Ranking The Other 11 Olympic Teams’ Potential Of An American Upset

By: 07.10.12
Team USA Home uniforms

Team USA Home uniforms (photo. Jaimie Canterbury)

I’m riding on a wave of “Dream Team” nostalgia. In June, the documentary chronicling the 1992 team’s dominance and effect on how basketball was played around the world made anyone connected to the game yearn for a good old fashioned showdown between national teams. After 66 games of fighting against each other, I want to see our American stars pool together — especially if this is one of the last times NBA stars play in international competition, per David Stern‘s several recent hints. Mostly, though, it’s because try as I might to forget it, the 2002 World Championships and 2004 Olympics changed the games to where every tournament has a fear of failure. You remember, right? In 2002, the U.S. was sixth; in 2004 the bronze medal was the team’s ceiling. I’m sure that Mike Krzyzewski has a scouting report ready for each of the 11 other teams who will play in the London Olympics that start late this month, but just in case I ranked each team by its potential to upset the U.S.

The criteria — FIBA rank, intangibles (ex: is Pau Gasol having a good day or a bad day?), player to watch — all coalesces into an unscientific metric I’ll call the Argentina Meter, with 1 being the best chance, and 11 the worst. Argentina was the first to beat a U.S. team comprised of professionals back in 2002 and probably caused USA Hoops boss Jerry Colangelo nightmares for several years after.

*** *** ***

GREAT BRITAIN
FIBA rank: 75
How it got here: Host country’s privilege.
Argentina Meter: 11

It’s the first time sine 1948 the Brits are fielding a team, which is just as sad as when Greece threw together a baseball team in 2000 out of castoff college players and Kevin Youkilis. This team is statistically worse than Sri Lanka, Macedonia and the Virgin Islands. A Virgin Islands team without Tim Duncan. Ben Gordon and Byron Mullens said “eh, no thanks” to his own nation in its own Olympics, and if you can think of a less patriotic thing to do — especially when there’s not exactly a line of NBA players waiting to play behind you like the U.S. — I’d like to hear it. We apologize in advance for Luol Deng, who’s going to look bad as the Empire’s only NBA player.

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TUNISIA
FIBA rank: 38
How it got here: Via the FIBA Africa Championship.
Argentina Meter: 10

There’s a dearth of highlights online of Tunisia’s basketball standard bearers, but Coach K will have an easy time watching their celebration strategies (good at dancing, singing needs a little work) but it wouldn’t matter, anyway, if they didn’t have a single clip of film. The African Championship winners are led by Macram Ben Romdhane, a 23-year-old 6-8 forward who plays club ball in Tunisia. They did win a FIBA championship, which is why they’re above Britain. However, I have this nagging feeling that’s just not going to cut it against the Americans.

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FRANCE
FIBA rank: 8
How it got here: Via Eurobasket tournament.
Argentina Meter: 9

Les Bleus are not going to be healthy enough to hang with an American team, not without Joakim Noah (hurt and out) or Tony Parker (recovering cornea and bruised ego from bar fight collateral damage) being either out or not 100 percent. Nicolas Batum will be a nice add, but how much has he been working out with France while he navigated his back-and-forth negotiations with Portland and Minnesota? Every piece of team harmony will need to fire right to beat the U.S., which France opens with. Bonjour, beatdown.

Here’s a France highlight video set to Macklemore.

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CHINA
FIBA rank: 10
How it got here: Via FIBA’s Asia Championship.
Argentina Meter: 8

The Asian champions won’t be in the American’s Group A, but beating them in knockout play isn’t going to happen. Yi Jianlian and Wang Zhizhi are castoff big men who wilted before in front of NBA competition; who says it will change now? They beat an inferior Jordan team to reach the Olympics but won’t be able to hang in London.

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