USA How they got there? Won 2010 World Championships
Notable absences: Cappie Pondexter
About the team: The overwhelming favorites.
If they dont go home with gold medals it might be one of, if not the biggest upset of the Olympics. With 12 of the worlds top 20 players on one team they can afford to do what no one else will be able to do:
- they can go 12 deep on any night, make changes in starting lineup that will not affect their dominance. Any of the 12 players would be starters on any other team in the games.
- have the athleticism to play full court press for a whole game to distract international guards who rarely experience such pressure.
Only negative anyone can say about this team is that theyve been together for two weeks so everyone else will have advantage in preparations, but it shouldnt affect the vast superiority they have in skill level.
Czech Republic How they got there? Through FIBA Olympic Qualification tournament
Notable absences: No one notable is absent.
About the team: 2010 was a magical run for the Czechs, but theyre not a top two team in the world, at least not without a home court advantage.
After missing EuroBasket Women 2011 Hana Horakova is back on the squad for what should be her final tournament with the National Team. Its hard to expect her to be as influential as she was in 2010 when she was named the MVP of the World Championships. Back then she was playing for Brno, getting good minutes and producing. Since then she has received a pay raise on higher level teams, but has gotten a considerably smaller playing time and role on those teams.
Key player on this Czech squad will be the 190cm tall wing Eva Viteckova (190-F-82). Shes a career 47% shooter from both the 2 point and 3 poinzt range in EuroLeague Women (over 200+ games), so she can easily drop 20+ points on any given night. Player who can excel with teams paying attention to Viteckova and Horakova on the wing is Katerina Elhotova. Elhotova has been steadily emerging as one of the top Czech players, leading the team in EuroBasket Women 2011 with 14 points per game.
Their starting backcourt will be even taller than the US one with all three players being 180cm or taller. Overall in team height they will be among the tallest alongside Russia and USA.
On the frontcourt it will be Petra Kulichova and Ilona Burgrova carrying most of the load, with the versatile Jana Vesela getting some minutes inside. With the overall team height rebounding shouldnt be an issue. Offense for them inside could be better though with all of the three mentioned players being more like solid complimentary players rather than a first option down the court. Against the top teams they will be more likely to get their shots from offensive boards than playing one-on-one.
Depth for this team will also be an issue. They have two solid forwards coming of the bench in experienced, perimeter oriented Vesela and the up-and-coming post Alena Hanusova, but the drop off between their starting backcourt and reserves is huge for this kind of level. Depending on how much coach Blazek trusts Katerina Bartonova, most likely solution could be Vesela playing the three to give on of the guards a breather in tight games.
China How they got there? As the winners of FIBA Asia Championships
Notable absences: Lan Bian.
About the team: Asian champions have seen an influx of young players in last couple of years, but they still rely heavily on the likes of Miao LiJie (178-F-81) and Nan Chen.
China isnt your prototypical Asian team fast and undersized. Their average team height is 5-10 cm taller than the likes of Japan or South Korea. Key to stopping this Chinese squad is limiting small forward Miao LiJie. Beijing Olympic games leading scorer usually steps up her game in the big FIBA championships like the Olympics or Worlds. Despite being more of a career 30% shooter behind the arc she has shot well over 40% in the final two major competitions.
Other outside threats that should be noted are Zengyu Ma and Shanshan Li. Ma was the leading shooter from distance during the 2011 FIBA Asia Championships, while Li was a 35% shooter with Jiangsu last season.
As was mentioned earlier China actually has a post game, led by the veteran 195 cm tall Nan Chen. Chen has been a double digit scorer for the Chinese National Team for more than a decade, averaging 14 points and 6.7 rebounds per game in FIBA competitions since 2001. But its quite possible that the biggest attention will given to 206 cm tall center Wei Wei who will make her debut in major FIBA competitions. It would be unreasonable to expect her to make a huge splash in her first competition with her height she still seems to raw despite good shooting percentage her rebounding and blocking is too low for one of the tallest, if not the tallest center in the world.
Depth will also be an issue for Chinese head coach Sun Fengwu hasnt been satisfied with the play of the young players in the lead up to the games. Its hard to imagine something will drastically improve when they step out in the biggest basketball stage in the world.
