Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski has pushed the right buttons with his loaded NBA squad.
As expected, Team USA is through to the semifinals of the 2012 Olympic Men’s Basketball tournament.
The collection of NBA superstars has dominated its opposition so far, as Team USA has won all six of its games by an average of 37.3 points.
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski has gotten the group to play excellent team basketball. Team USA’s advantages in scoring, rebounding and limiting turnovers is why no team has defeated it. Only Team Lithuania has challenged the Americans so far.
Now in the semifinal round, Team USA’s biggest roadblocks are ahead. Only the best teams in the world remain.
International basketball has closed the gap between itself and the NBA. With dominant performances over Argentina and then in the gold medal game, though, Team USA can once again push the rest of the basketball world down a few rungs on the ladder.
In this slideshow, I preview the three teams remaining in the tournament that Team USA can play—Team Argentina, Team Russia and Team Spain. I also provide all the television information you need to know, so that you can find these games in your local listings with ease.
Spain vs. Russia: Aug. 10, Noon EST, NBC Sports Network
USA vs. Argentina: Aug. 10, 3:30 p.m. EST, NBC Sports Network
Bronze Medal Game
Aug. 12, 6 a.m. EST, NBC Sports Network
Gold Medal Game
Aug. 12, 10 a.m. EST, NBC
As Team USA’s semifinal opponent, Team Argentina is the only guaranteed matchup left.
Argentina features three current NBA players—Luis Scola, Manu Ginobili and Carlos Delfino.
Argentina is an older squad, as only four players are younger than 32.
USA faced Argentina in these Olympics, on Aug. 6, winning 126-97. The Americans stole the ball 11 times compared to Argentina’s two steals, and shot 59 percent from three-point range, compared to Argentina’s 39 percent effort.
Following the game, Scola—Argentina’s captain and star of the NBA’s Houston Rockets—said things like “They’ve got a lot of guys to stop,” and “You’re not going to beat them if they score 126 points,” about Team USA.
In all honesty, Argentina played USA quite well aside from the third quarter, when Kevin Durant and friends put up 42 points to Argentina’s 17.
Scola and his teammates at least get another shot at the Americans in a more meaningful contest on Aug. 10.
If USA gets hot again—like it did in the third quarter of their last game—then Argentina has little chance of winning. According to Fox News Latino, Ginobili put the odds of his team winning at 5 percent.
Perhaps the key component the Argentines need to gain before the semifinal is confidence. USA has shown chinks in its armor, and Argentina needs to exploit those. Easier said than done, sure, but formidable NBA players like Scola and Ginobili must set forth a positive outlook before the rematch.
If Argentina has any chance of winning, even the aforementioned 5 percent chance, it must not beat itself down.
Russia holds the No. 11 FIBA World Ranking, so it's a surprise to see the team in the Olympics' version of the Final Four.
Two NBA players, Andrei Kirilenko and Timofey Mozgov, are on the Russian roster.
Kirilenko, who will return to the NBA this season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, has put on arguably the best all-around individual performance at these Olympics. The average game stat line of AK 47—as American basketball fans know him—looks like this: 18.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 1.5 blocks.
As a former—and again current—NBA player, Team USA has played with and against Kirilenko. With that said, the Americans could have an easier time neutralizing Kirilenko than the rest of his Olympic opposition thus far.
As a team, Russia has held opponents to 72.2 points per game, which is second to Brazil among Olympic teams. Russia is also moving the ball around nicely, averaging 21.5 assists per game. That ranks second to Team USA.
The stat that stands out the most for Russia is blocked shots. They lead all competitors with 34 in six games.
If Team USA meets Russia on Aug. 12, the game plan should be pretty simple: stop Kirilenko. With all due respect to the Russian team, nobody else really poses a threat to the Americans.
Team USA's stellar three-point shooting in this tournament can eliminate Russia's interior defensive presence. I believe it would.
As the No. 2 team in the FIBA World Rankings, Spain poses the biggest challenge to Team USA on its quest for gold. Literally.
Spain's three big men could ultimately decide the outcome of a USA-Spain contest, and there are five Spanish players who's most recent clubs were NBA teams. Jose Calderon and Rudy Fernandez also give Spain an NBA-caliber pair in the backcourt.
Pau and Marc—or perhaps more accurately, Los Gasoles—and Serge Ibaka are three of the NBA’s best interior players. The trio were amongst the best in the NBA in 2011-12 not just as low post players, but as overall stars.
I think depth would decide this game more so than top talent. The starting five players of USA and Spain are comparable, but the American bench alone could medal in an Olympic tournament.
Six players on Team USA have averaged at least 10 points per game so far, compared to three Spanish players. Offensively, no team compares to USA.
Team USA’s 11.8 steals per game allow it to create turnovers and run the floor in transition, and with most of Spain’s elite skill being in the low post, the Americans should have no problem whizzing by the inferior Spanish perimeter players (save Calderon).
These two squads are the most likely to meet for the gold medal. Spain represents the toughest test possible in these Olympics, but I think USA’s improvement as a team—as opposed to a collection of selfish individuals—would make for a more lopsided affair than we saw in Beijing.
Maybe Team USA has too small of a frontcourt, but what international teams would pass up guys like NBA Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler, double-double machine Kevin Love, or NBA MVP LeBron James? I bet even Spain would welcome them.
When the Olympics are complete and the 2012-13 NBA season begins, all the Spanish players in the league will again have to avenge their silver medals.