Olympic Basketball 2012: Team by Team Rosters, Brackets & Medal Predictions
After a few shocking qualifiers and a handful of appetite-whetting exhibitions games, Olympic Basketball is almost underway.
While the United States remains a title favorite and retains the top overall FIBA ranking, there are eleven hungry teams with plenty of talent looking to achieve gold medal glory over the Americans.
Besides major powers like the U.S., Spain and Argentina there are a number of teams with quality players that are looking to do some damage in their bracket and make their way into the elimination rounds.
With the international tipoff looming, I've assembled a list of team-by-team rosters along with groupings and how I believe the tournament should ultimately shake out.
For the next few weeks, basketball will be firmly in the world spotlight, so let's take a look at who will be competing for ultimate bragging rights, what to expect from each bracket, and who will leave London clad in some shiny new hardware.
United States of America (USA)
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PG: Chris Paul, 27 - Los Angeles Clippers
SG: Kobe Bryant, 33 - Los Angeles Lakers
SF: LeBron James, 27 - Miami Heat
PF: Kevin Durant, 23 - Oklahoma City Thunder
C: Tyson Chandler, 29 - New York Knicks
PG: Russell Westbrook, 23 - Oklahoma City Thunder
PG: Deron Williams, 28 - Brooklyn Nets
SG: James Harden, 22 - Oklahoma City Thunder
SF: Carmelo Anthony, 28 - New York Knicks
SF: Andre Iguodala, 28 - Philadelphia 76ers
PF: Anthony Davis, 19 - New Orleans Hornets
PF: Kevin Love, 23 - Minnesota Timberwolves
This summer's team boasts some of the league's best perimeter players on both ends of the court, but does have a serious concern in the middle, with Tyson Chandler being the only true center on the roster.
Still, the team has players in Kevin Love, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James that can play larger than their size and be extremely physical on the inside.
Their defense is absolutely lethal and with their athleticism Team USA is capable of forcing turnovers and creating easy points in transition.
Their lack of size will certainly be an obstacle against bigger teams like Brazil and of course Spain, but the depth, versatility and unselfishness of America should be enough to offset this one real weakness.
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PG: Pablo Prigioni, 35 - New York Knicks
SG: Manu Ginobili, 34 - San Antonio Spurs
SF: Carlos Delfino, 29 - Milwaukee Bucks
PF: Luis Scola, 32 - Phoenix Suns
C: Juan Gutierrez, 28 - CB Granada (Spain)
PG: Facundo Campazzo, 21 - Penarol (Argentina)
SF: Heran Jasen, 24 - MMT Estudiantes (Spain)
SF: Marcos Mata, 25 - Penarol Mar del Plata (Argentina)
SF: Andres Nocioni, 32 - Caja Laboral, ACB (Spain)
PF: Leo Gutierrez, 34 - Penarol de Mar Del Plata (Spain)
PF: Federico Kammerichs, 32 - Regatas Corrientes, LNB (Argentina)
C: Martin Leiva, 32 - Penarol
Ranked third in the world, Argentina gave the United States all they could handle in an 86-80 loss in an exhibition game in Barcelona.
The team has several quality NBA players, led by Manu Ginobili, whose outside shooting and ability to drive and finish at the rim make him a very tough cover.
Possessing plenty of outside shooting and a number of talented forwards highlighted by sharpshooter Carlos Delfino and crafty interior scorer Luis Scola.
Argentina is absolutely a medal contender despite having one of the older rosters in the Olympics.
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PG: Adam Gibson, 25 - Gold Coast Blaze (Australia)
SG: Patrick Mills, 23 - San Antonio Spurs
SF: Brad Newley, 27 - Valencia Basket (Spain)
PF: Matt Nielsen, 24 - BC Khimki, PBL (Russia)
C: Aleks Maric, 27 - Panathinaikos Athens, A1 (Greece)
SG: Matt Dellavedova, 21 - St. Mary's College
SG: Peter Crawford, 32 - Townsville Crocodiles (Australia)
SF: Joe Ingles, 24 - Regal FC Barcelona, ACB (Spain)
PF: David Barlow, 28 - UCAM Murcia Basketball, ACB (Spain)
PF: Mark Worthington, 29 - Gold Coast Blaze
C: Aron Baynes, 25 - Ikaros Kallitheas, A1 (Greece)
C: David Andersen, 32 - Montepaschi Siena (Italy)
Australia boasts a versatile lineup and some quality size, although the loss of Andrew Bogut—one of the better defenders and shot-blockers in the NBA—certainly hurts the squad's title chances.