Angola How they got there? As the winners of FIBA Afrobasket.
Notable absences: None.
About the team: Surprise Afrobasket Women champions are bringing 11 of the 12 African champions to London.
While Angola might not lose by 50+ points like they did in Olympic Qualification tournament in 2008, they still are at least 15-20 point underdogs against all of their opponents. Being undersized they will have issues down low defending the star centers of their opponents. No one on the championship team averaged more than 5 rebounds per game against African competition in 2011.
Scoring wise the leaders appear to be 2011 Afrobasket MVP Nassecela Mauricio, Nadir Manuel, who was solid in preparations and their leading scorer from 2011 Sonia Guadalupe.
Croatia How they got there? Through FIBA Olympic Qualification tournament.
Notable absences: None.
About the team: Croatia got a bit lucky in EuroBasket Women 2011 in order to make the top 5 and a chance to qualify.
Had Alba Torrens (188-F-89) not gone 0 from 13 in the second round game, or Latvians and Montenegrins collapsed at the end of tournament, in all likelihood they would have not made it where they have. Judging by the fact that center Marija Vrsaljko had planned her wedding a week before the Olympics, Croatians didnt think theyll be pre-occupied with playing basketball at the end of July, either. Now that theyre there you can expect them to continue to be a fast paced jump shooting team.
Croatians live and die by their long distance shots. They averaged second most three pointers in EuroBasket Women (20+ per game) with most of them being in the first 6-7 seconds of offensive possessions, often enough with no rebounders in sight. As you could imagine its a double edge sword on one side they cant be stopped if theyre hitting, on the other they can take themselves out of games by continuing to fire away when the shots arent falling.
One thing they didnt have in 2011 was center Marija Vrsaljko who was out with a torn ACL. Despite being just 22, Vrsaljko gives the Croats a legitimate threat down low, but shes alone there her backup Luca Ivankovic isnt at the same level and power forwards are more likely to float around three point line than bang inside.
On the perimeter you can expect Sandra Mandir to be the leading figure on the floor. Mandir was among the EuroBasket Women leaders in scoring and assists, earning herself an All-Tournament team nod. You can expect Anda Jelavic, Jelena Ivezic and Ana Lelas to be influential. Croats have formidable depth at the guards, but theres really nothing down in the middle.
Turkey How they got there? Through FIBA Olympic Qualification tournament.
Notable absences: None.
About the team: Turkey was the surprise package of 2011. After managing to qualify for EuroBasket Women quarterfinals only once before in their history, they repeated that by defeating Belarus a top eight team in previous World Championships and top 4 squad from previous EuroBasket Women. Once they were in the playoffs it was Birsel Vardarli show, who led her team to the final of the tournament with some huge plays.
If Turkey are to have success in 2012, Vardarli will be instrumental in those efforts. It isnt too loud to say that she is currently the best European point guard in terms of having the best balance in scoring and playmaking skills. Right now shes at the top of her career, having just turned 28. Other Turkish guards have a good mix of defensive, shooting and scoring abilities between them, but they have one thing in common no one of them is taller than 175 cm, so they will be giving up 5-10 centimeters to most of their opponents.
Having such short guards didnt help Turkey in 2011 in rebounding in which they were the worst team among the 12 that made it out of the first round. They decided to find solution to that problem in the form of an American player which they would naturalize. Among the candidates were Latoya Sanders, Christi Thomas and Carolyn Swords, but their choice fell to EuroLeague Women 2012 second leading rebounder Quanitra Hollingsworth. Addition of Hollingsworth came at the expense of another naturalized American Kristen Newlin, who was among the team leaders in scoring in 2011.
With Hollingsworth being prone to getting in to foul trouble you should also look at Bahar Caglar playing some starters minutes during the tournament. Caglar has been the top emerging Turkish talent for a couple of years now and theres no signs that in a couple of years she wont be a star.
Turkey has the potential to upset one of the top five teams of the tournament. Will they manage to do so, only time will tell.
