The Spanish squad came into the Olympics the world champions, and yet they've been delegated to relative obscurity by the hurricane that is the United States 'Redeem' team. Instead, their biggest headline had nothing to do with their performance on the court but rather an ill-advised, childish, and frankly speaking, idiotic photo shoot.
Of course, it's not really much surprise that the sweet limelight on the world stage has been occupied almost exclusively by the US squad. With the likes of James, Bryant, and Wade making up only three of a team of peers, you know you have something special. The dominance of their pre-Olympic exhibitions have translated to their performances thus far, belittling a hapless Chinese team, taking it easy on the poor Angolans, and crushing Greece with a dish best served cold. Frankly, the 20-point or so advantage team USA has been slapped with is unjust.
30+ is more likely.
But let's get back to Spain. Spain could quite possibly be the only team in these game's that don't fit within the statistics of expectations. No, common sense would dictate that they would not win. But of all the potential candidates that could possible, possibly, pull off a puncher's comeback, it's the Spanish.
The top players on the squad, Calderan, Gasol, and Garbojosa amongst others have been together for over seven years. They've practically grown up playing basketball with each other. Of course, playing together for a long time does not equate to winning, but these guys have the luxury of possessing elite basketball skills.
Gasol's a shoe-in for next year's All-Star game. Calderon's a possibility now that Ford's gotten the boot. Ricky Rubio I don't see as the phenom that every scout thinks so, but then again the kid's only seventeen years old and he's already playing this well amongst men. College players could only dream of getting this much experience to prepare for the big leagues. Navarro and Jimenez are great shooters and can hustle. Garbojosa's got NBA starting experience, only cut short by a brutal, wince inducing leg injury, but he seems healed. He destroyed Nowitzki defensively the other night (morning?) and Spain's going to need that smart intensity to disrupt Hoaward and Bosh downlow. And then there's Marcy Marc, the newly thin and surprisingly dominant little brother of Pau.
The ingredients are there for an upset. Too bad the cook seems to have lost his mind. Spanish coach Garcia Reneses has been running one of the most awkward and confounding rotations I've seen in professional play at any level. Player's minutes are erratic. The best players (Calderon, Pau, etc) are coming off the bench in favour of the less experienced play of Rubio and Marc.
Is it just an act to throw other teams off?
Is it a play at proving that Spain can beat anybody with any of their players? Is it just stupid coaching? Who knows. What is apparent, though, is this haphazard style of coaching will get them nowhere against the marvelously stacked US squad. The best players need to be out there from the outset. Zone's must be placed to force a 29% 3-point shooting USA from getting into the lane. Hacking must be abundant.
Some may be thinking right about now that this 'prediction' seems a little one sided. It's not, simply due to the fact that everything that needs to be said of the US squad already has. A hundred times over.
They are great. Not good, not adequate, but off the charts in terms of talent. Period.
Chances are, no matter what fancy defense or dirty playing any other team commits, skill alone will be enough to put the US squad over the top.
I believe the game will be tough and a joy to watch by any and all basketball fans. Eyes may be red and empty cans of Red Bull may be lying about while they watch it, but a diabetic joy nonetheless.
Oh yeah, before I forget, I have it 90-78 for the US. Like I said, common sense has them winning, and I like my common sense. I'm just saying it won't be a blowout, and it won't be until the gold medal game (where I guarantee these two will meet again) that a much closer matchup will emerge.