Men’s basketball preview: USA vs. Australia

Time: 6:00 pm EDT
TV: NBCSN
Live stream

In this battle of top teams in the men’s basketball tournament at the Rio Olympics, Australia looks to prove they are indeed medal contenders in this matchup with the United States. The Aussies entered the tournament as a team that should be taken seriously, but few saw them as a legitimate medal contender.

In their first game, Australia knocked off a French team that was widely considered among the top three or four teams in Rio. Not only did they beat France, they mopped the floor with them and immediately jumped into the medal conversation. Then, against an upstart Serbian team, Australia used a late run to pull away and move to 2-0.

The Americans have been dominant in both of their victories. They survived a bit of a scare – at least as far as scares go for U.S. basketball – when they struggled to pull away from Venezuela and were tied at the end of one quarter. Those nerves quickly dissipated as the U.S. used a 30-8 second quarter to put the Venezuelans away for good.

The Venezuelans demonstrated a bit of a blueprint for how to battle with this U.S. team though; one that lends itself to the Australian strengths. Venezuela slowed the pace down and forced the United States to operate in the halfcourt. A big part of the U.S. advantage over the rest of the field lies in their supreme athleticism and how it translates into a high-powered transition offense. Taking the air out of the ball and slowing the pace forces the United States to run a set offense with a group of players who came together less than a month ago.

With a formidable frontline anchored by Andrew Bogut and Aron Baynes, the Australians should be able to run a measured offense by to getting the ball into the post. The biggest reason for Venezuela failed to stay with the United States after the first quarter was a lack of shooting, but that shouldn’t plague the Boomer. Matthew Dellavedova, Patty Mills and Joe Ingles all pose a threat from the outside and will keep the United States honest.

The U.S. still holds a big advantage in depth, and skill, but the game will be a big in test for their gold medal hopes and should provide the Australians with a realistic gauge for they should fare going forward in the tournament.