The London Olympics are now upon us. The opening ceremonies will be held tomorrow July 27 and the basketball begins Sunday, July 29.
USA Basketball is the favorite to win gold but not as overwhelmingly as you would first think. Teams like Spain, Brazil and Argentina are fully capable of upsetting the mighty U.S.
Team USA is in Pool A which we previewed yesterday. Pool B is led by Spain who is the team everyone expects to meet the United States in a gold medal game. Here is a preview of all of the teams in Pool B:
Spain has emerged as the most likely team to upset the United States in the Olympics. They are led by Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol as well as Serge Ibaka, Jose Calderon, Rudy Fernandez and Juan Carlos Navarro. They will be without Ricky Rubio which will hurt but they are still fully capable of pulling off an upset. Spain has a lot of experience and size that will be tough for any team to deal with including the U.S.
While Spain is the favorite in this pool, they are not a shoo-in to beat every team. To ensure a meeting with the United States in the gold medal game, Spain will have to finish first in the pool.
Brazil is maybe the team with the second-best chance to upset the U.S. at the Olympics. They played Team USA very close in an exhibition losing 80-69 and exploiting USA’s lack of size. They are comprised of NBA talents Anderson Varejao, Nene and Tiago Splitter down low as well as Leandro Barbosa on the wing. Perhaps their best weapon is point guard Marcelinho Huertas who is a Brazilian version of Steve Nash and looked the part against Team USA.
Brazil has an outside shot of winning the pool but is more likely to get a two or three seed. When Brazil and Spain play it should be one of the best games in pool play.
Russia is led by Andrei Kirilenko who is reportedly playing the best basketball of his career right now, fresh off a championship game appearance with CSKA Moscow in the Euroleague. The Russians are more talented than usual and also feature familiar NBA names in Timofey Mozgov, Viktor Khryapa and Alexey Shved. Their weakness is the guard position though and it will be an adventure for them to handle the pressure a team like the United States will put on them.
Russia should be very competitive with everyone in their pool though and even has some potential to knock off Spain. Kirilenko can take over a game in many ways at times and will have to do so for Russia to advance far in the medal round.
China is ranked 10th in the world surprisingly ahead of Brazil and Russia. They are led by Yi Jianlian and Chinese legend Wang Zhizhi. China has certainly improved over the years and Yi is a very talented player but they aren’t really threatening to win a medal in these Olympics.
Expect an unimpressive showing from China. This pool is pretty stacked and they seem the most likely team to disappoint.
Australia will be without the one player that could have put them into medal contention in Andrew Bogut. They too are also an improving nation with hoops though and will put a decent roster on the floor led by Spurs point guard Patty Mills. They are less international good and more not quite NBA good and that will be a problem. The more experienced countries in this pool should finish ahead of them.
Great Britain is the host country and that’s the only reason they will be playing. Don’t expect much from them despite the fact that they are led by NBA All-Star Luol Deng. They may have the chance to pull off a hometown upset over China or Australia but we shouldn’t expect to see very much good basketball from them.