Gilas will face Iran, Kazakhstan, Qatar in second round of qualifiers

Despite the controversial, fight-marred defeat against Australia on Monday, Gilas Pilipinas still made it to the top half of the new Group F in the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers. The Philippines joins Australia and Iran in the top half of the draw that begins September 13. The Philippines open on the road against Iran.

The Philippines (4-2) is grouped with Iran (5-1) and the Australians (5-1) in the top half while Kazakhstan (3-3) and final first window gameday victors Japan (2-4) and Qatar (2-4) comprise the bottom half.

The Philippines and Australia will wait to see what if any sanctions FIBA issues in the aftermath of Monday's incident.

According to the tournament format, the top three teams from Group E and Group F and the highest fourth-placed team among the two groups will advance to World Cup, In the event that China finishes in the top three in Group E, its standing will not count and the fourth-placed team will go through. There is even a chance that five teams make it from Group E.

That puts a lot of heat on Gilas, especially if there will be sanctions handed out to the nine Gilas players involved in the fracas against Australia. The Boomers face a similar situation, but only four players were ejected from the abbreviated 89-53 rout which ended in the third period.

Any or all of the nine Gilas players ejected from the game -- Terrence Romeo, Carl Bryan Cruz, Troy Rosario, Japeth Aguilar, Jayson Castro, Matthew Wright, R.R. Pogoy, Calvin Abueva and Andray Blatche -- could face up to a two-game suspension, per FIBA's 2011 guidelines.Reserves Allein Maliski, Jio Jalalon, Abu Tratter and Troy Rike -- who entered the court during the brawl -- could also face punishment from FIBA.

The Gilas coaching staff could be faced with limited options in the fourth window.

Australia's Nathan Sobey, Chris Goulding, Daniel Kickert, and Thon Maker were ejected and could also be unavailable in the Boomers' opener on the road at Qatar on September 13 and at home against Kazakhstan on September 17.

In Group F play, the Philippines, as well as Australia and Japan from the former Group B, will face former Group D advancers. Only six home and away matches will take place. The September window is the fourth window while windows five and six will be played in late November and February 2019, respectively.

The newly formed Group E has a logjam for the top half with New Zealand, Lebanon and Jordan all with a 5-1 record while the bottom half has Korea (4-2), China (3-3) and Syria (2-4).

The teams that fell by the wayside after the first window are Hong Kong (Group A), Chinese Taipei (Group B), India (Group C) and Iraq (Group D).

After facing Iran -- the former three-time Asian champions -- in the first game, Gilas will host Qatar a mere four days later on September 17 (initially slated to be held at the Philippine Arena).

Window Five has the Filipinos hosting two home games against Kazakhstan on November 30 and Iran on December 3. Both games will be at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, while Window Six will have Gilas on the road against Qatar in Doha on February 21 and then fly to Astana for their assignment against Kazakhstan just three days later on February 24.

The top seven teams from Asia advance to the World Cup, which commences on August 31-September 15, 2019. China has already secured one berth -- regardless of how it performs in Group E -- by virtue of being the host nation. Asia has eight slots in the 32-team series.

Gilas' next three opponents

Iran is undergoing a transition as their aging veterans are now being blended in with the youngsters from its budding juniors program with Samad Nikkhah Bahrami, Oshin Sahakian and beanpole Hamed Haddadi slowly passing the torch to the likes of Benham Yakhchali, Mohammed Jamshidi and Arsalan Kazemi while the Kazakhs only have two players over the age of 30.

Qatar -- which needed a 74-69 thriller on the last day of the first round to somehow advance -- will be leaning on naturalized guard Clinton Johnson III collaborating with veteran Mohammed Yousuf Mohammed and young guard Abdulrahman Saad to try to make it to its first World Cup appearance since 2006 in Japan.

Depending on FIBA's decision regarding punishment for the Philippines and Australia, it is starting to look like the top half team that garners at least four victories in the second round could be moving on.