USA Basketball has finished its exhibition play in preparation for the London Olympics which will begin Friday, July 27. Team USA went 5-0 in their exhibition games beating the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Great Britain, Argentina and Spain.
Team USA will be in Pool A in the Olympics along with Argentina, France, Lithuania, Nigeria and Tunisia. The United States is the favorite to win gold in London but it won’t be a cakewalk.
“All I’m concerned about is how we’re going to get better,” Kevin Durant said when asked who was the favorite in the Olympics. “How we’re going to approach these Games, that’s all I’m worried about. We’ll see what happens at the end.”
The team has been modest at times but also knows there is only one acceptable outcome for them.
The United States will play each team in their pool once before the medal round begins. The top four teams from each pool after the round robin will advance to an 8-team tournament.
Pool B is considered the better all-around pool but there will be some competition in Pool A for Team USA. Here is a preview of each team in the pool:
Team USA is ranked first in the world and rightfully so. They won gold in the 2008 Beijing Olympics then won the World Championships two years later. LeBron James has averaged 18.6 points per game to lead the team in its five exhibition games while Durant is averaging 17.6 points per game and went 16-for-29 from beyond the shorter 3-point line.
The weakness for the United States is no secret. They aren’t a big team and have played LeBron, Durant and Carmelo Anthony a lot at the four and five positions. Some teams will have a pretty decent advantage against them inside but it shouldn’t be enough to take them down.
France is always a team you expect to be a little better because they have quite a few NBA players. Unfortunately for them they will be without Joakim Noah who would have been huge for them. Tony Parker is playing some of the best basketball of his life though and will be a tough cover for anyone. They also have a few decent athletes at the wing positions led by Nicolas Batum to try and match up with the U.S. Boris Diaw is coming off a great year for the Spurs and has a game made for the international style. Spurs fans will also get a look at Nando De Colo who will be joining the team next year.
France should advance to the medal round and is one of the few teams with a chance to upset the United States but it is pretty unlikely.
This is not the same Argentina team that won a gold medal in 2004 and beat the United States. Actually, it pretty much is and that’s the problem. They’ve gotten older and aren’t the heavyweight they used to be. They’re still led by Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola and Carlos Delfino who can all fill it up on any given night, just not as consistently as they used to.
Argentina and France will battle it out for the second seed in Pool A, a spot each will really want to get because then they would avoid the United States until a potential gold medal game.
Lithuania is a small country that absolutely loves hoops and produces some fine NBA-caliber talent. They’ve had some success in the past and have the potential to come out of Pool A as possibly the 2-seed. They have NBA talent in Sarunas Jasikevicius, Linas Kleiza, Darius Songaila and Jonas Valanciunas. They have a lot of size too and could give the U.S. a very good game.
This Lithuania team is the kind that would have probably beaten Team USA in 2004 but this year it should be a different story. Raptors fans will love getting their first look at their 2011 first round lottery pick, Valanciunas.
Nigeria was the last team to qualify for the Olympics making a pretty improbable run to get in. They are led by two NBA talents in Al-Farouq Aminu and Ike Diogu. This is another team with a lot of size but simply not enough talent to be taken seriously. They have an outside chance of advancing to the medal round as the 4-seed but it is pretty unlikely.
Tunisia qualified for the Olympics by winning the African tournament. They aren’t to be feared by anyone though. They are the new Angola and should get blown out in every game in this pool aside from Nigeria.
Tomorrow we will have a preview of Pool B.