Olympic Basketball Groups 2012: Top Matchups to Watch

Michael DulkaContributor IJuly 25, 2012

Olympic Basketball Groups 2012: Top Matchups to Watch

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    The Men's Olympic Basketball tournament schedule tips off on Jul. 29 at 4:00 a.m. EST with a matchup between Nigeria and Tunisia. Group play continues until Aug. 6 with four teams from each of the two groups advancing to the knockout stage.

    In Group A, the USA is likely to be in the top-place finisher with France and Argentina competing for the second spot. In Group B, Spain and Brazil will likely compete for the top seed in the knockout round with Russia, China and Great Britain fighting to advance.  

    The quarterfinals take place on Wednesday, Aug. 8 with the semifinals being played on Friday, Aug. 10.

    The bronze medal game will take place on Sunday, Aug. 12 at 6:00 a.m. EST and the gold medal game will be played that same day on 10:00 a.m. EST.

USA vs. France: Jul. 29, 9:30 p.m. EST

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    Team USA kicks off their group play with a matchup against Tony Parker and the French team. In it's first game of the Olympics, the US gets a formidable challenge in France, who will likely compete with Argentina for the second spot in Group A. 

    France features a lineup filled with NBA talent with the likes of Parker, Nicolas Batum, Boris Diaw and Ronny Turiaf. The team is missing big man Joakim Noah, which certainly would have helped against an American team with less-than-stellar play down low. 

    France definitely has a chance at reaching a medal game and a strong showing, even in a loss, against Team USA could do wonders for their confidence. 

France vs. Argentina: Jul. 31, 3:00 p.m. EST

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    France and Argentina both enter the tournament with high medal hopes. Both nations have a great chance of advancing out of the group stages, but will likely be competing for the second spot after the powerhouse Americans.

    The game features two NBA teammates, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili playing for France and Argentina respectively, going at it. The top guards will led their teams and the better of the two on Jul. 31 may very well lead their team to an important victory.

    While the Team USA games will be fun to watch based on the ridiculous amount of talent on the court, this is a game of tournament contender based on how competitive this could game could be. Both teams have a decent shot to win and plenty to play trying to avoid likely Brazil or Spain in the second spot in Group B.

Russia vs. Spain: Aug. 4, 6:15 a.m. EST

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    One of the most intriguing matchups of group play features two of the biggest teams in the tournament in Russia and Spain. The Spanish team will trot out two seven-footers in Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol, while the Russians send out a starting lineup with their shortest player standing at 6'6".

    Timofey Mozgov, who stands 7'1", will be charged with the duty of having to contend with the Gasols. It's a tough task for the NBAer, but if Russia is to have success in London, he will need to be up to the task.

    The Russian side is built around Andrei Kirilenko who spent last season away from the NBA, but could be back next season. 

    Heading into the tournament, there are likely four teams competing for the silver and bronze medals: France, Argentina, Brazil and Spain. If Russia is going to crack those teams and compete for a medal, they must find success against Spain and/or Brazil in the group stage.

Brazil vs. Spain: Aug. 6, 3:00 p.m. EST

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    Group B powerhouses Brazil and Spain close out their group play matchups against each other in a game featuring the favorites for the top spot. Both teams have not only medal hopes, but gold hopes.

    If any team in the tournament is going to knock off the powerful Americans, it's going to be one of these two. 

    Spain features NBA talent all over the court, led by the enormous front-court of the Gasol brothers. Pau and Marc will be main cogs down-low for the big Spanish squad with Serge Ibaka coming off the bench. Brazil features their own trio of NBA big men with Nene, Anderson Varejao and Thiago Splitter.

    Along with France vs. Argentina, this game has the potential to be the game of the early tournament, as both teams will expect to leave the arena with a victory. While these two do battle, the biggest question will be whether one of these two are talented enough to knockout Team USA.   

Argentina vs. USA: Aug. 6, 5:15 p.m. EST

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    While Team USA won't have many challenges earlier on, they face one of their biggest tasks in their final group play game against Argentina. Both teams are likely to advance with Team USA finishing atop Group A. Argentina will be fighting with France for the second seed out of the group.  

    The two squads faced off in an exhibition game last week, with the US narrowly escaping 86-80, in what was their closet exhibition game leading up to the Olympics. In that game, Manu Ginobili led Argentina with 23 points while Carlos Delfino and Luis Scola added 15 and 14 points respectively.

    The chances of Argentina pulling off the upset are extremely low, but the chances they provide the world with a decent challenge to Team USA is fairly good. Team USA will roll, but this is the best and last chance to tune up before the games really start to count in the knockout round.