Dark-Horse Gold Medal Threats to USA Men's Basketball Team
Let's face it, any threat to Team USA's hopes for a gold medal is by definition a dark-horse threat.
Though other squads have respectable talent and often benefit from having shared extensive playing time with one another, those teams just can't stack up against the United States' otherworldly combination of athleticism and depth.
The outside shooting ability and outstanding perimeter defense that permeates this roster doesn't hurt either.
Nevertheless, upsets do happen. Otherwise, they wouldn't bother playing the games.
Here's a look at the teams with the best chances of doing the impossible.
Forget that Argentina has the luxury of trotting out a guy like Luis Scola at power forward. Forget that it has solid talent like Andres Nocioni and Carlos Delfino on the wing.
The reason Argentina has a chance is Manu Ginobili.
You could add Ginobili to a high-school team, and it would still have a chance against just about anyone. This guy can take games over and hit shots that no one should be able to hit. He can face off against more athletic opposition and still find a way to get to the basket.
Quite simply, he remains one of the very best players in the world when he's at his best. What's more, at age 35, he's still pretty close to it.
Chances are, of course, that he won't be enough to overcome Team USA's dominance. He wasn't even enough to overcome France in Game 2 of the preliminary round.
Just don't count this team out.
It's a good thing Tony Parker hasn't adjusted especially well to the protective goggles he has to wear after a freak accident at a club in New York City. He's also been slowed on account of the fact that he had to get some rest after the injury.
Otherwise, this team would be even better.
With Nic Batum and Ronny Turiaf added to the mix, France has impact players in the paint, on the wing and in the backcourt.
Of course, everything would have to go right for France to have a shot at Team USA. This club lost its first meeting in Game 1 of the preliminary round, and it needs to make some serious strides to improve upon that performance.
All you need to know about this team is that Nene, Anderson Varejao and Tiago Splitter form one heck of a three-man rotation at center and power forward.
It's almost certainly the best big-man rotation in the competition outside of Spain, and it could very well give Team USA some trouble. If Brazil can control the pace and get some extra possessions on the offensive glass, it could keep a game close enough to make a late run.
Leandro Barbosa also has the speed and shooting ability to keep the USA's backcourt occupied. If he gets hot, watch out.
The Russians aren't what they used to be. When the Soviet Union was dismantled over 20 years ago, much of the nation's talent base returned to their newly independent Eastern European countries.
Nevertheless, this team does have something going for it.
Timofey Mozgov and Andrei Kirilenko give Russia one of the better frontlines in these Summer Olympics. Kirilenko in particular is one of the few guys who could actually have some success defending Team USA's elite forwards.
Meanwhile, Mozgov is a solid center who will block some shots and grab some boards.
Does Russia have a shot at the gold? Not really, but the team still deserve some mention.
Spain may pose the greatest threat of all to the United States.
In addition to featuring a wealth of NBA talent, this team also has superior size in the paint. If Team USA has an Achilles' heel, that would be it. Having a couple of All-Star seven-footers in Marc and Pau Gasol sets Spain apart from the rest of its global competition.
The size doesn't stop there.
Spain also boasts the Oklahoma City Thunder's Serge Ibaka at power forward, giving the team an athletic shot-blocker to give the USA some trouble in the paint.
The Spanish team shares the ball and typically shows a lot of composure. Toronto Raptors veteran point guard Jose Calderon undoubtedly has something to do with that.
Its chances of topping Team USA remain slim, but probably the best around.