3x3 World No.1 Liman face dark horse Manila in tough Doha Masters opener
DOHA (Qatar) - World No.1 Liman (SRB) and x-factor Manila Chooks TM (PHI) face off in a much anticipated clash on Day 1 of the Doha Masters highlighting the resumption of the FIBA 3x3 World Tour on November 20-21.
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Featuring four of the top five ranked teams in the world, the loaded Doha Masters will provide excitement for HUUUUNGRY 3x3 fans with the World Tour having been on hold since the first three Masters of the season were played in Hungary in late August-early September.
Fueled by the return of superstar Stefan Stojacic, Liman dominated in Hungary with victories at the Debrecen and Europe Masters. The in-form Serbs headline Pool A but are expected to face a tough battle against No.9 seed Manila Chooks TM, who are led by Philippines' best 3x3 players Joshua Munzon and Alvin Pasaol.
At last year's exciting Doha Masters, eventual runners-up Liman were stunned by Munzon-led Pasig Chooks on Day 1 and will be keen to avoid another boilover. Locals Lusail (QAT) will be hoping to make it more than a two-horse race in Pool A.
Defending champions Riga (LAT) will be the team to beat from Pool B and look to add to the title they won at the Hungary Masters. The return to Doha should bring happy memories for Karlis Lasmanis who took flight last year to claim MVP and deliver Riga their first ever Masters victory.
The No.2 seed will be hot favorite against No.7 Jeddah (KSA) and Yoyogi Crayon.EXE (JPN) although the former have shown their ability to produce upsets having memorable defeated powerhouse Novi Sad at the Europe Masters.
If there is a group of death, it's surely Pool C featuring No.3 seed NY Harlem (USA), No.6 Lausanne Katapult (SUI) and No.14 Utena Uniclub (LTU). The New Yorkers made the semis of the last two Masters but are no guarantee to get out of such a loaded group.
They, however, will play with their renowned swagger and have good reason to be confident having beaten Utena at the Debrecen Masters.
Utena recovered from that defeat to storm to the final on their World Tour debut with offensive genius Ignas Vaitkus emerging as a breakout star. The Lithuanians will be out to prove they aren't just a one-hit wonder.
The talented Lausanne usually underachieve but showcased exactly why they have long been highly rated with a semi-final finish at the Europe Masters.
Gilles Martin was a highlight machine in Hungary and the little Swiss maestro will be out to prove he is one of 3x3's best. His mouthwatering battle with Disco Domo will be more entertaining than Netflix.
And that's not all! Not to be overshadowed by their compatriots, No.4 seed Princeton (USA) will make their debut on this year's World Tour and will be striving to make up for lost time. They will be without walking bucket Robbie Hummel but still have loads of talent, including high-flyer Kareem Maddox and pick-and-roll savant Damon Huffman.
Princeton will have to be ready from the get go against in-form No.5 seed Ub (SRB) who spectacularly finished second at the Hungary Masters, but will be missing two key pieces in Miroslav Pasaljic and Strahinja Stojacic. The third team in the group will come from qualification.
It's going to be another epic event in Qatar in the last chance for teams to impress before the World Tour's showpiece finale.