Russia How they got there? As the winners of EuroBasket Women
Notable absences: Svetlana Abrosimova
About the team: Russians have the ability to surprise everyone both positively or negatively.
In 2011 they managed to do both within one tournament. They started off awfully with losses to Lithuania and Belarus and a barely scraped out win against Great Britain, but when the quarterfinals rolled around the Russians suddenly displayed the best overall basketball of at least the last three European championships. Important change during that tournament was not trying to play Svetlana Abrosimova at the point and putting Elena Danilochkina there. Danilochkinas level of play increased and she was named the MVP of the tournament while Abrosimova wasnt asked back to the National Team in 2012.
Now the key to the Russian success will be how well the trio of Becky Hammon (175-PG-77, agency: Josep and Nicolas, college: Colorado St.), Danilochkina and Evgenia Belyakova will gel together in the backcourt. Last time Russians played with Hammon on the roster the team was in shambles, finishing seventh behind 4 European teams, USA and Australia. If Belyakova would be comfortable being a spot up shooter, then Hammon and Danilochkina both require ball in their hands to be effective. In the pre-tournament games with Hammon on the squad both of them played together rarely with one usually substituting the other. Though coach Sokolovsky has admitted hes thinking about playing them together. Reason why they will likely have to play together is named Ilona Korstin. Korstins skill set has rapidly declined with age shes gotten slower, thus less likely to get the only shot she can make a layup. Only other thing she brings to the team is the ability to elbow opponents in the head, which might be useful considering they play Great Britain, again.
With Olga Arteshina and Anna Petrakova holding down the small forward position, the only players worth talking about are the posts. Back there the situation is interesting to say the least. In the absence of Maria Stepanova the Russians are left with defensive specialist (read: shes an offensive non-factor) Irina Osipova and a bunch of so called youngsters. Rightfully so the top option from all of the youngsters currently appears to be Natalia Vieru after showing what she can do with the trust of the coach and some playing time last season with Good Angels Kosice. Coming in their relief are very solid bench options of Nadezhda Grishaeva and Marina Kuzina.
Australia How they got there? As FIBA Oceania champions
Notable absences: Erin Phillips, Penny Taylor
About the team: The ship has sailed for this Opals squad.
With Penny Taylor out, the Opals are left with declining veterans and inexperienced youngsters. While medals are not out of question for the Australians, they are nowhere as near to USA as they were in 2004 or 2008.
You could count on Cambage Elizabeth (203-C-91) to score 15+ points in each game, but thats oddly the only thing there isnt much questions about. Lauren Jackson had a subpar tournament during the Worlds in 2010 and her play leading to the games in 2012 hasnt been spectacular either. Its anyones guess whether she can still show us she belongs to the best player in the world discussion right now.
One of the biggest issues for Australians is point guard play. In her fourth Olympic games they will be led by 37 year old Kristi Harrower. Considering her best tournament was in 2006, you can imagine how far past her prime Harrower is. Her backups Samantha Richards and Kathleen MacLeod have a thing in common with Harrower theyre small. To add to that none of them has shown the ability to be a world class point guard which would be required for Australians in order to fight for the gold medal.
In absence of Penny Taylor, Belinda Snell has emerged as the top perimeter option for the Aussies which only speaks of how much they will miss Taylor. Neither Jenna OHea, nor Rachel Jarry have been able to connect from distance with any kind of regularity. All of this makes the Erin Phillips exclusion the more baffling. She could have played solid minutes at the point and has the ability to knock down the long distance shot with some consistency.
Brazil How they got there? As the winners of FIBA Americas Championships
Notable absences: Iziane Castro Marques.
About the team: American champions have overhauled their roster from the 2010 Worlds.
With four new players Brazilians have turned a page after their team failed to make quarterfinals in last two major competitions. But their main focus might not be on London 2012, but more likely Rio 2016.
Main weapon and option for Brazilians will be center Erika de Souza who has the ability to play against anyone in the world. In the post she will be joined by the youngster Damiris Dantas, for whom this will be a very valuable learning experience, Clarissa dos Santos and Franciele Nascimento. Judging by her quite poor season in Spain, Dantas might still be a work in progress. Dos Santos on the other hand already had some impressive showings leading up to the Olympics.
