Russia vs. France: Basketball Semifinal Is Really Olympic Silver Medal Game

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Russia vs. France: Basketball Semifinal Is Really Olympic Silver Medal Game
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On Thursday, Russia (4-2) and France (6-0) will face off in one half of the women's basketball semifinals. Team USA (6-0) takes on Australia (5-1) at noon. ET, with Russia and France right after at 4:00 p.m. ET. 

While the winner of Thursday's matchup gets a shot at either Team USA or Australia for Olympic gold, let's be perfectly honest with ourselves, the semifinal between Russia-France is nothing more than the silver medal game. 

Team USA is the overwhelming favorite to beat Australia and win the gold. Neither of the three remaining teams are expected to knock off the heavily favored Americans, who have once again coasted through this Olympic tournament. 

Team USA's closest contest came in an 81-56 win over Croatia, and the average margin of victory has been nearly 38 points. The 2012 Olympics haven't been a competitive tournament for the Americans, no matter which way you slice it. 

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Australia has been solid, with wins over Russia, Canada, China, Brazil and Great Britain. But a win over the United States Thursday would not only be the upset of the women's tournament, but also the Olympics in general. No one is expecting the Australians to play with Team USA, even with WNBAer Lauren Jackson on the roster. 

Team USA carries a 39-win Olympic win streak into the semifinal, with wins over Australia in each of the last three gold medal games. The Americans beat Australia by 27 points in the 2008 final in Beijing. 

The French have been particularly impressive in this tournament, however. They have yet to obtain a blemish, and wins over Australia and Russia have already proven France to be medal worthy. 

But gold medal worthy? Not a chance. 

The Russians fell to both the French and Australians in this tournament, so getting to the gold medal game would already be an accomplishment. More than likely, Russia will be in the third place game. 

Even if Russia did advance past France, Team USA wouldn't have a problem is dispatching them in the gold medal game. 

Can any of the three remaining teams—France, Russia or Australia—beat Team USA for gold?

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The U.S. roster of Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, Candace Parker, Tina Charles and others is simply too dominate for a letdown to happen in either the semifinals or finals. Seven Americans currently average at least seven points a game at the Olympics. 

Other stats are just as mind-boggling for the U.S. 

Team USA is shooting almost 18 percentage points higher than their competition in these Olympics (49.1 to 31.9). The rebounding advantage is at +21.3 a game, and opponents are averaging over 20 turnovers a game against the Americans high-pressure defense. Team USA is also averaging nearly 25 assists a game. 

So while Thursday's matchup between Russia and France is technically considered the semifinal, it's anything but. The winner will have already won the highest achievement any women's basketball team outside the U.S. could have hoped for at these Olympics. 

The silver medal. 

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