USA Olympic Basketball Team Schedule: 5 Biggest Remaining Tests for Team USA
The United States men's basketball team has been enjoying an easy going the past few days. The team survived a sluggish first half against Tunisia to rout their opponents in the second half and steamrolled the Nigerian team. Team USA also dominated the French in their opening game.
The Americans have looked like the favorites to repeat in the 2012 Summer Olympics. They are by far the most athletic team and feature a bevy of NBA All-Stars on their roster. On paper the team should walk through anything that steps in front of them.
Of course, as American basketball fans are well aware, the starpower of the USA doesn't always equate to success. The team has sputtered on the big stage before and has a few tough tests remaining before taking the podium as everyone expects.
There's an old nemesis waiting in the last game of Pool play with a few surprises waiting for them in the "win or go home" stretch of the Olympic Games.
Brazil has been a bit of an underachiever thus far in the 2012 Summer Olympics as a team loaded with big men should've won in a more convincing manner against lesser teams like Australia and Great Britain.
The team lost on a last-second shot to the undefeated Russians who continue their surprising run in Pool play. Regardless of the loss, Brazil still could prove to be a tough out for the Americans if they make it to the elimination rounds.
The Brazilians played the Americans tough in a tune-up game prior to the Olympic Games and have what the USA team doesn't: size. Tiago Splitter, Anderson Varejao and Nene are all capable big men who could have big games against the undersized American team.
They probably don't have enough firepower on offense to keep up with the USA, but they could at least make it interesting—something nobody has been able to do against the Americans thus far.
In one of the biggest surprises of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, Team Russia has gone undefeated thus far and looked impressive in the process. They've won in both convincing (Great Britain) and in clutch fashion (Brazil).
Perhaps just as surprising as the undefeated start has been the play of Andrei Kirilenko. The Russian who will be returning to the NBA after playing overseas for a year has been nothing short of spectacular thus far. His future teammate Aleksey Shved has also opened some eyes during the opening round.
The Russians do have some length as well as an all-around player in Kirilenko, but perhaps their biggest advantage is familiarity. Six players come from CSKA Moscow and have no doubt contributed to a healthy team chemistry.
Team USA will need to capitalize on the lack of depth at guard and force the Russians into committing turnovers. The Americans will also look to LeBron James to become a lockdown defender on Kirilenko if the two teams should match up.
Argentina has proven to be a thorn in the Americans' side in the past, and they could prove to be a pivotal roadblock in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games as well. Team USA will face Argentina in the last game of Pool play which will be the second meeting of the two teams within the past few months.
In one of the final exhibition games, Argentina took Team USA to the final buzzer, losing by six points to the Americans. Both teams are expected to advance into the quarterfinal rounds despite the outcome of their meeting, which means Team USA may have to beat Argentina on three occasions to advance.
The team is led by Manu Ginobli who has shown no signs of slowing down during Olympic play. The team also possesses a quality outside shooter in Carlos Delfino as well as a crafty PG in Pablo Prigioni.
But perhaps the best weapon on the court for Argentina is Luis Scola. Although he's always been considered an undersized forward, Scola has routinely proven to be a reliable offensive player. Scola could prove to be an important player against the Americans due to his athleticism and lack of an inside defensive presence outside of Tyson Chandler.
Silver medalists of 2008 Olympic Games, the Spaniards are no doubt looking for revenge in a possible showdown with Team USA. Spain has long been considered one of the top international teams and it's due to their well-rounded roster.
The team has an excellent facilitator in Jose Calderon, an explosive scorer in Rudy Fernandez and perhaps the best collection of big men with the Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka. If Juan Carlos Navarro can return and be healthy, he will provide another solid scoring option.
All basketball analysts have been pointing to the lack of size for Team USA, but very few teams have the inside presence to take advantage of that fault. Spain has both the size and talent to do just that. Pau Gasol is already one of the best big men in the world, and his brother Marc continues to become one of the world's premier centers.
Spain will be perhaps the biggest test the Americans will face this year as Spain is easily the best team in the world outside of the United States. Team USA will have to give 100 percent on each side of the ball to prevail over the Spaniards. Controlling the Gasol brothers will be key as well as clogging up the passing lanes when Calderon has the ball in his hands.
The biggest test for Team USA will be themselves. The team has looked terrific thus far and seems unstoppable on their way to a second consecutive gold medal.
And therein lies the problem: over-confidence.
The Americans haven't looked cocky in their Olympic bids since Coach K took over the team and have played with the intensity that a champion should always display. Still, there have been moments where the team settles for jump shots instead of attacking the hoop to use their athleticism. The Americans can't get complacent or lazy on offense or a close game may slip away and derail their medal hopes.
Team USA can't afford to take it easy on defense either. Their athleticism and speed advantage has been evident as the men have rolled over the competition they've faced thus far into the Olympic Games. Part of that has been the team's defensive pressure which seems to never slow down with a slew of both experienced and quick guards pressuring the ball up the court.
Defense leading into offense seems to be the best way for the Americans to go about winning games. If they can get out and run, they will continue to enjoy success as no team in these Olympic Games has the speed to keep up with them.
It's when the Americans will be forced into a half-court game where the lack of size will come back to haunt them. If Team USA can avoid being bogged down into a half-court offense and avoid a drop in focus, look for the United States to once again be atop the podium wearing a gold medal.