With the cutting of Castro Marques it appears that all of the burden on the perimeter will be on the shoulders of Adriana Pinto. In the tournament in France she appeared to do quite well in that role, but weve yet to see teams scheme against her like it will be the case when the tournament starts. Outside of Adriana, its hard to guess whether anyone else will be able to shoulder the burden on perimeter they have plenty of players who have scored in double digits in the continental championships only for their production to drop to 4-5 points per game in the major competitions.
Canada How they got there? Through FIBA Olympic Qualification tournament.
Notable absences: Kalisha Keane.
About the team: As is the case with Great Britain, Canada will be no pushovers in the Olympic tournament and might come up with a surprise or two.
With no standout offensive talents on the team, Canada win games by keeping them close with their defense. If the referees decide to call the game tightly they might have some trouble keeping up.
Courtnay Pilypaitis had a terrific Olympic Qualification tournament, but statistical evidence from a larger sample of games in EuroLeague Women makes one wonder if she can keep it up. In ELW shes been a 33% FG shooter instead of 46% shooter that she was in the five games in the qualifiers. On the other hand Kim Smith didnt have her best tournament in Turkey so you can look for improvement in her game. Terese Gabrielle should provide some stability at the PG, but the rest of the guard corps are pretty much hit-and-miss.
Down the middle the Canadians have a bit more depth with Lizanne Murphy, Miranda Ayim, Krista Phillips and Tamara Tatham. Without anyone particularly standing out, the Canadians were the top rebounding team of the qualification tournament, even outrebounding France in their game.
If anything group B will provide us some interesting post battles throughout the tournament.
Great Britain How they got there? As the host nation of the Olympics.
Notable absences: None.
About the team: With home court advantage, the Brits shouldnt be taken lightly.
They have shown they have to be reckoned with by defeating France and Czech Republic in recent months. To some observers those victories have made them question whether the hosts have peaked too early and if there are any cards in the deck they havent revealed to their opponents. Under coach Maher it would be weird if they hadnt prepared some surprises to the opponents.
One thing they will not be able to hide is their backcourt duo of Jo Leedham and Natalie Stafford (175-SG-76) the key to the Brit success. Being healthy will mean that Leedham will have a much bigger role and influence than a year ago in Poland when she was just returning from injury, having not practiced much with her teammates. A better Leedham will mean more opportunities for Stafford. Now if only the Brits had someone/anyone better than Stef Collins at the point guard and they might even be near to repeating what China did in 2008 making the semifinals.
Julie Page and Kim Butler were leading the British frontcourt in 2011 with about 10 points for each. In 2012 the picture might look different neither had a particularly good club season and neither stood out in the months to the Olympics, so it wouldnt be a surprise if either of them has been surpassed by Azania Stewart. Stewarts game has grown in the past season, not to mention shes the tallest person on the roster.
France How they got there? Through FIBA Olympic Qualification tournament.
Notable absences: None.
About the team: France is returning to the Olympics after missing previous two by finishing two places out of the ones that would have given them a place there.
France will be led in the battle by a very formidable frontcourt, depth of which can only be surpassed by the Americans. Sandrine Gruda (193-C-87) brings them instant scoring ability, Isabelle Yacoubou brings power, Emmeline Ndongue is the ultimate banger inside who will do for them the little things that arent mentioned in boxscores, and then there are the established Endene Miyem and Elodie Godin backing them up.
Point guard duo of Dumerc and Lawson-Wade could prove to be the best outside of Bird and Whalen, though even they will not be able to hide the issues that plague the French on the wings where there are no consistent outside scorers.
In 2011 teams used it to their advantage, playing zone and basically asking the French to shoot themselves in the foot. Having shot less than 30% from behind the arc as a team, the French currently have an uncertain situation with their top threepoint maker Emilie Gomis, who has been sidelined with a calf injury for a week now and likely will not be playing in the first couple of games. Even if she gets healthy shes unlikely to be playing anywhere near 100% which will hurt the already struggling guard corps even more.
