Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Beijing 2008 - Basketball and Soccer Mini-Preview

Editor's Note: I am personally excited as the Summer Olympics are about to get underway! The reason for my excitement? It's the one event that BSD has not yet had a chance to cover, since we did not start coverage until the football season began back in fall 2004.

Basketball Mini-Preview
Even if you are upset about the NBA's refereeing issues, Basketball at the Olympics should be a very entertaining and exhilerating event. Anything really is possible for the U.S. team, so by no means am I expecting a gold medal, though the U.S. should certainly be one of the top contenders for the gold medal.

Format: Only 12 teams competing, split into two groups. Top 4 in each group qualify for the knockout tournament.

World Ranks provided by FIBA ; rosters courtesy of Wikipedia.

Group A - the "easy" group

Argentina - World Rank: 2
Top players: SG Manu Ginobili (San Antonio Spurs); SG Carlos Delfino (just left Toronto for a Russian team); C Fabricio Oberto (San Antonio Spurs); PF Luis Scola (Houston Rockets); SF Andres Nocioni (Chicago Bulls)
Argentina again has one of the best teams in the tournament. They won the 2004 Gold Medal, and finished a "disappointing" 4th place at the 2006 World Championships. The good news for them is that they are in the easier Group A, so they should have a better seed for the knockout stage.

Lithuania - World Rank: 5
Top Players: F Linas Kleiza (Denver Nuggets); PG Sarunas Jaskivecius (formerly of the Pacers, now playing in Greece)

Australia - World Rank: 10
Top Players: C Andrew Bogut (Milwaukee Bucks); PF David Andersen (one of the top players in Europe)

Russia - World Rank: 16
Top Players: PF Andrei Kirilenko (Utah Jazz); PG Jon Holden (played at Bucknell, plays in Russia); C Sasha Kaun (played at Kansas and now plays in Russia)

Croatia - World Rank: 20
Top players: PG Roko Ukic (just signed w/ Toronto Raptors)

Iran - World Rank: 33
Top Players: 7'2" Hamed Haddadi (supposedly going to the NBA in the next year)

Group B - includes the top 3 teams from the 2006 World Championships! (Spain, Greece, and the US)

U.S.A. - World Rank: 1
Top Players: Boozer, Carlos; Kidd, Jason; James, LeBron; Williams, Deron; Redd, Michael; Wade, Dwyane; Bryant, Kobe; Howard, Dwight; Bosh, Chris; Paul, Chris; Prince, Tayshaun; Anthony, Carmelo
Only need to say they are calling themselves the "Redeem Team" after finishing 6th at the 2002 World Championships in Indianapolis, 3rd at the 2004 Olympics, and 3rd at the 2006 World Championships.

Spain - World Rank: 3
PG Jose Calderon (Raptors); SG Juan Carlos Navarro (formerly of the Grizzlies); C Pau Gasol (Lakers); SF Jorge Garbajosa (formerly of the Raptors); PF Marc Gasol (Grizzlies); SG Rudy Fernandez (Portland TrailBlazers)
I really think this is still the best team. They won the 2006 World Championships, they have an amazing starting 5 of NBA-caliber talent, and they have not one, but TWO Gasols!!!!

Greece - World Rank: 6
Top players: PG Theodoros Papaloukas; SG V-Span (formerly of the Rockets and Spurs);
All of these guys play in Greece except for SG Nikolaos Zisis. They play great as a team as evidenced by their defeat of the US in 2006. Something tells me the US will be out for revenge when they play on August 14, 2008 during the Group stage.

Germany - World Rank: 9
Top Players: C Chris Kaman (Clippers); PF Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks);
With players like Kaman playing on Germany at the last second by obtaining citizenship in July 2008, I can't really get mad at the player. What irks me more is that the Olympics have such flexible rules that allow Kaman to suddenly show up on the German team just before the qualification tournament. On the women's side, one of the better WNBA players decided to play for Russia after not getting on the US team. Again, I think more anger should be directed to the IOC.

China - World Rank: 11
Top Players: C Yao Ming (Houston); F Yi Jianlin (NJ Nets)

Angola - World Rank: 14
Um.... yeah. This team is in trouble in this very tough group.

Soccer Mini-Preview
Athlete eligibility: 23 and under only, with THREE exemptions per team (anyone of any age, professional or amateur).
Format: 4 groups of 4 teams; top 2 from each group advance to knockout tournament.

Wikipedia provided group info and athlete info . Complete, more expert analysis is available at goal.com.

Group A
Ivory Coast - top players: Kalou (Chelsea), Drogba (Chelsea - but not yet committed to attending Olympics)
Argentina - top players: Riquelme (Boca Juniors), Mascherano (Liverpool), Messi (Barcelona),
Australia -
Serbia -

Group B
Netherlands - winners of previous underage championships, and considered one of the favorites!
Nigeria - goal.com predicts Nigeria to advance over the U.S.!
Japan -
USA - top players: G Seitz, G Guzan (just transferred to Aston Villa); M M.Bradley, F. Adu (Monaco), Jozy Altidore (Villareal), Brian McBride at age 36!

Group C
China - top players: Zheng Zhi (Charlton Athletic), Dong Fangzhuo (Manchester United)
New Zealand - top players: Ryan Nelsen (Blackburn Rovers), Simon Elliott (Fulham)
Brazil - top players: Ronaldhino (AC Milan), Robinho (?)
Belgium -

Group D
Korea -top players: missing due to injury!
Cameroon - top players: Eto'o ; Song (Portsmouth)
Honduras -
Italy - top players: all under 23!

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