FIBA World Rankings Explained: Why Spain has overtaken USA Basketball for the top spot in 20 years
Three things to know
- Spain are now ranked No. 1 in the FIBA World Rankings after winning EuroBasket in September.
- The United States falls to No. 2, marking the first time in the rankings’ 20-year history that it is not number one.
- The FIBA World Rankings are based on a weighted point system that takes into account the date a match was played, the level of competition and the round of a match, among other factors.
Move over, USA.
For the first time in two decades, there is a new No. 1 team in the FIBA World Rankings. Following their triumph at EuroBasket 2022 in September, Spain now sit in first place as FIBA released their latest rankings on Friday.
Spain take the top spot for the first time in the history of the FIBA Men’s World Ranking! 👑 🇪🇸
— FIBA (@FIBA) November 18, 2022
Not only is this the first time Spain have held the top spot, but it’s the first time a team other than the United States has been ranked first since the rankings debuted nearly 20 years ago.
Here’s everything you need to know about how the rankings work, the history between the USA and Spain, and the dates for the next big competition.
How the FIBA World Ranking Works
FIBA uses a weighted point system that takes into account all matches played during the most recent eight-year period. Games played in the past year are given the most weight with decreasing value in years 2-3, 4-5, and 6-7. The newer the game, the greater the impact.
High level competitive matches (i.e. Olympics, FIBA World Cup) are awarded more points than lower level matches such as qualifiers or regional tournaments.
Additionally, games played in later rounds of tournaments are also given a heavier weight. For example, the gold medal match of a FIBA World Cup counts for more points than a match played in the group stage.
In order to take into account the strengths of the relative regions (i.e. Europe or Oceania), the games are also weighted accordingly to reward performance based on the strength of the schedule. For example, if New Zealand beat France and then beat Fiji, those matches would be weighted differently.
Click here for a more detailed explanation of the FIBA World Ranking and point system.
FIBA World Ranking Update
The only change from the last ranking occurs at the top with the exchange of places between Spain and the United States. In fact, the only other move inside the top 10 is Brazil moving up one spot to 13th and Poland to 14th. You can see the full list of 164 teams here.
Why did the United States drop in the rankings?
The United States has fallen in part due to lackluster performances in recent tournaments.
Earlier this year, they finished third in the AmeriCup, a tournament involving countries from North and South America. No current NBA player has competed for an American team led by former NBA player Norris Cole.
Although USA won gold at the 2020 Summer Olympics (played in 2021 after a year-long delay due to COVID), it followed a disappointing seventh-place finish at the FIBA World Cup. 2019 in China.
FIBA World Cup matches weigh more than the Olympics in the FIBA Rankings and, given that the Olympics are now over a year ago, that seventh place now matters more than the Olympic gold.
Coupled with Spain’s victory at EuroBasket 2022, these results provided enough points for Spain to take first place.
Head-to-head results USA vs Spain, record
Naturally, Spain taking the top spot perhaps opens the door to conversations around which team is actually the best.
The United States and Spain recently contested the 2020 Summer Olympics, with the United States taking a 95-81 win in the quarterfinals. At the Olympics, the United States is 13-0 against Spain.
They haven’t played in a FIBA Basketball World Cup since 2002 when Spain won 81-76. The United States is 4-2 all-time against Spain at the world championships.
When is the next FIBA World Cup?
Pending the results of the qualifying matches, there is a good chance that Spain will participate in the next FIBA Basketball World Cup as the No.1 ranked team in the world.
The next FIBA World Cup will take place in August and September 2023. Japan, the Philippines and Indonesia are co-hosting the 32-team event, the first time multiple nations have hosted.
The United States have yet to qualify despite currently sitting first in their pool at the 2023 Americas Qualifiers. They are one of 16 teams vying for seven Americas berths.
Spain has already won its place. While the defending champions don’t qualify automatically, Spain have officially clinched their ticket as one of 32 European teams vying for 12 places.