And now, round two. Or maybe that should be “round B.” With BallinEurope having (sort of) Fearlessly Predicted the entries for the 2012 Olympic basketball knockout stage from Group A, it’s onto the Official Fearless Predictions™ for Group B – and we’ll do this one from the bottom up.6. China (0-5)
5. Australia (1-4)
4. Britain (2-3)
Damn right BiE’s going there, taking Team Britain to advance for purely selfish reasons: BiE wants the European sweep. BiE supports the fledgling program they’re trying to maintain on the Isle where basketball is a low (*low*) priority in sports fans’ hearts. BiE loves the proverbial pluckiness, the dogged daring, Luol Deng and Pops Mensah-Bonsu. And because BiE wants the highlight YouTube clip potential of a USA-Britain Olympic tournament game.
Besides, who’s to say Team Britain can’t ride the home-court advantage against a couple of mid-range FIBA squads after a serious test run of Brazil/Russia/Spain?
Britain, 2-3 in 2012 Olympic basketball pool play: You read it here first.
Meanwhile, at the top, an otherwise perhaps tightly contested group may be skewed thanks to Team Spain’s appallingly easy opening run of China/Australia/Great Britain. We still have yet to see the complete Team Spain that international basketball devotees have been expecting, with injuries limiting the guards earlier this summer, Marc Gasol and Sergio Rodriguez taking DNPs lately and Juan Carlos Navarro getting fewer minutes than typical even when active.So which Spain will we get, come the tournament? Los Rojos have certainly been gifted with enough time to ready themselves in pool play, but might yet be susceptible to a rolling Russia and/or Brazil.
In fact, BiE’s going out on a limb here vis-à-vis game four: BiE likes Team Russia to oust Spain in that one. Pau Gasol’s missed last-second shot or no, the Reds displayed a blueprint to beating the Spaniards back in Eurobasket 2007. While five years is an eon in international basketball and Team Russia returns just three players from that championship squad (Andrei Kirilenko, Sergei Monya, Anton Ponkrashov), Team Spain has remained remarkably the same with half the roster returning, including key players Rodriguez, Navarro, the Gasols, Rudy Fernández and Felipe Reyes.
Plus David Blatt’s still the mind behind Russia. And while BallinEurope has noted that the coaching styles of Sergio Scariolo and Aito Garcia Reneses, coach of the silver medal-winning 2008 Team Spain, differ, Scariolo’s game plan is not entirely dissimilar from that of 2007’s Pepu Hernandez.
Does Blatt still have the keys? Can he outcoach Scariolo? Will Russia have enough after a potentially seriously grueling game three against Brazil? BiE says “Sure. Why not?” Combined with a woken-up Spain topping the Brazilians to close out pool play, BiE gets a final table top of the following.
3. Brazil, 3-2
2. Spain, 4-1
1. Russia, 5-0.
And millions of Team Spain backers, knowing BiE’s track record in these things, just cheered…