The tournament stage of the Olympic Basketball Qualifying Tournament starts today, with 8 teams vying for 3 spots in a single-elimination bracket. In other words, everybody who loses on the first day is toast, and there's no final, because the final two teams automatically advance. The losers of the Semi-Final round will automatically advance. Without further ado, let's do a quick preview of today's matchups down in Caracas....
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10:30 AM: Russia (1st Group C) vs. Angola (2nd Group D)
This is the most lopsided matchup I think you'll see. Russia was able to dominate the Dominican Republic with quickness and size in the group stage. I don't think that Angola will lose on quickness, but I certainly think they'll lose when it comes to size. Angola relies on going to Mingas and Gomes in the post late in games, but they're pretty short in terms of international play, and I think Russia will regularly kill them down low. Angola also relies far too much on outside shooting, which Russia defends well.
1:00 PM: Greece (1st Group A) vs. Nigeria (2nd Group B)
Greece is looking to redeem themselves in a big way through this tournament, and certainly proved themselves in the Group stages with a big win over Puerto Rico. But they'll have their hands full against Nigeria, who could just be the perfect team to run Greece ragged up and down the court, and burning them with the occasional three. Given how Nigeria just destroyed Lithuania, I'm going to have to go with my gut instinct and say Nigeria will upset. It will certainly be a very close and high scoring game, in any case. They big question in my mind is whether the Greeks can take advantage of the disorganized Nigeria team.
4:30 PM: Macedonia (1st Group D) vs. Dominican Republic (2nd Group C)
These two teams have a lot of questions surrounding them going into the tournament stage, as both of them lost a game in the group stage. The Dominican Republic doesn't have great defense down low, and relies too much on three players (Horford, Martinez, and Garcia) who don't always produce. Macedonia relies far too much on outside shooting, and can go through huge offensive dry spells. My gut instinct goes to Macedonia, simply because they've proven they can take down good opponents in the past, and because the Dominicans don't have anybody to match up against McCalebb.
7:00 PM: Lithuania (1st Group B) vs. Puerto Rico (2nd Group A)
I'd say this will be today's most intense matchup, simply because these are both very experienced teams who have been to the Olympics before. Lithuania is coming off of a disappointing loss to Nigeria in which they were destroyed by athleticism, but Puerto Rico presents an entirely different challenge in Barea, who can run circles around Lithuania's best defenders. But, despite having Renaldo Balkman, Puerto Rico doesn't really have the tools to stop Lithuania's offensive attack, which includes Linas Kleiza and Sarunas Jasikevicus. I think Lithuania's offense will win this one for them, but they'll have a few more turnovers then they should, and Puerto Rico will keep it close throughout the entire game.
Who gets left out?
Based on matchups, I think Russia, Lithuania, and Nigeria will advance. Macedonia doesn't have the offensive help to score with a team like Lithuania and Nigeria on most nights, despite their win against Lithuania in the 2011 Eurobasket. But, with a guy like Bo McCalebb, you can never be too sure.
What do you think will happen in today's matchups? Vote in the poll, post a comment!