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Monday, 8 August 2016

#BetweenTheRings: Women's Basketball Preview
Can Team USA pull off the #6peat in Rio?


All the basketball talk seems to surround the American men dominating the competition.  Perhaps we should more be focusing on the truly dominant American basketball program: The Women!  The US women have OWNED the podium.  The question is can anyone finally stop them?

Here is your #RioRewind to get you up to date on the history of Olympic women's basketball:

  • Women's basketball made it's Summer Olympics debut at the 1976 games in Montreal.  Rio will be the 11th edition of the tournament
  • The USA are the "Queens of the Court" having won 7 of the previous 10 gold medals, including the past 5.  The US did not compete in 1980 and were upset in the SF in 1992, finishing with a bronze medal.
  • The Soviet Union is the only other nation to find the top of the podium in the sport, winning gold in 1976 and 1980.  The Unified Team struck gold in 1992, beating the US in the SF.  Russia has made the SF round the past 3 Olympics, bringing home 2 bronze (2004, 2008) and finished 4th in London.
  • Australia has been the closest nation to the US in recent Olympiads.  The Aussies have been on the podium each of the past 5 Olympics.  The Aussies lost the gold medal match to the US in 2000, 2004 and 2008.  In 1996 and 2012 they lost to the US in the SF before taking home a bronze.  Rio will be the 9th Olympic appearance for Australia.
  • There will be one debut nation in Rio: Serbia!  Serbia was part of Yugoslavia until 1988.
  • Senegal, Turkey and Belarus will be making their second Olympics appearance.  Turkey made their debut in 2012, finishing 5th.  Belarus debuted in 2008, finishing 6th.  Senegal has waited the longest for their second appearance, last appearing in 2000 and finishing 12th.

USA, Australia, Russia.  History in the sport tells us these would be the medal favourites in Rio.  However, Russia did not qualify for Rio opening up a spot on the podium perhaps for a new nation?  Or can 2012 silver medal winner France find the magic of 4 years ago and make another #PodiumPush?  Let's get to the preview and medal predictions!

Pool A

Australia - The 2014 World Championship bronze medal winners are hungry...starving perhaps...to finally beat USA in competition.  The Aussies have been so close, many times, but also come up on the losing end.  World Championships.  Olympics.  Every major competition it seems a USA - Australia match up with a medal on the line occurs and every time USA comes out on top.  The current Oceania champions will be looking to finally top their rivals in Rio.

France - The EuroBasket runner-up and defending Olympic silver medal winners will want to, at the very least, replicate their performance from London.  The opportunity will be there for a deep podium push once again.  Their pool is relatively easy and a match up with Australia should decide who wins the pool.  The winner of their match up would also avoid the US until the gold medal match.  France had a disappointing 2014 World Championship, losing to the US in the QF and finishing 7th overall.  France needed the last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament to reach Rio.

Japan - The Asian champions will be making their 4th Olympics appearance and first since 2004.  Their best Olympics result was 5th, at the inaugural event in 1976.  Since then they have also collected a 7th (1996) and 10th (2004) result.  They recently finished a disappointing 14th at the World Championship and could be hard pressed to keep up with their European counterparts in this group, not to mention favourite Australia and host Brazil.

Belarus - Welcome back to the Olympics Belarus.  The 4th place finisher at EuroBasket will be looking to replicate, or beat, their previous Olympic performance: 6th in 2008.  Having missed the London games, Belarus has seen their program have a resurgence in the last few years.  After a 10th place finish at the 2014 World Championships, the program has worked hard to claw back in the world elite and the strong result at EuroBasket shows the work is paying off.  Their group is relatively open and they will want to avoid the 4th place finish and a match up with the US in the QF.

Turkey - Speaking of strong EuroBasket results, Turkey was a 5th place finisher in 2015.  Coupled with the 4th place finish at the World Championships, Turkey could be a team to watch when the knockout stage comes around.  This team has the potential to reach the SF and really challenge the Big 3: USA, Australia, France.  Sure they needed the last-chance qualifier to make it here but their results at the other qualification events (ie: World Championship, EuroBasket) have been strong and consistent.

