Olympic basketball: Can anyone stop Team USA?

The USA look set to dominate the basketball courts of Rio, but could a surprise be sprung? We’ve profiled the event and ponder the chances of those involved…

With men playing Basketball in the Olympics from as far back as 1904 and women competing since 1976, the sport is now an established one at the Summer Games. It attracts many eyes, most of which are watching to witness the breathtaking coupling of size and athleticism that is always on show.

Twelve teams make up both the women’s and men’s competitions in Rio. The teams are divided into two groups of six countries, who play every team in their group once. Two points are awarded for a victory, one for a loss. The top four teams in each group qualify for the quarter-finals where the knockout stages begin.

In the men’s competition, the United States will again be the side to watch… even without the likes of Steph Curry, Kobe Bryant, LaMarcus Aldridge, Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin, James Harden, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, John Wall and Russell Westbrook.

They have won 14 of the 17 tournaments they have participated in, including seven successive titles from 1936 to 1968.

It speaks volumes for the size of the game in the States that even without the aforementioned stars, they can still call on the likes of Draymond Green, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Kyrie Irving to get them over the line at Rio 2016.

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In 2004, Argentina caused a major upset and won gold. It is tough to foresee anything of the sort happening in Rio.

The battle for the silver medal will be an interesting one though.

Spain have been able to assemble a powerful squad that contains no less than eight NBA players and so they are favourites to finish second. Ranked number two in the world, la Roja will look to both Gasol brothers, Ricky Rubio, Nikola Mirotic and Jose Calderon for inspiration.

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France, with Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum, Boris Diaw and Rudy Gobert, and Argentina, with Manu Ginobli, Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni and Carlos Delfino, are both not to be sneezed at either.

Teams participating in the men’s competition

Group A: France, United States, Venezuela, Serbia , China, Australia
Group B: Argentina, Spain, Brazil, Lithuania, Croatia, Nigeria

In the women’s competition, it is a similar story. The US women’s basketball team, currently riding a 41-game Olympic winning streak that dates back to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics bronze-medal game and includes five gold medals, will be the overwhelming favourites.

The squad they’re sending to Brazil is arguably the best women’s basketball team in history. It includes the gifted Maya Moore and the prolific shooting skills of Elena Delle Donne.

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Australia has typically been the US’s biggest threat in the Olympics, but they’re much less formidable without star Lauren Jackson, who retired due to knee injuries.

Spain, France and the Czech Republic all make-up the remainder of the top-five in the international rankings of the women’s game. It seems there will be an unofficial separate competition for silver in the women’s competition too and it will be very entertaining, even if it is something of a side-show.

Teams participating in the women’s competition

Group A: France, Japan, Brazil, Australia, Belarus, Turkey
Group B: Canada, Spain, United States, Senegal, Serbia, China

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