When it comes to international basketball, the stakes are always high and the talent is spread pretty evenly across the top ten teams in the world. The key to success in these tournaments is to peak at the right time. And for the Boomers, they will need to peak immediately at the Rio Olympics if they are to turn their gold medal dreams into a reality.
Australia has traditionally been a ‘slow starter’ at the Olympics. In Sydney, one of Australia’s greatest ever teams lost their first game in an upset to Canada. Luckily for the Boomers, they were able to steady the ship and make the medal rounds, but not lucky enough to medal, losing to Lithuania in the bronze medal match.
The trend has been similar over the following three Olympics, where the Boomers have been unable to overcome slow starts, each time their dreams ending at the hands of the wrecking ball that is Team USA in the do-or-die quarterfinals.
But this time, we have a chance to make things right.
With Team USA in our group, the Boomers will avoid succumbing to the same fate as they have time and time again. However they could just as easily be usurped by world number 2 Spain in a cross-over.To sidestep Spain it is imperative that the Boomers avoid finishing fourth position in their pool. For Australia to have a legitimate hope of medalling, they must finish no lower than third in their pool – a pool that contains USA, Serbia, France, China and Venezuela.
A third place finish would mean finishing above at least one of Serbia, France and the USA.
As fate would have it, Australia will not be led down the easy road to accomplish this. It will be a baptism by fire as they face the Tony Parker-led French on the 6th of August, followed by 2014 World Cup silver medalist Serbia on the 8th.
The Boomers will have no time to warm into the tournament. Australia’s medal hopes could be dashed after only their second pool game.
If Australia is unable to win at least one of their first two games, they will have to perform a miracle against Team USA on the 10th of August to avoid a likely match with Spain in the crossovers. After the USA’s 49 point humiliation of China on Monday, the Boomers might have to cash in a lifetime’s worth of Christmas miracles to bring a win against the awe-inspiring Yanks.
The Americans also have the upside of completing exhibition games against quality opposition. Australia, after beating the PAC 12 All Stars earlier this month, is still waiting to play its first warm up games against Olympic competition, after a game against Lithuania was cancelled due to a leaking roof.
Whilst Australia are favorites to win their last two pool matches against Venezuela and China, a booby prize in Spain awaits for them unless they can be in winning form from the very beginning against the NBA-laden France or the battle-hardened Serbians.
Australia has three warm up games to find their rhythm before fighting the French, against Argentina, Brazil and Lithuania on the 27th, 29th and 31st of July, plus the possibility of suiting up against Spain when they arrive in Rio.