Because of the injuries they have faced, the team has had to experiment with a variety of lineups, but they have plenty of frontcourt depth and a slew of shooters including college star Matt Dellavedova. Patrick Mills will likely be a centerpiece of their offense due to his passing and slashing abilities.
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PG: Marcelo Machado, 37 - Flamengo, NBB (Brazil)
SG: Leandro Barbosa, 29 - Indiana Pacers
SF: Guilherme Giovannoni, 32 - Brasilia, NBB (Brazil)
PF: Tiago Splitter, 27 - San Antonio Spurs
C: Nene Hilario, 32 - Washington Wizards
PG: Marcelinho Huertas, 29 - Regal FC Barcelona, ACB (Spain)
PG: Raul Neto, 20 - Minas Tenis Clube, NBB (Brazil)
PG: Larry Taylor, 31 - Flamengo (Brazil)
SG: Alex Garcia, 32 - Brasilia
PF: Marcus Vieira, 28 - Pinheiros (Brazil)
C: Anderson Varejao, 29 - Cleveland Cavaliers
C: Caio Torries, 25 - Flamengo
Brazil boasts several NBA big men and has the talent to make some serious noise this summer.
Led by a formidable frontcourt of Nene, Tiago Splitter and Anderson Varejao, the team can dominate the glass, defend the paint and score in the post.
Though they are a little thin on the perimeter, the slashing and three-point shooting of Leandro Barbosa and the playmaking of Marcelo Machado gives Brazil a very versatile offense.
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PG: Jianghua Chen, 23 - Guandong Southern Tigers, CBA (China)
SG: Shipen Wang, 29 - Guandong Southern Tigers
SF: Yue Sun, 26 - Beijing Aoshen Olympian Ducks, WCPBL
PF: Jianlian Yi, 24 - Dallas Mavericks
C: Zhizhi Wang, 33 - Bayi Rockets, CBA (China)
PG: Wei Liu, 32 - Shanghai Sharks, CBA (China)
SF: Ailun Guo, 18 - Liaoning Hunters (China)
SF: Li Yi, 22 - Guandong Southern Tigers
SF: Fangyu Zhu, 29 - Guandong Southern Tigers
PF: Jinhui Ding, 22 - Zhejiang Wanma Cyclones, CBA (China)
PF: Peng Zhou, 22 - Guandong Southern Tigers
C: Zhaoxu Zhang, 24 - Shainghai Sharks
In addition to having a roster with plenty of experience playing together—five players are from the same club, Guandong Southern Tigers—China has a slew of size, highlighted by 7'3" center Zhaoxu Zhang and NBA player and former lottery pick Jianlian Yi.
The main Achilles heel for China will be their lack of guard depth and playmaking.
They have a number of wing players but do not boast much guard depth and will need to get consistent playmaking out of Jianghua Chen and Wei Liu to have a shot at making any kind of waves.
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PG: Tony Parker, 30 - San Antonio Spurs
SG: Nando De Colo, 25 - San Antonio Spurs
SF: Nicolas Batum, 23 - Portland Trail Blazers
PF: Boris Diaw, 30 - San Antonio Spurs
C: Kevin Seraphin, 22 - Washington Wizards
SG: Yannick Bokolo, 27 - Gravelines-Dunkerque, LNB (France)
SG: Fabien Causeur, 25 - Cholet, LNB (France)
SF: Mickael Gelablae, 29 - BC Khimki Moscou, PBA (Russia)
SF: Yakhouba Diaware, 29 - Pallacanestro Varese, LegA (Italy)
PF: Florent Pietrus - 31 - Valencia Basket Club, S.A.D. (Spain)
PF: Ali Traore - 27, Lokomotiv Kouban-Krasnodar (Russia)
C: Ronny Turiaf, 29 - Miami Heat
Not having Joakim Noah certainly hurts, but France has the talent to make some serious noise in the Olympics.
