Everything you need to know before FIBA 3x3 World Tour Utsunomiya Opener 2023
UTSUNOMIYA (Japan) - The wait is finally over so get ready because we're about to launch season 12 of the FIBA 3x3 World Tour at the Utsunomiya Opener.
Here is all the important information you need before we get 2023 rolling in style.
Where can I watch the Utsunomiya Opener?
The action runs from April 29-30, and you can follow it live on the FIBA 3x3 YouTube, Facebook and Sina Weibo pages.
Who is competing in Utsunomiya?
The top 10 teams in the rankings and a total of 14 squads: Ub Huishan NE, Raudondvaris Hoptrans, Riga, Vienna, Antwerp TOPdesk, Amsterdam HiPRO, Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy, Miami, Sansar MMC Energy, Partizan, Utsunomiya BREX, Yokohama BeefmanEXE, Sydney CLBEXE, Rosedale SwishEXE
What are the pools?
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Who are the favorites?
As you would expect for the season launch, this is an absolutely loaded field with the top 10 teams on the FIBA 3x3 rankings.
It's a tough task judging the favorites because we have some new flashy teams while a few stars will be wearing different colors.
But one team that has remained the same is the awesome foursome from Ub Huishan NE (SRB), whose domination of 2023 started with victory at the first-ever Utsunomiya Opener.
But they have a target on their back with a long line of contenders aiming to grab their crown. No. 2 ranked Raudondvaris Hoptrans (LTU) have a different name but the same lethal Lithuanians who ignited Sakiai Gulbele late last year.
Perhaps the most intriguing team is newly-formed Miami (USA), who boast the four gold medallists from USA's successful title defence at FIBA 3x3 AmeriCup 2022.
Powerhouse European teams Riga (LAT), Antwerp TOPdesk (BEL), Amsterdam HiPRO (NED) and Vienna will all look slightly different this season, but rest assured they all remain title contenders.
And we might just see a Mongolian team break a title drought on the World Tour with Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy (MGL) and Sansar MMC Energy boasting national heroes who helped inspire Mongolia to victory at FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup 2022.
Who are the players to watch?
We just have to start with the top player for some time - his name is Strahinja Stojacic but he's also popularly known as 'Doctor Strange'.
But he's been more like 'Doctor Success' in recent years with Stojacic winning MVP in 2022 and right now he sits on the 3x3 throne.
There are plenty of other players looking to make a statement in 2023.
Perhaps the most watched player in Utsunomiya will be Jimmer Fredette, who if you weren't part of 'Jimmer Mania' a decade ago then you might just feel the craze this time around.
The former NBA player is eyeing being part of next year's Paris Olympics and his journey towards that goal starts in Utsunomiya. We're betting he lights up the half-court like he famously did the hardwood.
There are numerous players looking to make an impact on new teams including high-flyer Worthy de Jong having moved from Utrecht to No.1 Dutch team Amsterdam HiPRO.
The human highlight reel might be the most exciting player in Utsunomiya, but there is a lot of competition for that status with athletic beast Caspar Augustijnen arguably the most talented young player on the World Tour.
Quincy Diggs from Vienna is a walking bucket and out to improve on his spectacular debut season, while hometown hero Yosuke Saito turns into a 3x3 ninja when he has the Wilson in his hands.
If you want someone to heat up Utsunomiya quicker than wasabi then we have plenty of snipers battling for two-pieces.
Legendary sharpshooter Steve Sir, Sansar's Anand Ariunbold - fresh off his heroics at the Asia Cup 2023 - and Marijus Uzupis are some of the cold blooded assassins that you just can't leave open.