London 2012 Basketball: Projecting Medal-Round Matchups
The decisive games in men's Olympic basketball are rapidly approaching. The top teams will compete for the gold, silver and bronze medals on Sunday, August 12.
As of now, Spain, Russia and Argentina remain in medal contention, with the United States and Australia battling for the fourth semifinal slot. Team USA's spot in the semis is easy to predict, but much crazier things have happened in the past.
These four teams have proven their worth throughout the qualification round and in their first "elimination" matchup. They are the best the world has to offer, at least for this year, and watching them vie for Olympic medals will be must-watch television.
The medal-round matchups aren't decided yet, but it's not too early to do some projecting. Let's figure out who we will be watching in Sunday's conclusion on the hardwood.
Bronze-Medal Game: Russia vs. Argentina
This is said with the assumption that Argentina will face Team USA in their semifinal matchup. They may not, but it's a very safe prediction at this point.
Don't expect that to change in the semifinals. Team USA is facing a ton of pressure to perform, but they won't collapse under that tremendous weight. They are too athletic and too talented for Argentina to handle over a long period of time.
Russia scored a solid victory over Lithuania in the quarterfinals, but they will face Team USA's biggest competition in the semis. They went 4-1 to co-lead Group B with Brazil and enjoyed a plus-41 scoring differential in qualifying games.
It's nothing against Russia's squad, but Spain's NBA-caliber talent will be too much. Not only do they have the best frontcourt in London, but their guards, Rudy Fernandez and Jose Calderon, are too much for most backcourts to handle as well.
This would be a very tight matchup, and it's hard to see it panning out any other way. Argentina is solid, but they are the "odd man out" when it comes to elite international squads. Russia is right there as well, but not close enough to defeat Spain's stacked side.
Gold-Medal Game: USA vs. Spain
This is the matchup we will see, and the matchup everyone should want to see. We actually did see it in a tuneup game prior to London, and the United States won 100-78.
Spain may or may not defeat the United States, but they will defeat Russia. Tomofey Mozgov is the only Russian big man capable of matching up with either Gasol brother or Serge Ibaka, but even he won't be enough to control Spain's dominant low-post trio.
I already spoke to Team USA's capabilities against Argentina in their potential semifinal clash, but I'll reiterate it briefly. The Americans handled Argentina with ease only a few days ago. Nothing has changed since that time, and a repeat performance will be expected.
LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and the three-headed monster at point guard for the United States are all excellent players, but they don't play in the paint. James might, but he isn't the low-post presence that Coach K would prefer.
Team USA's interior presence, or lack thereof, won't slow them down in the semifinals (assuming they get there), but it will create problems under the bright lights against Spain.
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