Brazil - The host nation earned the automatic qualification here but should not be considered a "free bingo card" space on the draw board.  An 11th place finish at the World Championships shows this team can compete with the best in the world.  The program has fallen on some hard times recently, seeing a decline in their world ranking.  Remember Brazil won silver back in 1996, bronze in 2000 and finished 4th in 2004.  Unfortunately the past two Olympics have been a bit of a disappointment with an 11th (2008) and 9th (2012) place finish.  Rio will be the teams 7th Olympic appearance though and, playing in front of the home crowd support, Brazil could give some of the higher ranked teams some trouble in pool play.

#TwineTime Projected Standings:  1. Australia  2. France  3. Turkey  4. Belarus  5. Brazil  6. Japan 

Pool B

USA - The 5-time champions.  Winners of the 2014 World Championship, earning their automatic berth here.  The "Queens of the Court".  What is left to say about this team?  The question being asked going into Rio is not if they lose a game but how big of a winning margin they can accumulate on their way to the gold.  Will they "suffer" a single-digit win even?  Canada could give them a challenge in the pool play and Australia/France await in the SF and Final.

Canada - The little sister to their fellow North American super power neighbour to the south.  Canada is finally ready to challenge on the Olympic stage in women's basketball and could be a podium threat in Rio.  Canada won the America's championship to qualify (without the USA competing of course).  Watch for Kia Nurse to be a dominant player on the floor and try to carry Canada to their first Olympic medal.  Canada's best performance was 4th in 1984 and they were 8th in London.  Canada also finished 5th at the 2014 World Championship and should be the team to watch in Rio.

China - China will be making their 4th straight Olympics appearance but enter the games on a bit of down streak.  They were completely dominated by pool rival Canada in lead up games to Rio.  The Chinese were once considered possible dark horse contenders here but, based on recent results and given their pool, could struggle to replicate the 6th place finish from four years ago.  China was a silver medal winner in 1992 and won bronze in 1984.  China qualified through the last-chance Olympic tournament in June.

Serbia - Welcome Serbia!  Sure Serbia will be making their debut in Rio but, a part of Yugoslavia, the nation is not unfamiliar with the sport.  Yugoslavia did win a silver (1988) and bronze (1980).  Don';t underestimate this team.  They are the defending EuroBasket champions, which earned them their debut Olympic spot.  They also finished 8th at the 2014 world championships, where they entered the event ranked 29.  No team has had a faster increase up the world rankings.

Spain - Speaking of the 2014 World Championships, Spain was the runner-up to the US at those championships and will be looking to replicate that performance in Rio.  Spain had a disappointing EuroBasket result, losing to rivals France in the SF but picking up the bronze beating Belarus.  Spain needed the Olympic qualifying tournament to make it to Rio.  This will be the program's 4th Olympic appearance and first since 2008.  Their best result is a 5th place finish in 2008 and 1992.

Senegal - The AfroBasket Champions return to the Olympics for the first time since 2000.  Senegal will be in tough to better their 12th place showing in Sydney however.  Their pool is stacked with tough competition.  Senegal did not qualify for the recent World Championship either, meaning many teams may not be familiar with them and vice versa.  A victory against any team in this pool would be the equivalent of winning gold.

#TwineTime Projected Standings:  1. USA  2. Canada  3. Serbia  4. Spain  5. China  6. Senegal

Knockout Stage

Quarterfinals

Australia over Spain
Canada over Turkey
France over Serbia
USA over Belarus

Semifinals

Australia over Canada
USA over France

Bronze Medal

Canada over France

Gold Medal

USA over Australia

#TwineTime Medal Picks

Gold - USA
Silver - Australia
Bronze - Canada

Stay up to date on all the #BetweenTheRings #Rio2016 Previews below:

Welcome to Rio 2016
Women's Football Preview
Men's Football Preview
Tennis Preview
Rugby Sevens Preview
Men's Basketball Preview
Men's Indoor Volleyball Preview

Also, don't forget to have YOUR voice heard on what sport(s) you are most excited about watching during the XXXI Olympiad by voting on the #TwineTime homepage.