The 2012 London Olympics are upon us with the opening ceremonies going on today. Olympic basketball will start Sunday, July 29.
The United States are coming in as the favorites to win the gold but the competition keeps getting tougher for them every four years. Team USA won gold back in the 2008 Beijing Olympics but did not in 2004 in Athens when Argentina won.
Team USA is full of NBA stars just like in 2008 but this time around they have a noticeable weakness that has the potential to be exploited by other countries. Team USA is small with only three true big men in Tyson Chandler, Kevin Love and Anthony Davis.
This has forced LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony to essentially play a lot of minutes at power forward and even center. Mismatches are a two-way street but given the way these international games are played, the U.S. could be in some trouble with this roster.
Twelve teams make it to the Olympics and they are split into two pools of six. Then each team in each pool plays each other once with the top four from each pool advancing to play in an 8-team, single-elimination tournament.
Team USA is in Pool A along with Argentina, Lithuania, France, Nigeria and Tunisia. Pool B consists of Spain, Brazil, Russia, Australia, China and Great Britain.
In pool play, expect the United States to pretty much dominate. France, Argentina and Lithuania all are considered to have a chance to possibly upset the U.S. but it is unlikely to happen before the medal round. Team USA should cruise winning every game in their pool and come out the 1-seed.
France, Argentina and Lithuania all have a legitimate shot at becoming the 2-seed. There is even a chance they could all finish with a 3-2 record in pool play to make things very interesting. France and Argentina are getting the most attention while Lithuania may have the better team of the three.
I think Lithuania emerges as the 2-seed in this pool followed by Argentina as the 3-seed and then France as the 4-seed.
Nigeria and Tunisia will battle it out for the irrelevant 5- and 6-seeds while neither should be able to beat any of the top four teams in this group. I predict Tunisia doesn’t win a game.
Spain is considered the heavy favorite to make it to the gold medal game against the United States. They should come out of this pool as the 1-seed but Brazil and Russia have an outside chance to finish ahead of them.
Ultimately Spain should come out as the 1-seed although there is some pressure to win every game in the pool and they definitely don’t want to finish as the 2-seed and be forced to play the United States before the gold medal game.
Brazil and Russia should be battling for the 2-seed or actually, the 3-seed. No one wants to get the 2-seed in this pool because then they would have to play the U.S. before the gold medal game. If Spain emerges as the definite 1-seed early in pool play, expect to see some interesting game plans from Russia and Brazil in an attempt to avoid Team USA.
I think that Brazil will finish as the 2-seed though as the final game of pool play will be between them and Spain. The winner of that game will determine who wins the pool as I think both will be undefeated up until that point.
Russia should get the 3-seed followed by Australia who I think narrowly edges out China for the 4-seed. Great Britain may not win a game except possibly against China.
Team USA should easily handle Australia and move on to the semifinal. They will play the winner of Brazil and Argentina which should be a very close game. I give Brazil the edge here but it really could go either way.
Spain should have no problem with France in their quarterfinal but it may be closer than people think. Lithuania and Russia should make for a very good game but I think Lithuania pulls it out.
Team USA was played very closely by Brazil in their exhibition game and I think this game will be possibly the closest one they play all Olympics. Brazil didn’t play any zone against the U.S. in that exhibition and still had a chance to win the game. They are much bigger too and have a great point guard in Marcelinho Huertas who gave the U.S. fits in the exhibition. It will be a close one but I’m not picking against the U.S. here.
Spain and Lithuania should be a good game too but Spain should definitely win. They are such a balanced team and may even win this game and have a 7-0 record in the Olympics after it. There will be a lot of talk about Spain having a real good chance of upsetting the U.S. after this point.
Gold Medal Game
It will come down to the two teams we all wanted to see play: USA vs. Spain. In their exhibition earlier this week Team USA won by 22 but Spain did not show all of their cards. Marc Gasol didn’t play at all and Pau Gasol and some of their other better players didn’t log heavy minutes.
This game will be as close as any in the Olympics and I truly believe it could go either way. Maybe what happens up to this point in the Olympics will change that feeling for me but from what I’ve seen from Team USA and Spain so far make me think this is a very even matchup.
I’m picking Team USA because of one man: Kevin Durant. For everything that is wrong with this Team USA roster, Durant fixes it by being the most unfair player in the tournament. It will be easy for him to rise to the challenge with the great talent around him especially aided by LeBron James.
The 2008 gold medal game was remembered as one of the best international basketball games ever played and I think the 2012 gold medal game will end up being right there with it. It will be another reminder that the world is catching up to the U.S. in hoops but that we are still the best because we have the very best, Durant and LeBron.