Team USA has not been flawless in the London Olympics. They’ve looked dominating (versus Nigeria), average (versus Lithuania), and then a mixture of the two (against Argentina). And for all the talk against of them being a great defensive team, the Americans let Lithuania and Argentina shoot above 50% (58.5% and 51.1% respectively).
For all their inconsistencies, Team USA still has to be the Gold Medal favorite. They have the world’s best basketball player (LeBron James), the second best (Kevin Durant), and the third (Kobe Bryant). They shoot the three like no one else in the tournament. Their role players (Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, etc.) would be stars on most other teams. But even though they are the clear favorites, it’s not going to be an easy road to the Gold. Just take a look at the bracket.
As of noon today, the Russians had already KO’ed the Lithuanians, who gave the Americans their toughest game yet. They play the winner of Spain and France later this week, and having already beat Spain, Russia has to be the favorite on that side of the bracket. But if Russia or Spain comes out of that side, Team USA will face a tough challenge for Gold. Both teams have big men that the Americans will have a tough time matching up with man-to-man. The potential game with Spain especially be tough because of the brothers Gasol and Serge Ibaka, who present potential matchup nightmares for the Americans.
But this side of the bracket isn’t the only side of it that can cause the Americans some severe headaches. They should dispatch of Australia easily, but after that it gets interesting. The winner of Brazil-Argentina promises to give the Americans a tough game. Argentina, lead by my Olympic MVP Manu Ginobli, already gave Team USA all they could handle for a half, and whose to say they can’t do it again. And if Brazil wins, they have three NBA big man (Anderson Varejao, Nene, and Tiago Splitter) that have skills. That’s the same number Team USA has with Tyson Chandler, Anthony Davis, and Kevi
Don’t get me wrong – I think Team USA is going to get the gold medal. This won’t be the 2004 Olympics again, where the Americans had to settle for an embarrassing bronze medal. But it’s not going to be a cake walk. The Spaniards, Russians, Brazilians, and Argentinians all provide real threats to American basketball dominance. And if Team USA has an off night shooting like they did against Lithuania, then anything is possible.