Rio 2016: USA fire past Spain to clinch sixth straight title - 5 months ago
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USA - Spain 101:72 Team USA earned the sixth straight Olympic Gold. They rallied past Spain in the championship game tonight. Lindsay Whalen (175-PG-82, college: Minnesota) and Diana Taurasi (182-SG-82, college: Connecticut) scored 17 points each for the winners. The teams stayed close throughout the opening quarter. Team USA grabbed a 21:17 lead after ten minutes of action. The North American side unloaded 28 points in the second term to gain a 17-point halftime advantage. They stretch... [read more]
USA - Spain 101:72
Team USA earned the sixth straight Olympic Gold. They rallied past Spain in the championship game tonight. Lindsay Whalen (175-PG-82, college: Minnesota) and Diana Taurasi (182-SG-82, college: Connecticut) scored 17 points each for the winners. The teams stayed close throughout the opening quarter. Team USA grabbed a 21:17 lead after ten minutes of action. The North American side unloaded 28 points in the second term to gain a 17-point halftime advantage. They stretched the margin in the third term. Team USA reeled off to a massive 32-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. Spain sank 23 points in the fourth term to cut the deficit at the end. Maya Moore (183-SG-89, college: Connecticut) provided 14 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds in the victory. Alba Torrens (188-F-89) responded with 18 points for Spain. Marta Xargay Casademont (181-PG-90) chipped in 12 points in the losing effort.
Serbia concluded their first participation in the Women's Olympic Basketball Tournament on a high note by claiming the bronze medal thanks to a 70-63 win over France in Saturday's Bronze Medal Game at Carioca Arena 1. The game was close in the first half, but European champions Serbia blew it wide open with a 16-0 third quarter run, turning a 40-37 deficit into a commanding 53-40 advantage and they never looked back. With Jelena Milovanovic (6'3''-PF-89) and Milica Dabovic (5'8''-PG-82, a... [read more]
Serbia concluded their first participation in the Women's Olympic Basketball Tournament on a high note by claiming the bronze medal thanks to a 70-63 win over France in Saturday's Bronze Medal Game at Carioca Arena 1. The game was close in the first half, but European champions Serbia blew it wide open with a 16-0 third quarter run, turning a 40-37 deficit into a commanding 53-40 advantage and they never looked back. With Jelena Milovanovic (6'3''-PF-89) and Milica Dabovic (5'8''-PG-82, agency: BeoBasket) providing the scoring punch, Serbia raced out to a 15-5 lead. The pair accounted for all but two of their points as their team led 18-10 at the end of the first quarter. France opened the second period on a 7-0 run to get within 18-17. Ana Dabovic (6'0''-SG-89) hit a timely three-pointer and had Serbia's next four points to go up 25-19. Amel Bouderra (5'3''-G-89) and Marine Johannes (5'9''-PG-95, agency: Comsport) each connected from beyond the arc and Marielle Amant (6'3''-F/C-89, agency: Comsport) scored inside to give Les Bleues their first lead, 27-25. Ana Dabovic (6'0''-SG-89) made a pair of free-throws to tie the score at 27 at halftime. Les Bleues edged ahead, 40-37, midway through the third quarter but Serbia responded in resounding fashion with a run of 16 unanswered points spearheaded by Sonja Petrovic (6'3''-F-89, agency: Josep and Nicolas) that gave them a 53-40 advantage with 2:42 left in the period. France trailed 55-42 heading into the final frame, when Serbia did what was required to wrap up the win.
Turning Point: Petrovic accounted for 8 of the 16 points in Serbia's pivotal third quarter run. None were more important than the corner three-pointer that ended the spurt, as it gave her team their biggest lead of the game. Stats Don't Lie: After going up 40-37 in the third quarter, France went scoreless for 4 minutes and 51 seconds, between the 5:04 and 15 seconds mark of the period. Hero: Serbia as a team deserve to be praised. They opened the competition with three consecutive losses and turned things around to go on an incredible run, falling just short of reaching the Gold Medal Game. The Bottom Line: In a re-match of the EuroBasket Women 2015 Final, Serbia once again got the better of France and it resulted in another historical landmark moment for them with a first-ever Olympic medal.
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