Monday sees the final men's basketball games at the Basketball Arena, as preliminary play for London 2012 concludes and the teams prepare to move to the North Greenwich Arena for the knock-out rounds. After four games, the United States' team of NBA superstars continues to look like the favorite for gold. But what seven teams will get the chance to try to eliminate them along the way? After the jump, I'll take a look at who's still alive.
Note: FIBA's standings system awards a team 2 points for a win and 1 for a simply showing up. (No, I don't understand it either.)
Current Standings: 1. United States, 2. Argentina, 3. France, 4. Lithuania, 5. Nigeria, 6. Tunisia (eliminated)
The U.S. (8 points) will look to finish with five wins in five games with a victory over Argentina (7 points) (5:15 p.m. ET), which may not be a given after how the team struggled for large parts of Saturday's game against Lithuania (5 points). The Baltic team is looking like an incredibly strong No. 4 seed heading into its final preliminary game against eliminated Tunisia (4 points) (6:15 a.m. ET). However, the Lithuanians will need to win it to assure themselves of the final quarterfinal place. Meanwhile, France (7 points) is in line to finish second, thanks to Argentina's opponent, as they should handle Nigeria (5 points) (9:30 a.m. ET) in each team's final group contest. Still, a Nigeria win and Lithuania defeat will see the last team in the Olympic field get the final spot in the eliminations.
Projected Standings: 1. USA (10 pts.), 2. France (9 pts.), 3. Argentina (8 pts.), 4. Lithuania (7 pts.), 5. Nigeria (6 pts.), 6. Tunisia (5 pts.)
Current Standings: 1. Russia, 2. Brazil, 3. Spain, 4. Australia, 5. Great Britain (eliminated), 6. China (eliminated)
Russia (8 points) took control of the group with a come from behind victory over Spain (7 points) and can finish with a 5-0 record with a victory over Australia (6 points) (4 a.m. ET). The Spanish, meanwhile, will attempt to hold on to the No. 2 seed -- which would put them on course to meet the Americans in 2008 gold medal rematch in the semifinal -- with a win over Brazil (7 points) (3 p.m. ET). Of course, a Brazilian win would see them fall just behind Russia in the standings. (If they hadn't lost by one to the Russians, they'd still have a shot at position B1, as head-to-head result is the first tiebreaker.) Eliminated Great Britain (4 points) and China (4 points) (11:45 a.m. ET) meet with pride -- and final placing -- on the line.
Projected Standings: 1. Russia (10 pts.), 2. Spain (9 pts.), 3. Brazil (8 pts.), 4. Australia (7 pts.), 5. Great Britain (6 pts.), 6. China (5 pts.)
Those projected tables give us this bracket.
(A1) USA vs. (B4) Australia
(B2) Spain vs. (A3) Argentina
(A2) France vs. (B3) Brazil
(B1) Russia vs. (A4) Lithuania
Russia's defeat of Spain means the 2008 silver medalists will have to avenge that loss to claim gold, a possibility given the Americans' struggles inside, which were clearly evident against Lithuania. (The Spanish loss in a friendly before the Games really doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things.) Of course, Spain would have to get past Argentina first.
They aren't the only team facing a potential quarterfinal trap in this projection. Saturday's close loss to the USA showed that Lithuania is perfectly capable of creating problems for teams -- did you pay attention, Russia? France and Brazil would also likely be an entertaining, close affair. Yet the same probably can't be said for a USA-Australia encounter.
UPDATE: It turns out Spain will avoid a possible semifinal matchup with the U.S. after all, as they fell to Brazil, who claims spot B2. Russia remains at the top of that group, despite their loss to Australia, who remains in fourth. With Group A playing out as expected, here's what the final bracket looks like. All four quarterfinals are slated for Wednesday. Note we are guaranteed to have a European team in the final, which will likely play a team from the Americas.
(A1) USA vs. (B4) Australia, 5:15 p.m. ET
Spain Brazil vs. (A3) Argentina, 3 p.m. ET (Top half semifinal Friday at 4 p.m. ET)
(A2) France vs. (B3)
Brazil Spain, 11:15 a.m. ET
(B1) Russia vs. (A4) Lithuania, 9 a.m. ET (Bottom half semifinal Friday at 12 p.m. ET)
The bronze medal game will tip at 6 a.m. ET on Sunday, while the gold medal game begins at 10 a.m. ET.
Do you think the U.S. has a clear path to gold? Where do you think they might stumble?
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