The 2012 London Olympics are now closer to the end than the beginning, which means its time for preliminary round competition in the team sports to come to its conclusion. Three women's sports move toward medal round play on Sunday, and before action begins, I'll take a quick look at who's still alive for gold in each of them, starting now with women's basketball.
Note: FIBA's standings system awards a team 2 points for a win and 1 for a loss. (No, I don't understand it either.)
Current Standings: 1. USA, 2. Turkey, 3. China, 4. Czech Republic, 5. Croatia, 6. Angola
The gold medal favorites from the United States (8 points) can finish the preliminary round with a perfect record if they top China (7 points) (11:45 a.m.). The Beijing hosts currently sit just behind Turkey (7 points) in the standings, thanks to a 27-point Turkish victory in the team's head-to-head matchup on Friday. (That's FIBA's first tiebreaker.) That means Turkey can wrap up the second seed out of group A with a victory over fellow wild card qualifier Croatia (5 points) (3 p.m. ET). It's possible the Croatians won't have much to play for by the time the night session rolls around, as the team they sit behind in the standings (again, thanks to their preliminary meeting), the Czech Republic (5 points) can sew up the final quarterfinal spot with a victory over all but eliminated Angola (4 points) in the morning (6:15 a.m. ET). However, if the Angolans win, the door will be open for the Adriatic debutantes.
Projected Standings: 1. USA (10 pts.), 2. Turkey (9 pts.), 3. China (8 pts.), 4. Czech Republic (7 pts.), Croatia (6 pts.), Angola (5 pts.)
Current standings: 1. France, 2. Australia, 3. Russia, 4. Canada, 5. Great Britain (eliminated), 6. Brazil (eliminated)
All that's left to be decided is seeding, as the two eliminated teams, Brazil and Great Britain (4 points each) happen to meet in the final game of the day (5:15 p.m. ET). The first game of the day sees France (8 points) with the opportunity to finish with five wins in five games, as they take on Russia (7 points) (4 a.m. ET). If the French should fail, Australia (7 points) might have a chance to sneak into position B1, provided they beat surprising Canada (6 points) (9:30 a.m. ET). If the favorites lose, things get very interesting. For example, the Russians would top the group should they beat France and the Opals lose to the Canadians. Such a turn of events would also see this year's final qualifiers jump their Commonwealth rivals for the third seed.
Projected Standings: 1. France (10 pts.), 2. Australia (9 pts.), 3. Russia (8 pts.), 4. Canada (7 pts.), 5. Great Britain (6 pts.), 6. Brazil (5 pts.)
However, such a pair of results would be quite unexpected. So, my prediction for the medal round bracket looks like this, starting at the top...
(A1) USA vs. (B4) Canada
(B2) Australia vs. (A3) China
(A2) Turkey vs. (B3) Russia
(B1) France vs. (A4) Czech Republic
This projected bracket would guarantee a Europe vs. Rest of the World Gold Medal game. In the top half, the heavily favored United States would need to get through two of its biggest rivals to reach Saturday's final. However, there's also plenty of familiarity on the other side of this projected bracket. the Russia-Turkey quarterfinal would be a rematch of last year's Women's Eurobasket final, won handily by the Russians, while the France-Czech Republic game replicates the bronze medal game from that event, won by the French by 13.
UPDATE: The final preliminary games played out as anticipated, and the USA and France both completed opening round play with perfect 5-0 records. The final bracket looks like this, a carbon copy of my projection.
All quarterfinals are on Tuesday.
(A1) USA vs. (B4) Canada, 11:15 a.m. ET
(B2) Australia vs. (A3) China, 9 a.m. ET (Top half semifinal on Thursday at 12 p.m. ET)
(A2) Turkey vs. (B3) Russia, 3 p.m. ET
(B1) France vs. (A4) Czech Republic, 5 p.m. ET (Bottom half semifinal on Thursday at 4 p.m. ET)
There are no consolation games for teams eliminated in either the preliminary round or quarterfinals. Note that the semifinals and medal games will take place at North Greenwich Arena, not the Basketball one in Olympic Park.
The gold medal game is scheduled for Saturday at 4 p.m. ET, while bronze will be decided Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.
Who are your picks for gold, silver, and bronze? Do you think the USA will run away with the gold?
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