Though they will have to play the USA and Argentina in the Group A bracket, France, led by Tony Parker, is a very dangerous team.
Parker's ability to penetrate, attack the rim and collapse a defense will be huge for a French team boasting plenty of outside shooting thanks to Nicolas Batum and stretch-four Boris Diaw.
In addition, the team has Kevin Seraphin and Ronny Turiaf to provide some muscle inside and attack the glass.
They may be ranked 12th, but France should be considered a serious contender to take home a medal.
Great Britain (GBR)
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PG: Andrew Lawrence, 22 - College of Charleston
SG: Kyle Johnson, 24 - Long Island University
SF: Luol Deng, 27 - Chicago Bulls
PF: Joel Freeland, 25 - Portland Trail Blazers
C: Pops Mensah Bonsu, 29 - Besiktas (Turkey)
PG: Nate Reinking, 38 - Mons Hainaut, D1 (Belgium)
SG: Mike Lenzly, 21 - Cez Nymburk (Czech Republic)
SF: Andrew Sullivan, 22 - Mersey Tigers, BBL (Great Britain)
PF: Kieron Achara, 29
PF: Robert Archibald, 22 - Unicaja Malaga, ACB (Spain)
PF: Daniel Clark, 23 - Estudientes Madrid, ACB (Spain)
C: Eric Boateng, 26 - Peristeri, A1 (Greece)
England does not have the most talented roster and will rely heavily on the play of All-Star Luol Deng and athletic forward Joel Freeland, who will join the Trail Blazers this season.
The team can guard the perimeter decently and has a solid inside presence with Eric Boateng, a talented shot-blocker.
Still, without players like Ben Gordon and Byron Mullens, Britain is not a serious threat to take home a medal at this year's Games.
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PG: Sarunas Jasikevicius, 36 - Panathinaikos (Greece)
SG: Martynas Pocius, 26 - Real Madrid (Spain)
SF: Linas Kleiza, 27 - Toronto Raptors
PF: Darius Songaila, 34 - Blancos de Rueda (Spain)
C: Jonas Valanciunas, 20 - Toronto Raptors
PG: Mantas Kalnietis, 25 - Zalgiris Kaunas (Lithuania)
SG: Rimantas Kaukenas, 32 - Montepaschi Siena (Italy)
SG: Renaldas Seibutis, 27 - Lietuvos Rytas (Lithuania)
SF: Simas Jasaitis, 30 - Lokomotiv-Kuban (Russia)
SF: Jonas Maciulis, 27 - Montepaschi Siena
PF: Paulius Jankunas, 28 - Zalgiris Kaunas
C: Antanas Kavaliauskas 27 - VEF Riga (Latvia)
Lithuania's size gives them an advantage over plenty of teams in competition, as they have a slew of players that can control the game from the paint.
The team is highlighted by Linas Kleiza, a very physical three who can play tough defense and shoot well from the perimeter.
Darius Songaila is a former NBA player with a multi-faceted post game that is tough to guard.
Newcomer Jonas Valanciunas has huge expectations on his shoulders. Billed as a future NBA star, the seven-footer is aggressive around the basket and unnaturally athletic.
Few teams are big enough to contain Lithuania and the team should do well in international play.
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PG: Anthony Skinn, 29 - Ironi Ashkelon (Israel)
SG: Chamberlain Oguchi, 26 - Panateras de Miranda (Venezuela)
SF: Al-Farouq Aminu, 21 - New Orleans Hornets
PF: Ike Diogu, 28 - Captinas de Arecibo (Puerto Rico)
C: Alade Aminu, 24 - Elan Chalon, LNB (France)
PG: Richard Dean Oruche, 24 - Academica (Puerto Rico)
SG: Ade Dagunduro, 26 - Stella Artois Leuven Bears (Belgium)
SF: Derrick Obasohan, 21 - Joventut de Badalona (Spain)
SF: Ejike Christopher Ubjaoa, 27 - Janseh Tarabor Qomi (Iran)
PF: Koko Archibong, 21 - LTI Giessen 46ers (Germany)
PF: Ekene Ibekwe, 27 - BBC Bayreuth (Germany)
C: Olumide Oyedeji, 22 - Quingdao Double Star (China)
One of the biggest upsets of the qualifying tournaments was Nigeria besting the Dominican Republic and earning an Olympic berth for just the second time in the nation's history.
