After a predicable ending to the 2012 NBA Championships (see this article) the eyes of the basketball world are now focusing on London. Yes, the Miami Heat won “The World Championship”  and the Americans still have the most best and most dominate players in the game of basketball (ie James and Durant) but the game has become internationalized and change is in the air.  Here’s a cheat sheet to the potential randomness of it all.

 

The Tournament Format: The first round has twelve qualifying twelve teams split into two groups of six to play against each other. We should see some nice “friendly” basketball at this stage. It’s a simple round robin format and don’t be surprised to see some huge point differences and some blow out “show time” performances. That’s dunks from the Americans, star adoration from the competition, and some random nasty play from some of the contenders (ie China). We’re then down to eight teams with the top four performing teams from each group.

After the first round the selected eight teams play in a win or go home situation. The format calls for the top team from one group to be matched up with the worse performing team of the other group. If you know basketball, you’ll know that crazy things can happen. We should see some fantastic last second shots with all the excitement of a “March Madness” Final Four (American College basketball) on the international stage.

We’re then down to the top four teams with the winners going forward to play for Gold and Silver.

The last three spots to the tournament have been filled by Russian, Nigeria and Lithuania after a good showing in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament held in July.

Here are my tournament rankings but I won’t make any medal predictions as that’s just too unpredictable. I will say that I expect to see all of my picks featured below to go forward past the first round.

Olympic Basketball 2012

#1

The United States

Without a doubt the number one basketball nation in the world. They have Lebron James, Kevin Durant and then somebody called Kobe. Look for them to be in full showtime mode during the early rounds. A shortage of true centers could hurt them with Howard and Aldridge out and with Tyson Chandler their only true center. They did pick up college phenom Anthony Davis, a potential superstar in the mold of Bill Russell. Dwyane Wade is a scratch due to a knee injury.

#2

Spain

With a packed roster full of NBA players this squad has the feeling of a real team. They are focused, driven and confident and have Juan Carlos Navarro or “La Bomba” leading the charge. They also have NBA players Rudy Fernandex and Jose Calderon, but what scares the Americans is their “bigs”. Spain can potentially field two the very best with the Gasol brothers, Pau and Mark. Oh and freshly nationalized super defender Serge Ibaka comes off the bench.

#3

France

A team that features Tony Parker, Joakim Noah and an emerging Nicolas Batum is not to be trifled with. “Les Bleus” could surprise. Boris Diaw is one of the league’s better frontcourt passers, and Kevin Seraphin was showing lots of late season NBA promise. Add Ronny Turiaf, Mickael Pietrus and Rodrigue Beaubois – all of whom missed the qualifying Eurobasket tournament due to injury – and “Les Bleus” have the look of a medal contender.

#4

Argentina

It’s time for the “Golden Generation” of Argentina to finally come through. This includes the incredible Manu Ginobili and Rockets big man Luis Scola. Scola can flat out score, with all sorts of graceful moves around the basket. Hooks with either hand… picture an elegant rhino in shorts. Without him on the floor, Argentina goes offensively flat.

#5

Brazil

Brazil is also packed with great players, but they haven’t really played together so the Olympics could be magic or disaster. With the “”Brazilian Flash”Leandro Barbosa and veteran point guard Marcel Huertas the team has a potential front court with featuring a defensive minded Nene and rebounding fiend Anderson Varejau. Tiago Splitter has been continually improving under the zen like leadership of Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs.

#6

Russia

The overall class of the 30 year old Andrei Kirilenko is optimally highlighted in International basketball. He scores, rebounds and will lead Russia to this his third Olympic campaign. After a string of impressive wins in the Olympic qualifier this is a scrappy team that could surprise. Big man Timofey Mozgov looks active and the entire team is long and athletic. A young backcourt made up of CSKA stars Ponkrashov and young Alexey Shved should be serviceable.

#7

Nigeria

This is a tough team with an attitude to match.  The “Tigers” from Africa have plenty of athletic talent, but it’s mostly just hard work that gets it done for Nigeria. This team is anchored by potential NBA superstar Ike Diogu and NBA under performer Al-Farouq Aminu.

#8

China

In a land where basketball is now the most favorite sport, it’s nice to see their team doing well. But the truth of the matter is that the sensational Yao Ming is no longer playing and the next best player they have is the 7′ tall Yi Jianlian. Now’s he’s a good player but he’s a marginal player in the NBA and certainly not good enough to carry them forward. The rest of the roster is full of tall awkward guys, groomed from birth to play basketball. This team is determined to make a good showing but don’t be surprised if they do it with their fists as well. Of course they’d love to have Jeremy Lin in the backcourt, but he’s got the mojo of an American despite some Asian roots.

The Other

Teams

Of the remaining four teams I give Lithuania with NBA baller Linas Kleiza the greatest chance of getting out of the first round, these guys can shoot. Tunisia will also be eliminated in the first round from Group A and Great Britain and Australia are the likely losers from Group B.