The eight teams that we expected to advance all did as we get ready to start the quarterfinals today in Olympic hoops. Now while all eight expected teams moved on, it’s the seeding is intriguing. Everyone expected Spain vs USA in the gold medal game, well that can only happen in the semifinals now. Meanwhile you get some rivalry games in the quarterfinals in France vs Spain and Serbia vs Croatia.
The US heads into the quarterfinals with the least amount of momentum since 2004. Yes, they did what they were supposed to and went 5-0 in group play, but there have been a lot of questions raised about this team. This was supposed to be a strong defensive team. Where did that go? Coach K is one of the best coaches in the game, yet can’t figure out the correct substitution patterns in games or draw up a play when they need it offensively.
Games get underway early today as they have to get all four in opposed to the three in group play. Get your books early and let me know your plays, thoughts and shoot the general hoops shit on Twitter @barstoolreags
Australia vs Lithuania – 10:00 am
Line: Australia -3.5 (-175), Lithuania +145, 158.5
Preview: Lithuania looked like the class of group B after three games then ran into a pissed off and desperate Spain team. They ended up losing that game by 50 and followed that up with a loss to Croatia with a chance to still win the group. They are clearly sliding while Australia has been able to rest Andrew Bogut and Patty Mills the last two games as they’ve essentially been locked into the No. 2 spot. Australia has impressed me these Olympics by adapting to the style of play of their opponent. They can find the weaknesses and play that style. Against the USA we saw them play physical, against Serbia they picked the pace up and outscored them. They are one of the few teams that throw out a starting lineup comprised of all-NBA players. The key for Australia was getting some rest for Andrew Bogut as he can go up against Jonas Valancuianis while being healthy. Lithuania on the other hand only has a couple of NBA players, but the one thing they do have is depth. They don’t rely on just one player to score like some other teams and they have a handful of guys who can go out and get 20 each game.
Pick: I’m going to take Australia here as the rest will allow them to cover the spread. Lithuania is slipping at the completely wrong time as they head into the knockout stage after back-to-back losses. Lithuania needs strong games from Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Renaldas Seibutis to put pressure on the Australia backcourt. I’m curious to see if Lithuania tries to go big, Australia can match with Bogut and Baynes or go small by playing Joe Ingles at the four spot. Look for Patty Mills to shoot well as Australia runs one of the best offenses in the Olympics. They are extremely good at passing and swinging the ball from side to side, so look for Mills to catch Lithuania out of place.
France vs Spain – 1:30 pm
Line: Spain -3.5 (-165), France +135, 155.5
Preview: Spain ain’t dead no more. After looking like the 2004 US team after the first couple of games, Spain got that 50 point win against Lithuania and then beat Argentina by double digits. This is finally looking like the Spanish team that everyone expected them to be. The biggest reason? The offense is finally staying spaced and Ricky Rubio doesn’t look like a scared JV player anymore. Rubio is attacking the paint and getting everyone involved. Spain’s coaching is finally giving him some freedom to run the offense without getting pulled after one mistake. The other thing Spain is doing is running the offense through Pau Gasol while keeping the floor spread. The first couple of games the ball was going to Nikola Mirotic a little too much, instead of letting Gasol kick it out to him. France pushed the US to a three-point game without Tony Parker and have been running the offense through Boris Diaw. A name to watch for France is Nando De Colo, who has been the most consistent player for France in group play. Spain should try to press and play faster as their bench should have an advantage against France’s bench.
Pick: I’ll ride Spain here as they have finally look the part of the second best team in the competition. If Spain continues to play fast and press defensively, they can tire out the legs of Tony Parker and Boris Diaw, meaning on the offensive side of the ball it’s easier buckets for Spain. Both teams have struggled to play defense consistently in group play, so play the over here as well. If France gets tired early or gets lost defensively, Rudy Fernandez can have another strong game.
USA vs Argentina – 5:45 pm
Line: USA -23.5 (-1000), Argentina +1400, 187.5
Preview: Out of all the teams that qualified, I have to admit this is one of the two teams who I wanted the US to play in the quarterfinals. The first reason is the exhibition game where the US beat Argentina by 30 points, giving them a mental advantage heading into the game. Secondly, the extra days rest for the US against an older Argentina team. The US wrapped up group play on Sunday while Argentina had to play Monday. That’s huge when a team plays numerous guys in their mid-30s like Argentina. Look for K and the USA coaching staff to treat the substitution patterns more serious now instead of like an All-Star game. Personally though I want to see the US run a small-ball lineup against this Argentina team since they run Luis Scola as their center. Tell me a group of Kyrie, Paul George, Durant, Melo and Klay wouldn’t score every possession down the court. Not to mention four of the five guys are over 6’7” and can switch almost any screen and have strong rebounders. The US should get off to a fast start as they’ll be facing a team that struggles defensively – something the USA needs as they can get stagnant on the offensive side of the ball. Argentina will look to take advantage of DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan trying to guard a guy like Scola who can step out and hit threes. The two bigs for USA like to stay in the paint defensively and get screwed in the high pick and rolls, Argentina will absolutely run that offense quite a bit. Could this be the game for Draymond?
Pick: I personally won’t play this game but I’m going to take Argentina to cover the spread here as the USA is still getting a ton of love from the bookies as people will default to bet on the US. Argentina should play this within a 23 point game as Manu and Campazzo can keep them within the total just by themselves. The one thing to watch is Team USA in the first quarter. They’ve gotten out to some quick starts and covered that 1q line.
Serbia vs Croatia – 9:15 pm
Line: Serbia -5.5 (-225), Croatia +180, 154.5
Preview: This is the game that I’m most excited for today. These are two teams I targeted before the Olympics started as two teams that can get into the gold medal game. They both have guys that can fill up the hoop. For Croatia it’s running the offense that we saw against Lithuania and more importantly getting the correct lineup out there. They need to start Ukic, Bogdanovic, Hezojna, Saric and Bilan while bringing Simon off the bench. Hezojna is a great shooter from the corner and extremely athletic, so you can have him defend Bogdanovic for Serbia – yes, I know both teams have a Bogdanovic and it’s confusing as shit. Croatia should also run a lot of two-man game with Bogdanovic and Saric as Saric can step out and shoot the three while also handling the ball. Serbia will look to use Teodosic and Bogdanovic to attack the paint and get their buckets that way.
Pick: I’ve been on both teams from the get go, but Croatia has been my darling as I gave them out to win group B at +1000. The Croats can absolutely score, especially against a Serbian team that doesn’t defend well. Give me Croatia ML for value and the over as these two teams played right before the Olympics in a game that was in the 80s. Serbia won that game, but the way Croatia has played as of late, I like them here. It’s unfortunate these two teams have to play here as we’ll either lose Teodosic or Saric for the rest of the tournament.