Everyone knows this is basically the U.S. team’s event to lose. Bovada.lv has set the US as very heavy favorites (1/10), and really, it’s hard to make an argument against them.
The only question that really seems to be thrown around is whether the US team this year is better than the vaunted squad that suited up in 1992 in Barcelona. It’s been discussed on radio talk shows, ESPN, and blogs around the internet.
But that isn’t what we’re betting here, is it?
We need to know if any of the teams have a chance to take down the U.S.
Truthfully, there are a few. It’s important for bettors to consider the fact that basketball is indeed a team sport, and while the US always boasts a superior collection of talent, the finer aspects of team play are often lost when a squad of all alpha dogs are forced to share the basketball with one another.
Other countries, such as Argentina (28/1) and Spain (5/1), pose a significant threat due to their cohesiveness and strong team chemistry. Most importantly, the U.S. did finish first in the last event of this nature, the 2010 World Championships in Turkey.
We have to use that event as a gauge to determine if any of these teams can take down the U.S. In that tournament, it was the host country Turkey that faced the U.S. in the championship game, after going a perfect 8-0 leading into it. Turkey did not qualify for the 2012 games, removing one of the bigger threats to the U.S. squad.
Oddly, the two teams that are most favored outside the U.S., Argentina & Spain (5/1), finished fifth and sixth, respectively.
Spain is the favorite for the silver. With the Gasol brothers, Marc and Pau, and a talented host of perimeter players that includes point guards Jose Calderon and Rudy Fernandez, Spain should be able to play a versatile inside outside game that will give all the squads, the US included, a lot of troubles defensively. They have the shot blocking with the Gasol brothers and league leading shot blocker Serge Ibaka, so the US’s perimeter players will be thinking twice before taking it right to the hole.
Argentina has four NBA players on their roster, and all four come together perfectly in International play. Manu Ginobili is the star of this squad and will be looking forward to rejoining them after sitting out the 2010 World Championships with an injury. He’s joined by Carlos Delfino, Andres Nocioni, and Luis Scola. Scola was absolutely dominant in the 2010 Championships and has carved out a nice career for himself in the NBA. At 28/1 odds, I do like Argentina as another long shot to win the gold.
That’s why you can’t sleep on teams like Lithuania (40/1), as the country finished third in the 2010 World Championships. Eastern European teams typically sport a host of three point shooters and tough big men, which can give the U.S. problems. NBA fans will recognize Linas Kleiza and Sarunas Jasikevicius, while Jonas Valanciunas will be joining the league next season as a rookie and is expected to make a serious impact for the Toronto Raptors next year, and truthfully reminds me of a white Kevin Garnett. Lithuania is a serious value bet for those who like long shots.
And you can never count out the Brazillians. Brazil lost by only 5 to the U.S. team in an exhibition and they have a collection of valuable role players from the NBA to form their roster (Nene Hilario, Leandro Barbosa, Tiago Splitter, and Anderson Varejao). Don’t discount these guys. While they may not be marquee names in the NBA, this isn’t the NBA, and they’ve played together for a while now and become a strong team. They haven’t finished higher than 5th place, however, since 1968, so that is why they are a long shot at 40/1.
France (25/1) must also be taken seriously, due to the fact that they have some real weapons that NBA fans will recognize. Tony Parker of the Spurs leads the way, and is joined by the versatile forward Nicolas Batum. They also have a few role players from NBA teams to round out the squad in Ronny Turiaf, Boris Diaw, and Kevin Seraphin. France could be a danger to any team if they get hot from behind the arc, but they lack the size necessary to match up with the U.S. and many other teams, accounting for their long-shot odds status.
Russia (30/1) is known to be a strong defensive team, and will be anchored by defensive stalwart Andrei Kirilenko, who is expected to return to the NBA this season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, after spending some time in Russia last year to clear his mind and gain some perspective before returning to basketball. Still, with shot blocker Timofey Mosgov and six other players 6’8″ or bigger, their size will cause problems for opposing countries. The U.S. lacks size, and with only Kevin Love and Tyson Chandler at center, the Russians could pose some problems if they pound it down low on offense and clog the paint on defense.
Overall, we do all realize that this is the U.S.’s event to lose. There are some solid threats, but with the second favorite team at 5/1, it’s hard to fathom Kobe Bryant and company falling to these guys.