By Jesus Gomez , SBNation
The biggest international basketball competition is about to begin in Rio. Team USA will try to once again win the gold medal, like it has in the past two Olympics. There will be 11 other national teams hoping to pull off a historic upset, but it’s hard to see that happening in this bracket.
The story leading up to the games was that some of the NBA’s biggest American stars were opting to skip the competition. LeBron James, Stephen Curry, James Harden and Russell Westbrook, among others, all decided to take the summer off. Initially, there was some concern about the quality of the team that USA Basketball was going to assemble.
Fortunately, stars like Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Kyrie Irving and Draymond Green answered the call. This is arguably the worst American Olympic squad since the team that lost in Athens, but that’s a testament to the juggernauts USA Basketball managed to assemble in the past, not a criticism of this iteration. The U.S. should continue to dominate in this sport — there’s not only enough talent for Team USA to cruise to the top of the podium, but also there are no obvious threats this time around.
Spain, which won silver medals in the past two games, will be without Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. Argentina, which last beat Team USA in the Olympics in Athens, has an aging core that doesn’t have the athleticism to compete with the U.S. anymore. Serbia and Lithuania are good, but lack star power and a supporting cast with NBA experience. Only France appears to have the combination of top-tier talent, athletic ability and experience to challenge coach Mike Krzyzewski’s team in a head-to-head matchup, and even they would need to play a perfect game to emerge victorious.
While a Team USA win seems inevitable, there have been surprises in the past at the Olympic level. Even if no one emerges as a threat, the tournament will provide basketball fans with a high-level competition that will see new powers emerge and old ones fade away.
There are two groups of six teams. Every team in each groups plays against one another and the top four from each group move on to the quarterfinals.
The top-seeded team from Group A faces the fourth-seeded team from Group B, and vice versa. Second-seeded squads face the third seed from the other group. The winners move on to the semifinals, which determine the finalists and the teams that battle for the bronze medal.
You can click here to check the standings and see the bracket after the preliminary round.
Schedule (all times ET)
Saturday, August 6
Australia vs. France, 1:15 p.m.
USA vs. China, 6 p.m.
Venezuela vs. Serbia, 9:30 p.m.
Sunday, August 7
Brazil vs. Lithuania, 1:15 p.m.
Croatia vs. Spain, 6 p.m.
Argentina vs. Nigeria, 9:30 p.m.
Monday, August 8
Serbia vs. Australia, 1:15 p.m.
USA vs. Venezuela, 6 p.m.
France vs. China, 9:30 p.m.
Tuesday, August 9
Spain vs. Brazil, 1:15 p.m.
Lithuania vs. Nigeria, 6 p.m.
Argentina vs. Croatia, 9:30 p.m.
Wednesday, August 10
Serbia vs. France, 1:15 p.m.
Australia vs. USA, 6 p.m.
Venezuela vs. China, 9:30 p.m.
Thursday, August 11
Brazil vs. Croatia, 1:15 p.m.
Nigeria vs. Spain 6 p.m.
Lithuania vs. Argentina, 9:30 p.m.
Friday, August 12
China vs. Australia, 1:15 p.m.
USA vs. Serbia, 6 p.m.
France vs. Venezuela, 9:30 p.m.
Saturday, August 13
Argentina vs. Brazil, 1:15 p.m.
Spain vs. Lithuania, 6 p.m.
Croatia vs. Nigeria, 9:30 p.m.
Sunday, August 14
USA vs. France, 1:15 p.m.
Australia vs. Venezuela 6 p.m.
China vs. Serbia, 9:30 p.m.
Monday, August 15
Nigeria vs. Brazil, 1:15 p.m.
Spain vs. Argentina, 6 p.m.
Lithuania vs. Croatia, 9:30 p.m.
Wednesday, August 17
A1 vs. B4, TBD
A2 vs. B3, TBD
B1 vs. A4, TBD
B2 vs. A3, TBD
Friday, August 19
Winner A1 – B4 vs. Winner A3 – B2, TBD
Winner B1 – A4 vs. Winner A2 – B3, TBD
Sunday August 21
Bronze medal game
Semifinal loser 1 vs. Semifinal loser 2, 10:30 a.m.
Gold medal game
Semifinal winner 1 vs. Semifinal winner 2, 2:45 p.m.