Though they are not a serious contender, the team has some decent talent and is a very gritty group.
A major problem is their lack of size, though.
The team has NBA players Al-Farouq Aminu and Ike Diogu, both of whom will be playing slightly out of position. Still, Aminu is a hard worker and physical rebounder with a decent outside shot while Diogu is a good defender and post scorer with tremendous length.
Ultimately though, Nigeria will not make it out of the group rounds.
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PG: Vitaliy Fridzon, 26 - Khimki Moscow Region (Russia)
SG: Aleksey Shved, 23 - Minnesota Timberwolves
SF: Victor Khryapa, 29 - CSKA Moscow (Russia)
PF: Andrei Kirilenko, 31 - Minnesota Timberwolves
C: Timofey Mozgov, 26 - Denver Nuggets
PG: Dmitriy Khvostov, 21 - Khimki Moscow Region
SG: Anton Ponkrashov, 26 - CSKA Moscow
SG: Evgeny Voronov, 26 - CSKA Moscow
PF: Semen Antonov, 23 - BC Nizhny Novgorod (Russia)
PF: Sergey Monya, 29 - Khimki Moscow Region
C: Alexander Kaun, 27 - CSKA Moscow
Yet another team whose size will be a major part of their game plan, Russia has plenty of quality bigs highlighted by the 7'1" Timofey Mozgov and multi-faceted forward Andrei Kirilenko.
The players also have plenty of familiarity with one another—six come from CSKA Moscow and another three from Khimki Moscow.
The team has plenty of talent in the frontcourt, but their lack of depth on the perimeter and ball-handling will ultimately hurt the team.
Aleksey Shved is an intriguing player, but the Russian team lacks the kind of dynamic playmaking necessary to go for gold.
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PG: Jose Calderon, 30 - Toronto Raptors
SG: Juan-Carlos Navarro, 32 - FC Barcelona, ACB (Spain)
SF: Rudy Fernandez, 27 - Real Madrid, ACB (Spain)
PF: Pau Gasol, 32 - Los Angeles Lakers
C: Marc Gasol, 27 - Memphis Grizzlies
PG: Sergio Rodriguez, 26 - Real Madrid
SG: Victor Sada, 28 - FC Barcelona
SG: Sergio Llull, 27 - Real Madrid
SG: Fernando San Emeterio, 28 - Caja Laboral (Spain)
PF: Victor Claver, 23 - Portland Trail Blazers
PF: Felipe Reyes, 32 - Real Madrid
C: Serge Ibaka, 22 - Oklahoma City Thunder
Easily the biggest threat to the United States' gold medal aspirations, the Spanish team boasts a number of accomplished NBA players and a trio of extremely talented big men that can give opponents fits.
The multi-faceted Gasol brothers, who can score on the block, shoot from midrange, rebound and pass out of the post and Serge Ibaka, a phenomenal athlete and help defender will anchor the paint for Spain.
In addition, the team has a playmaker extraordinaire in Jose Calderon and a pair of three-point bombers in Juan-Carlos Navarro and Rudy Fernandez that can stretch a defense.
Spain should be automatically penciled in for a medal; the team has too much talent not to come away with some token for their efforts.
