After the group stages, Team USA came out undefeated but will have the toughest road to the gold medal after the quarterfinals knockout pairings were set on Monday.
After the last day of group stages competition, the other group’s rankings were set and Team USA draw with South American rivals Argentina while it’s an all-Euro affair in two other QF matches, Spain faces France while Serbia takes on Croatia. The last KO match-up is between Lithuania and Australia.
The Americans have struggled in their last three games, against Australia (98-88), France (100-97) and Serbia (94-91). The Australians led Team USA at halftime, France played without starting point guard Tony Parker and Serbia was one three-point shot away from forcing overtime.
Team USA opens the knockout stages against Argentina, which features a lot of veterans and NBA players. Leading the team are Manu Ginobili (San Antonio Spurs), Luis Scola (Brooklyn Nets), Facundo Campazzo (UCAM Murcia) and Andres Nocioni (Real Madrid).
Most in the Argentina roster have already faced the Americans in previous international tournaments and have the experience not to be distracted by the star power of Team USA.
If the Americans survive against the Argentines, they will next face either Spain or France. Like Argentina, these teams have experienced veterans and also some NBA stars.
Spain lost their first two games but has won their last three. They are led by Pau Gasol (San Antonio Spurs), Ricky Rubio (Minnesota Timberwolves), Sergio Rodriguez (Philadelphia 76ers), Alex Abrines (Oklahoma City Thunder), Nikola Mirotic (Chicago Bulls) and Willy Hernangomez (New York Knicks).
Spain also has former NBA players Rudy Fernandez (Real Madrid) and Juan Carlos Navarro (FC Barcelona Lassa).
Meanwhile, France, which gave Team USA a scare in group stage meeting has Parker (San Antonio Spurs), Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz), Boris Diaw (Utah Jazz), Nicolas Batum (Charlotte Hornets), Joffrey Lauvergne (Denver Nuggets) and Euroleague MVP Nando de Colo (CSKA Moscow).
If the Americans survive against either the Spanish or French dribblers, they will most likely face Australia for the gold medal match. The Australians have to beat Lithuania in the quarterfinals and then take care of either Croatia or Serbia in the semifinals.
But with the quality of play they showed against the Team USA earlier in the week, they are the favorites to advance to the gold medal match.
Can Team USA survive the tough challenge in Rio and get the championship in this tournament?
Photo courtesy: Elmosera/Wikimedia Commons