Yesterday’s Olympic draw has many basketball fans talking and all of a sudden, it’s getting a little more real each day. 88 days until London 2012.
But who benefits and who has it hard? It is a difficult question to answer as we still have the Olympic Qualifying Tournaments in Caracas and Ankara to come but we already know that the highlight of the mens draw will be USA vs France, Spain vs Brazil and Great Britain vs Australia. The latter could very well be the greatest sporting rivalary going, rugby and cricket are the two sports that showcases that. If you’re unaware, there’s always Google to help you out.
Then there is the women’s draw, admittedly still raw due to five spots that need to be filled but already Australia vs Russia is the highlighted game in Group B.
But who is smiling and who isn’t? In our own personal opinion, we will scribble it out here:
Great Britain. For once, Chris Finch’s side have a easier draw than the other. Just swap China with Tunisia and it could of been the perfect draw for the host nation. This will be Team GB’s third major international tournament and in the first two (Eurobasket ’09 and ’11), they were housed in the “group of death” catagory.
But, as in their previous two tournaments, the Brits will go head-to-head again with Spain but this time, this could be the strongest British team ever, with the possible arrival of Detroit Pistons’ Ben Gordon, Charlotte Bobcats’ 7-footer Byron Mullens and of course Luol Deng, they could give Spain some problems. This is no indication that GB will be favourites against Sergio Scariolo’s men, because that simply isn’t the case but like they did in Poland in 2009, they could give Spain something to think about.
Great Britain fans have already singled out the games against China and Australia as “must-win” games if they are to progress, and they are right. Great Britain comfortably defeated China at the Olympic Test Event without Pops Mensah-Bonsu Mullens or Gordon and they took Australia to overtime, losing by a single point at the Basketball Arena and with star player Andrew Bogut out of the Games and with a “stongest ever” line-up promised, this could Great Britain’s shot at making their deserved big splash at a quarter-final spot.
The hard to call game is Brazil, such a good offensive unit but lacking in defensive quality, GB need to sharp on both ends of the floor, attack the hoop and not settle with the three-point shot if they are to come away with a win. Another key will be keeping the speedy Leandro Barbosa quiet and sufficating point guard Marcelinho Huertas who likes to control the tempo of the game which is fast-paced but slick. GB need to pressure him as the Barcelona guard tends to be error-ridden if so.
If Great Britain want to really make a name for themselves, this is the best time to do it.
Draw doesn’t benefit:
France. They will be disappointed with that draw, no doubt. The Eurobasket silver-medallists have a near-certain victory over Tunisia in store, yes. But a clash with Argentina and the favourites USA will test the French’s resolve.
Let’s also not forget the add-on of facing the top two from the Olympic Qualifying Tournament which could possibly be Russia and Lithuania, who are favoured. These two teams that will go to Venezuela with a point to prove and will be dangerous opposition should they get to London. That said, you have the prospect of Puerto Rico, FYR of Macedonia, Greece and New Zealand, any of those teams can give France a major test.
It could of been better.
USA. The favourites have virtually been given a pass to the next round with no disrespect to Angola, China or the three additional qualifers that will home Group A.
Unlike their male counterparts, this will be Angola’s first showing at the Olympics and just being in London will be an amazing experience. They will play their hardest, and you can’t ask more than that but against the U.S. it’s a big mismatch. China will be a test, but the USA have the height advantage and will look to push the Chinese on the break at every opportunity.
Draw doesn’t benefit:
Great Britain. This draw was unkind to Tom Maher’s team, but the hosts will go in with no fear and look to upset the odds again. Four teams advance to the last-eight and they will still fancy their chances as the additional qualifiers that go to Group B are the ones that finish third or fifth.
They will also fancy themselves against Eurobasket winners Russia following their narrow defeat last year in Poland and will look to give Brazil a test.
Australia will be a good experience for them, along with facing the USA before the Olympics start. No doubt the future is bright for the GB women, the draw could been better for them though.
John Hobbs is TalkBasket’s Olympic reporter and will be covering London 2012 for TalkBasket.net. You can follow him on Twitter @johnswisshobbs for all the latest Olympic news.