2012 Olympic Basketball: Final Power Rankings & Sunday Games Preview
Group play tips off on Sunday at 9 a.m. London time (yikes) and runs until August 6th (games every other day). The top four teams in each group advance to the single-elimination playoff phase that starts on Aug. 8th. Semis follow on Friday, Aug. 10 and the gold-medal game is on Sunday, Aug. 12.
Wouldn't mind if the Olympic basketball committee switched to three games a day to make sure teams are not playing games before noon. Maybe play the women's and men's games in separate venues.
Here's our rankings of the Olympic field:
Final Power Rankings:
9) Great Britain
Summary: USA is the clear favorite and is expected to meet Spain in the finals on Aug. 12th. Right now, Spain is by no means a lock for the silver.
Brazil has a legit shot of beating Spain in group play with Juan Navarro and Marc Gasol ailing. Don't sleep on Russia just because they have only three NBA players, they're a legit medal contender and closely-matched with Brazil.
Second place in Group A is up for grabs with not much separating Argentina, Lithuania and France. We give Argentina a slight edge over Lithuania because Carlos Delfino looked to be moving well in prep phase and Luis Scola can get Jonas Valanciunas in foul trouble.
Starting to cool on France's chances of competing for a bronze. Tony Parker's uncomfortableness with his goggles is an underrated factor. If they can't full-force Tony, they will struggle offensively.
Australia should get the last knockout-round spot in Group B and their experienced, physical team can compete vs. Brazil and Russia.
The Brits and Nigeria have a slight chance of sneaking into the knockout round, but they will need catch a lot of breaks and drill their shots at a higher-than-normal clip.
China is not a pushover, there is some talent here to challenge Britain. Tunisia has Jack Rebel Slims (hat tip to Trey Kerby), so that's one reason to get excited about watching them.
*-(To get a deeper analysis of each team, take a look at our group previews: Group A & Group B
Let's take a quick look at some of Sunday's top games:
Sunday Games of the Day:
*--(Times are London time (five hours ahead of EST))
Argentina vs. Lithuania (10:15 pm): Most intriguing game of the day between two closely-matched teams. Both teams are known for their exacting offensive execution and crisp ball-movement. Both teams tend to make the extra pass. Both teams have counterplays and multiple options in their sets. Both teams can drill from deep--on 3pt. attempts, Argentina shot 43% at Americas, Lithuania shot 40% at Euroasket.
We give the slight edge to Argentina because Jonas Valanciunas will likely have to guard Luis Scola much of the time, which is a dangerous proposition for Lithuania. Here's why: Jonas has trouble staying out of foul trouble and Scola is one of the best players in FIBA at drawing fouls.
Won't be surprised if Argentina pounds the ball into Scola on the blocks early. Expect Scola to do damage as a popper in ball-screen action and on cuts.
Linas Kleiza is the main option for Lithuania and they like to screen him across the lane into post-ups/isos. Andres Nocioni will likely have to guard Kleiza, which could work out alright for Argentina.
Another interesting matchup is at PG between Pablo Prigioni and Saras Jasikevicius. Two old PGs who are masterful at running the pick-n-roll--both great passers. The difference is Prigioni rarely makes mistakes while Saras has a tendency to be careless. Lithuania usually has some issues with turnovers and Argentina did a great job forcing TOs last year, which they often turned into easy buckets.
Like Argentina's defense somewhat more than Lithuania's, but Lithuania could have the advantage on the glass.
Brazil vs. Australia (11:15 am): The best Group B game of the day. Australia has a frontline that can matchup fairly well with Brazil's trio of Nene, A. Varejao and T. Splitter.
Dave Andersen, Aleks Maric and Matt Nielsen give the Aussies three veterans around 6-11 who have proven themselves at the highest levels of European club ball.
All three can make plays out of the post, while Andersen and Nielsen can float out to the perimeter. The Aussies generally defend well and rebound well enough to possibly neutralize Brazil on the boards.
SA Spur Patty Mills usually hurts the opposition with his speed advantage, but not so sure he can overwhelm Brazil's backcourt, which has speed of its own. Brazil's Marcelo Huertas and Leandro Barbosa should neutralize the influence of Mills.
USA vs. France (2:30 pm): The game might have been a bit more interesting if Joakim Noah were active and Tony Parker weren't having issues with his eye/eyewear.
We know Team USA will try to overwhelm Les Bleus with aggressive defense. France does have one of the more athletic teams in the field and might be able to guard Team USA decently for stretches of the game.
France's primary line of attack will be running Parker in ball-screen action. Also watch for Nic Batum coming off of down screens (usually on left side).
They also like to set up Boris Diaw in the post quite a bit, and they will usually screen across the lane for him after he sets a down pick for a wing (usually Batum).
Ali Traore and Kevin Seraphin might get some post touches as well. France needs Seraphin to step up to fill the void left by Noah.