After a thrilling group stage, the seedings of the 2012 Olympics have been set. Let’s examine the matchups and take a look at what we can expect from the quarter-final round.
USA(1) v Australia(4)
Team USA drew some criticism after only beating Lithuania by 99-94 in the group stage, but followed that up with a convincing 29-point win against the 2004 Olympic champion Argentina. It is no secret that team USA has weaknesses. Tyson Chandler is the only capable center on the roster, and the lack of depth at the 5-spot has occasionally been exposed by USA’s opponents.
Even so, the team is committed to playing small-ball, having extremely versatile forwards in Anthony, James and Durant. Playing with a predominantly small lineup has it’s advantages and disadvantages. USA play a great up-tempo defense, play the passing lanes, and force turnovers like no other team in the tournament. With all the players willing to pass, USA is averaging 27.6 assists per game, and when the 3-pointers are falling, USA are virtually unbeatable.
Team USA has played several close quarters, but once LeBron & Co. turn it on, it is hard to imagine any team being capable of stopping them. Australia have played pretty well thus far, and the San Antonio Spurs guard Patrick Mills has been impressive. Mills is averaging 20.2 points per game, and is right up there with the top scorers of the tournament. He also knocked down the game-winner against Russia, and could potentially do some damage. Despite Mills’ solid play, the Aussies simply don’t stand a chence, and USA should win this game fairly easily.
Prediction: USA wins
Brazil(2) v Argentina (3)
This should be a very interesting game. Both teams have solid NBA players on their teams, but not necessarily much depth. Scola and Ginobili have been phenomenal so far, and Brazil will have to limit their effectiveness if they want to win. Delfino has been a bit on-and-off, but if his shot is on for the night, he can be lethal. Brazil have been leaning on the point-guard Marcelinho Huertas who can do it all on offense, and will look to run the show. Varejao, Nene and Splitter make up a potent front-court for the Brazilians, who will need to do their best to contain Luis Scola. Leandro Barbosa could be the x-factor for Brazil in this game. I expect a very close game that could go either way. At the end of the day, I think Argentina has more experience and should be able to come out on top.
Prediction: Argentina wins
(2)France v (3)Spain
Spain’s play in this tournament is really a mistery so far. You really wonder whether they gave it their all in the game against Brazil, which they lost and will thus avoid playing USA in a potential semi-final. Even though the results have not been convincing, I still see them as the main contenders to make the final. With the amount of talent and experience on the team, they should definitely be able to turn it up a notch when it’s win-or-go-home time.
As much as I think Spain are the favorites here, France is by all means no pushover. Tony Parker hasn’t been that solid so far, claiming that he hasn’t really gotten back into top-notch shape yet. Nicolas Batum has played pretty well, and the team has NBA talent in Boris Diaw, Kevin Seraphin and Ronny Turiaf. For France to have a chance to upset Spain, Tony Parker will have to have a monster game. Pau Gasol is the leading scorer of the tournament, and will lead the way for Spain.
Prediction: Spain wins
(1) Russia v (4) Lithuania
Russia played well in the group stage, and have a really solid team overall, with few weaknesses. When Kirilenko turns it on, he can be a lethal scorer. Vitaly Fridzon has hit some big shots, and Timofey Mozgov is great coming off the bench for the team. The NBA-bound Alexey Shved is a great point-guard who will definitely be hard to stop.
Lithuania was the only team that gave team USA a run for their money, losing by only 5 points. Despite that, they lost to both France and Argentina. So far the results have been quite inconsistent, as the team at times looks as a medal-contender, only to look old and tired in another game. Valanciunas has seen limited minutes, as he has been struggling on both ends of the floor. Kleiza has mostly shown the way, as he is the leader and captain of the team. Darius Songaila has been pretty solid, but he is past his prime. Lithuania only have 2 point-guards in Kalnietis and Jasikevicius. While Jasikevicius has mostly been a good influence on the team, he is turning the ball over at an alarming rate. Kalnietis has not been himself throughout the whole tournament.
Russia are going into the game as the favorites. For all that exhibition games count, Russia recently blew out Lithuania twice. Lithuania are capable of beating Russia, but only if they have one of their better days, and multiple players step up. Seibutis showed some upside in the game against Tunisia, and the play of Pocius will be crucial.
Prediction: Russia wins