caspar Augustijnen and defensive menace Dennis Donkor.
Riga (LAT) have had some heartbreak so far this season and are yet to win a title in their new era post Karlis Lasmanis and Nauris Miezis.
But if speedy Miroslav Pasajlic fires then Riga might finally break their drought.
The most anticipated Day One game is a Pool D blockbuster between Miami (USA) and Futian (CHN).
The Americans have found the pro circuit tough having been unable to make it past the quarters from their first three events.
They are hoping for a change of fortune and have their awesome foursome back, including former NBA player Jimmer Fredette who has more than lived up to the hype in his debut season.
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Miami face a stern early test against Futian, who boast dynamic duo Thibaut Vervoort and Dimeo van der Horst.
After a strong start to the season, including finishing runners-up at the Manila Masters, Futian have fallen off and will be desperate to turn things around and win a first title.
There is always one team who should be rightly angry at being placed in this list.
On this occasion it is in-form Fribourg (SUI), who are likely to have the last laugh with the Swiss having finished runners-up at the Pristina Challenger.
You just know big fella Natan Jurkovic is gonna deliver some nasty jams, but Fribourg are likely going to battle Dusseldorf LFDY (GER) for the second spot in Pool A.
The Germans have gone off the boil recently but you just can't discount a team with Niklas Kropp and Bastian Landgraf, who can provide a lethal one-two punch.
Fan favorites Lausanne (SUI) have familiar stars, including dynamic Gilles Martin, while Paris could well go on a giant-killing run with star Franck Seguela capable of walking home with the MVP.
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The qualifying draw will be intense with Hangzhou (CHN), Haarlem (NED) and Tel-Aviv (ISR) among the teams eyeing a deep run the hard way.
Pool A: Ub Huishan NE (SRB), Dusseldorf LFDY (GER), Fribourg (SUI)
Pool B: Antwerp TOPdesk (BEL), Lausanne (SUI), Qualifier
Pool C: Riga (LAT), Paris (FRA), Qualifier
Pool D: Miami (USA), Futian (CHN), Montreux (SUI)
What's at stake
The top 3 teams in Bordeaux will qualify for the Cebu Masters on September 23-24, 2023, as part of the FIBA 3x3 World Tour.
How to watch
The two-day extravaganza is on July 21-22 and you can follow it live on the FIBA 3x3 YouTube and Facebook pages.