2012 London Olympics Group B Preview

Will Russia surprise us all and win Group B?

I didn't have time to give you in-depth previews of all 12 Olympic Basketball teams as I would've liked to, but I have seen all of the Teams in Group B in action before, so here's a quick lowdown on each team and how they'll do in the tournament.

6. China

NBA Players: Yi Jianlian (Dallas Mavericks)

Outlook: Having seen them play in past tournaments, right now, I'd have to say their shot at an Olympic medal is slim to none. They're at the level of international competition for the most part, but their unusual style of basketball gets them into trouble against every type of international competition. They're too big to guard Luol Deng and David Andersen, high scorers on the British and Australian teams that they're supposed to beat. Offensively, their guards don't have the flow necessary to score consistently, and their untested bench will hurt them early on. In my opinion, it would take a major upset for this team to beat anybody except maybe Brazil, who doesn't really have the talent or tools to exploit the Chinese in one way or another. But, if they do upset and get to the tournament stage, they don't really have the talent to beat Team USA, Argentina, or France.

5. Australia

NBA Players: Patty Mills (San Antonio Spurs)

Outlook: Australia is a guard focused team, thanks to the absence of Andrew Bogut and Nathan Jawai. David Andersen and Alexander Maric will do this best to fill the void down low, but Andersen does most of his scoring as a shooter. The team likes to use swingmen Joe Ingles and Patty Mills as ballhandlers, which can lead to some fantastic points and some bad turnovers. The bottom line with this team is that while their defense is adequate, their offense can stall out at times because they don't have a legitimate go-to scorer, or the offensive distribution of a team like Lithuania. I can see them using their excellent shooting to possibly pull off an upset against someone, but if I had to put my money on it, I'd leave this team out of the second round.

Below: Great Britain, Brazil, Spain, and Russia!

4. Great Britain

NBA Players: Luol Deng (Chicago Bulls), Eric Boateng (Denver Nuggets)

Outlook: I know, I know, Great Britain isn't supposed to get this far. After all, they were destroyed by Team USA, right? Well, if you look at how they performed in other exhibitions, you'd see that Team GB is better than you think. They seriously challenged Lithuania, France, and Spain, and they beat who they were supposed to (aside from in their last two exhibitions, when their starters were resting). Their strengths are pretty clear. They have good size inside, and two athletic forwards in Luol Deng and Pops Mensah-Bonsu that can score in bunches. Their bench is razor thin and their guards aren't very athletic (which is why they were dominated by Team USA), but their talent level is still comparable to that of other teams. I think they'll beat Australia and China because Deng can stretch China's two center lineup pretty easily, and their inside game (including Joel Freeland and Eric Boateng) should be able to take advantage of Australia's weak front line. Still, they'll get destroyed in the tournament stage by Team USA, so that's that.

3. Brazil

NBA Players: Leandro Barbosa (Indiana Pacers), Nene Hilario (Washington Wizards), Tiago Splitter (San Antonio Spurs), Anderson Varejao (Cleveland Cavaliers)

Outlook: Brazil has a very balanced team. Aside from their well-known NBA trio in the paint and the high-scoring Barbosa, the team also employs Marcelinho Huertas as their extremely crafty point guard. He does an excellent job of keeping the ball moving and getting it to where players want it. On the flip side, he can also be the team's weakness, as he'll succumb to perimeter pressure pretty quickly. The team will also struggle when they can't get easy buckets in the paint, usually relying on Marcelo Machado and Leandro Barbosa to fire up threes until something works.

2. Spain

NBA Players: Pau Gasol (Los Angeles Lakers), Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies), Jose Calderon (Toronto Raptors), Rudy Fernandez (Denver Nuggets)

Outlook: Yeah, putting Spain at #2 might seem kind of silly. They have the Gasol brothers, along with some really athletic guards and the I-Block-a. And while they're easily the second most talented team in the tournament, I think that they really will struggle against teams that will match up with them in the post. Juan Carlos Navarro and Rudy Fernandez can be very up and down for the team offensively, because roughly half of the shots they take are threes. So if Russia can lock down the paint, which they usually do, and put Andrei Kirilenko on Fernandez or Navarro, I think that they'll have a very good chance of taking the group. That being said, Spain will most likely steamroll through the rest of the group, including Brazil, who don't have a good deal of post defense. Also, losing Ricky Rubio was pretty insignificant for them, considering his 2 point, 2 assist, 1 steal average during the Eurobasket.

1. Russia

NBA Players: Timofey Mozgov (Denver Nuggets), Andrei Kirilenko (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Outlook: Russia looked extremely strong coming into the tournament, all but breezing through their competition in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament. They also looked strong in the 2011 Eurobasket, sweeping the tournament until a shocking loss in the Semi-Finals to France. The reason they lost to France was because they jacked up too many shots and couldn't get enough rebounds. There wasn't any real systematical problem, the team just didn't have the ball movement to keep up with France in a high-scoring game. Here, I can see them winning the group over Spain because of the reasons I mentioned above. They should have the talent to beat pretty much everyone in the group, but I could see them having problems with China on a bad day, just because they'll jack up so many jumpers against that huge front line.

Who do you think will win Group B? Does any team here have a shot at beating Team USA? Vote in the poll, post a comment!

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