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PG: Marouan Kechrid, 31 - US Monastir (Tunisia)
SG: Mourad El Mabrouk, 25 - Eszahra Sport (Tunisia)
SF: Macram Ben Romdhane, 23 - Etoile Sportive du Sahel (Tunisia)
PF: Mohamed Hadidane, 26 - Stade Nabeulien (Tunisia)
C: Salah Mejri, 26 - Etoile Sportive du Sahel
PG: Marouan Laghnej, 26 - J.S. Kairouan, D1 (Tunisia)
PG: Omar Abada, 19 - E.S.R. Rades (Tunisia)
SG: Lassaad Chouaya, 22 - Club Africain (Tunisia)
SF: Amine Maghrebi, 27 0 Eszahra Sport
SF: Amine Rzig, 31 - Etoile Sportive du Sahel
PF: Radhouane Slimane, 31 - An Nasr Dubai, D1 (United Arab Emirates)
C: Mohamed Ghyaza, 25 - ES Rades (Tunisia)
Of all the team's competing in this year's Olympic Basketball, Tunisia is widely considered to be the least talented of the bunch.
Possessing no athletes who have played in the United States or countries with extremely competitive leagues like Spain and France, Tunisia will have a difficult time dealing with the high level defenses and scoring talents of other nations in Group A.
The team does have a solid scoring big man in Macram Ben Romdhane, who can also hit the glass, and a quick point guard in Marouan Kechrid, who can use his speed to attack the basket and get to the rim.
Still, that is not enough to win at the international level and the team could very well go winless in the opening round.
Predictions for Opening Round (Group A)
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Out of each six team pool, the four teams with the top record advance to play in the elimination round. In the event of two teams tying, the squad that won the head-to-head contest will move on.
1) USA: Not having to battle Spain is certainly a benefit for the United States and despite the undeniable talent of France and Argentina, Team USA should have little trouble breezing through the opening round.
Their ability to crank up their defense in key moments, force turnovers and simply pile on points makes them a nightmare opponent.
France's versatility and athleticism will offer some problems, as will the size and shooting of Argentina, but America's roster, filled with elite athletes and talented passers, should be able to pick apart any opposing defense.
2) France: France has the talent to beat anyone in the pool that isn't the United States.
They have a pair of talented perimeter scorers in Nic Batum and Tony Parker that can light up a defense and a versatile big man in Boris Diaw that can create mismatch problems and draw opposing bigs out to the perimeter.
Defensively, Kevin Seraphin and Ronny Turiaf are both physical and will have to be aggressive protecting the basket, but Batum's ability to guard multiple positions thanks to his length and lateral quickness will be a huge asset.
France should certainly advance to the medal round.
3) Argentina: Argentina looked very good against the United States in their exhibition game, but I believe the younger, quicker French team will be able to run them off the floor and take them out of their game.
Still, they have scoring from all positions on the court and will take full advantage of the shorter FIBA three-point line with shooters Carlos Delfino and Andre Nocioni who can knock down shots.
The team's offense will thrive with the Ginobili-Scola pick-and-roll and the team should beat Nigeria and Tunisia handily while edging past Lithuania.
4) Lithuania: The team will undoubtedly struggle with the quicker, perimeter-oriented attack of France and the United States and have no answer for Argentina's shooting, but Lithuania should pick up a pair of wins and advance to the medal round.
They have the size to bully the undersized Nigeria in the paint and simply have more talent than Tunisia.
5) Nigeria: Though they will struggle against the four upper-echelon teams, but Nigeria's forward tandem of Aminu and Diogu should net them a win against Tunisia.
6: Tunisia: Making it into the Olympic round of 12 is certainly an accomplishment, but this team does not have the talent to hang in this tough bracket and is unlikely to register a win.
Predictions for Opening Round (Group B)
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1) Spain: In a relatively friendly bracket, the Spanish team should be able to handle all five opponents in stride.
Their versatile frontcourt is too much for any team to handle besides Brazil and they can run a lethal pick-and-roll offense.
In addition, the team protects the rim extremely well and has three players capable of anchoring their defense. Even the size of Brazil will be no match for Spain.
2) Brazil: An underrated team in my opinion, Brazil should have a successful opening round thanks to their talented big men.
Nene is a great scorer and a lethal pick-and-roll threat while Tiago Splitter is a tremendous athlete who can run the floor very well. Add in Anderson Varejao's defense and energy and you get a very potent frontcourt that is a genuine asset.
They don't have a great backcourt, but Marcelo Machado and Leandro Barbosa can put enough points on the board to best everyone but Spain.
