Team USA Basketball 2012: Ranking Americans' Toughest Matchups in Group Play

Aidan MackieSenior Analyst IJuly 23, 2012

Team USA Basketball 2012: Ranking Americans' Toughest Matchups in Group Play

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    With a slew of NBA superstars, Team USA is undoubtedly the favorite to capture gold in this year's Olympics

    The team has dominated competition thus far, even drawing comparisons to the amazing "Dream Team" of 1992. 

    While the Americans will almost certainly make it out of the group stage, they will face some tough competition in the preliminary round. 

    Included in their early draw is the Tony Parker-led French team, the experienced Argentinian squad and the young, talented Lithuanian team. 

    Let's see how Team USA matches up with each of these teams and rank their toughest match ups in the group stage. 

5. Tunisia

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    Tunisia should be the American's easiest game in the preliminary round. 

    The North African country is currently 32nd in the FIBA world rankings and it will be making it's first appearance in the Olympic games. 

    Tunisia won it's first ever FIBA African Championship just last year and it claimed a spot in the Olympics by beating a star-studded Angola team. 

    The team is led by forwards Macram Ben Romdhane and Mohamed Hadidane.

    Romdhane, 23, is a gifted scorer and solid rebounder. In the 2011 FIBA African Championship, he averaged 12.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.

    Hadidane, 26, is a 6'9" forward who can do it all on the court. In the 2011 FIBA African Championship, he averaged an impressive line of 7.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game.

    Despite a solid combination of forwards, the Tunisian squad will be unable to match Team USA's superior athleticism. 

    Tunisia was dominated 95-56 by Spain earlier this month, so expect a score similar to that result for the group stage match up with the Americans. 

4. Nigeria

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    Nigeria is another team who has no chance of upsetting the far superior American squad. 

    The West African nation is currently 21st in the FIBA world rankings and it was the last team to clinch a trip to London. 

    The strength of the Nigerian squad is their inside game. They pose a huge height advantage against the majority of the Olympic squads, including Team USA. 

    However, the versatile guards of the American squad will dominate Nigeria up and down the floor.

    Chris Paul, Deron Williams and company will quicken the pace of the game and use their athleticism to tire an inferior Nigerian squad. 

    Team USA by at least 25. 

3. Lithuania

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    Lithuania is a country stockpiled with basketball talent.

    The eastern European nation is currently fifth in the FIBA world rankings. 

    The country has claimed a medal in three of the last five Olympic Games, and they will put another talented team on the floor in London. 

    The team is full of young stars, most notably center Jonas Valanciunas.

    Valanciunas, 20, was the fifth-overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. The seven-footer averaged a solid 10.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game in the Eurocup last winter.

    With Valanciunas manning the paint, Lithuania has a strong inside game. 

    However, the team lacks athleticism. This flaw was exposed in a shocking 86-80 loss to Nigeria earlier this month.

    When matched up with the explosive Team USA, the Lithuanian squad will struggle mightily.

    Lithuania could win the battle in the paint, but it will be dominated by the American's transition game.

    Expect a close game early, but for Team USA to pull away in blowout fashion in the second half. 

2. Argentina

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    Argentina have won at the top level before and they has the talent to do it again. 

    The South American nation shocked Team USA in the 2004 Olympic semifinals and went on to win gold. In 2008, the team managed to claim bronze.

    Currently third in the FIBA World Rankings, Argentina has sustained success at the international level for the last decade.

    The team is led by NBA veterans Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola. 

    Ginobili is a two-time All-Star and three-time NBA champion. He can do it all on the court, as he has averaged an impressive 15.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game over his ten-year career with the Spurs. 

    Scola is a phenomenal big man. He has averaged a solid 16.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game for the Rockets over the last three seasons. 

    Argentina also boasts outstanding point guard Pablo Prigioni and NBA veteran Carlos Delfino.

    The Argentinians may not be the most star-studded roster, but they know how to work together as a team. They managed to beat Spain's B team 81-76 earlier this month. 

    If Team USA does not take Manu Ginobili and company seriously, they could see a repeat of 2004.    

1. France

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    Despite being without their starting center, Joakim Noah, the French boast one of the best starting five's in the tournament. 

    The French squad is currently 12th in the FIBA World Rankings, but that placement does not reflect their overall talent level. 

    France possess five NBA players. They will be led by point guard Tony Parker and small forward Nicholas Batum. 

    Parker has been dealing with an eye injury recently, but he has been cleared to play in London. Parker is arguably the tournament's best point guard, as he is coming off an MVP-caliber season with the San Antonio Spurs. 

    Batum, 23, is coming off a solid season for the Trail Blazers in which he averaged a solid 13.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He is a very capable scorer who could potentially go off in London.

    With Parker and Batum, the French could go toe-to-toe with Team USA's outstanding guards. 

    While Team USA should be the heavy favorites, they can not afford to put together a lackluster effort.

    If the Americans do not respect France as a capable opponent, they could end up on the losing end.