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Olympics: Group B Preview

Here is a look at the other six teams, including Great Britain, who will compete in Group B

Here is a look at the other six teams, including Great Britain, who will compete in Group B:

Australia: World Ranking- 9th; 13h Olympic Appearance

Squad: Peter Crawford, Patrick Mills, Adam Gibson, Joe Ingles, Brad Newley, Matthew Dellavedova, David Barlow, Mark Worthington, Aron Baynes, David Andersen, Matthew Nielsen, Aleks Maric

Australia qualified for their 13th Olympics with a comfortable 3-0 sweep over New Zealand to win the 2011 FIBA Oceania Championships. The Boomers have finished fourth on three occasions and will be led by Matthew Nielsen in London, with the 34 year-old competing in his third Olympic games. Aleks Maric averaged 15.7 ppg in the series against New Zealand with a 27 point haul coming in game three. Patrick Mills, plies his trade in the NBA with San Antonio and is a key scorer; contributing 13.8 ppg in 2010 when the Australians reached the last eight at the World Championships. Behind Spain as the second seeds in a tough group.

Prediction: Quarter-Finals

Brazil: World Ranking- 13th; 14th Olympic Appearance

Squad: Marcelo Machado, Raul Togni Neto, Caio Torres, Larry Taylor, Alex Garcia, Marcelinho Huertas, Leandro Barbosa, Anderson Varejao, Guilherme Giovannoni, Nene Hilario, Marcus Vinicius, Tiago Splitter

Brazil will compete in their 14th Olympic basketball tournament, a record second only to the United States. Despite this fact, Brazil have not participated in the Olympics since 1996. A defeat to Argentina in the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship was enough to secure their qualification. Brazil had beaten Argentina earlier in the tournament but fell short in the final; losing 80-75. Tiago Splitter, of the San Antonio Spurs, is a key member of the roster and has previously helped Brazil to two gold medals at the American Championships in 2005 and 2009. Brazil’s average age of their roster is the second highest of the 12 teams at 29.

Prediction: Group Stage

China: World Ranking- 10th; 8th Olympic Appearance

Squad: Ding Jinhui, Liu Wei, Yi Li, Wang Shipeng, Zhu Fangyu, Sun Yue, Zhang Zhaoxu, Yi Jianlian, Guo Ailun, Chen Jianghua, Wang Zhizhi, Zhou Peng

China currently complete the world’s top ten teams, of which only six compete in London, and they secured their place with gold at the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship. China were unbeaten throughout the event winning all nine matches, incluidng a slender final victory over Jordan by one point. As hosts, China won the title for the 15th time with Yi Jianlian named as MVP. The 24 year-old is the only member of the team who plays outside of China, currently playing for the Dallas Mavericks. American coach, Bob Donewald Jr. is in charge of the national team and will hope to improve on China’s poor Olympic record with a previous best of 8th place on three occasions.

Prediction: Group Stage

Great Britain: World Ranking- 43rd; 1st Olympic Appearance

Squad: Keiron Achara, Andrew Lawrence, Mike Lenzly, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Drew Sullivan, Luol Deng, Robert Archibald, Joel Freeland, Nate Reinking, Dan Clark, Kyle Johnson, Eric Boateng

Great Britain were given the green light to compete in the Olympics as hosts after doubts were raised over their future ambitions. Chris Finch’s men are the heavy outsiders for the event in terms of world rankings but have been steadily improving in the past few years. The squad is led by their only NBA player, Luol Deng although Joel Freeland has recently agreed a deal to return to the Portland Trail Blazers. Deng had the best points per game average at the 2011 EuroBasket, helping GB record two victories in the group stage. Nate Reinking will be the tournament’s oldest player at 38 while Pops Mensah-Bonsu is another key member of the squad, having recently won the treble with Turkish side, Besitkas. Progression out of the group is possible for GB but they have to start turning valiant performances into victories in order to make an impact on home soil.

Prediction: Quarter-Finals

Russia: World Ranking- 11th; 3rd Olympic Appearance

Squad: Alexey Shved, Timofey Mozgov, Sergey Karasev, Vitaly Fridzon, Alexander Kaun, Evgeny Voronov, Viktor Khryapa, Semyon Antonov, Sergey Monya, Dmitri Khostov, Anton Ponkrashov, Andrei Kirilenko

Russia went through the qualifying tournament unscathed to book their place at London. This will be Russia’s third Olympic games, having previously competed under the Soviet Union, who claimed gold on two occasions. Andrei Kirilenko is the most experienced member of the squad, having played in the NBA. However, it was current NBA player, Alexey Shved who top scored in his side’s all important vicotry over Nigeria to secure their qualification. Russia narrowly missed out on automatic qualification last year when they lost to France in the semi-finals of the EuroBasket, an event which they claimed gold in back in 2007. In previous Olympics under Russia, they have finished 8th and 9th and will look to improve on that record in London.

Prediction: Semi-Finals

Spain: World Ranking- 2nd; 11th Olympic Appearance

Squad: Pau Gasol, Rudy Fernandez, Sergio Rodriguez, Juan Carlos Navarro, Jose Calderon, Felipe Reyes, Victor Claver, Fernando San Emeterio, Sergio Llull, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Victor Sada

Spain are predicted to be the closest challengers to USA at the Olympics. The world number two ranked side missed out on gold in Beijing but have a squad full of experience with seven players in the 2008 roster. Since then, the Spanish side have recorded back-to-back gold medals at the EuroBasket with LA Laker, Pau Gasol leading the way with an average of 20.1 ppg and 8.1 rpg. The squad’s captain, Juan Carlos Navarro is set to compete in a fourth Olympic games while exciting 23 year-old, Serge Ibaka competes in his first. Spain will be favourites to top this group as they go about gaining revenge on the US in what would be a dream final, from a neutral’s perspective should Great Britain not make it that far.

Prediction: Silver

Day 1 Schedule (29th July)- Brazil v Australia (11:15), Spain v China (16:45), Russia v GB (20:00)

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