3) Australia: With Andrew Bogut, Australia could certainly contend for the second seed, but without him the team will struggle against the frontlines of Spain and Brazil.
Still, they have plenty of perimeter talent and shooting, a long with a number of capable forwards that allow them to throw different looks at their opponents both offensively and defensively.
They should rack up wins against Russia, Great Britain and China with ease.
4) Russia: The clear-cut, fourth-best team in the pool, Russia will advance on the backs of Andrei Kirilenko and Timofey Mozgov, but does not boast the backcourt depth or overall talent to make a real push for the second or third seed.
Still, their size should give them a lift over Great Britain and China.
5) Great Britain: Unfortunately, the host country does not have the overall talent necessary to compete with Spain and Brazil.
While Luol Deng and Joel Freeland should propel them to a win over China, it will be a bitter run for the British team at home.
6) China: Like Tunisia, China should be proud of making it into the round of 12, but without a transcendent player like Yao Ming, they will not be able to take any games in Pool B.
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Round of Eight:
United States vs. Russia
This should be an easy win for Team USA as their speed and depth is simply too much for the Russian squad.
They will trap often, force turnovers left and right and put them away early in the game. Expect huge numbers from Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant against the Russian backcourt.
Brazil vs. Argentina
This will be a very good game, with Brazil's big men working to slow down the game and play inside-out.
But ultimately the versatility of Argentina will shine through as they advance to the next round.
Brazil has no answer for Ginobili and Delfino, who will stretch the defense and open up room for Scola and Gutierrez to go to work on the block.
France vs. Australia
Tony Parker should have a field day against Australia's guards while Nic Batum's ability to slash to the basket will make him a very tough cover for Brad Newley and Joe Ingles, who are not nearly as quick as the French swingman.
This is a simple case of a match-up advantage and France will capitalize on it and win the game handily.
Spain vs. Lithuania
This could be a closer game than many would think as Lithuania matches up fairly well with Spain inside.
I believe it will be decided by Spain's superior perimeter players. Lithuania will have no choice but to throw doubles at the Gasol brothers, which will allow Navarro, Calderon and Fernandez to have open looks from outside.
It might be closer than expected, but Spain will still come out victorious.
United States vs. Argentina
Team USA bested Argentina in Barcelona and should do so again in the Olympic semi-finals.
Team USA will need to work on getting the ball inside because a reliance on outside shots is what allowed Argentina back into their last game, but if they play through LeBron James in the post and Kevin Durant the younger Americans should run Argentina off the floor.
Spain vs. France
In what should be a fantastic game, Spain will ultimately come out on top due to their ability to score out of the post.
France has the advantage on the perimeter, but it is not so great that it outweighs the lopsided match-up of Serge Ibaka, Pau and Marc Gasol versus Ronny Turiaf, Kevin Seraphin and Boris Diaw.
If France can drill outside shots they might have a chance at the upset, because Spain's big men will make getting to the rim an absolute nightmare.
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France vs. Argentina
By this time France will have defeated Argentina once in the pool rounds and should do so again.
Parker will get to the rim at will against the slower, older Prigioni and despite their talented frontcourt, Argentina lacks a dominant shot-blocker that can protect the basket for an entire game.
Add to that Nic Batum's ability to cover Manu Ginobili or Carlos Delfino and make them work for their shots with his length, and even with their advantage in frontcourt scoring Argentina will not be able to get enough stops to beat France.
This should be a high scoring affair, but the quickness and transition game of France will overwhelm Argentina and rob them of a shot at the bronze.
United States vs. Spain
Here it is, the marquee rematch from Beijing in 2008.
While the United States hammered Spain in an exhibition game in Barcelona, the team was resting Marc Gasol, who will obviously be a huge player for the Spanish squad.
This will be an extremely competitive game as Spain pounds the ball inside and relies on a tough to defend pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop offense, but as they showed last game, the ability of Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook to hound Jose Calderon and force him to cough up the ball will be too much to handle.
Spain will keep it close as they attack the glass, penetrate the lane and look for high percentage shots, but expect Team USA to crank up their defense in the last few minutes and leave London as basketball's Olympic champions.