I'll be in Tahoe with the family until Tuesday afternoon for Labor Day weekend. I'm actually going to miss the USA-Angola game, but I'll have it on the DVR when I get back. Hard to imagine, but my in-law's cabin doesn't have cable and doesn't have internet access. So unless I drive out to the Starbucks or some such nonsense, I won't be watching any basketball or doing any blogging for the weekend. I've also got the DVR set to record Greece-Spain and Argentina-Brazil. Those are must watch games for sure.
It works out pretty well, as I'll only be missing the Angola game live, and that one should be a walkover. The next one, Thursday morning in the quarterfinals, is where it gets interesting. The opponent will be either Russia or Australia, and with all due respect to the Boomers, I'm betting on the Russkies.
The Russian team may not have Andrei Kirilenko (or even Yaroslav Korolev for that matter), but they've got talent. And they've got solid post play, which could present a problem for Team USA. In Group play their centers, former Kansas Jayhawk Sasha Kaun and future New York Knick Timofey Mosgov, were their two leading scorers, combining to average over 24 points per game while each shooting over 60%. Third leading scorer, former NBA player Sergey Monya, is 6'9", so this team may have the talent and size to punish the smaller Americans. It's also worth noting that Russia went 4-1 in their group, losing only to host Turkey, while playing without their only other player with NBA experience, Viktor Khryapa. Khyrapa was hurt before the tournament started, and it goes without saying that Coach David Blatt would not have kept him around if he didn't expect him to play at some point. My guess is that point is now. Khryapa is a major star in Europe, and is considered one of the best defenders in the EuroLeague. Speaking of David Blatt, the American coach has proven over the years that he's one of the best basketball minds in the EuroLeague, and I'm surprised that he hasn't gotten more interest from NBA teams. The Russians will play disciplined basketball and will execute their motion offense beautifully (in stark contrast to the iso-heavy US team). Also, I don't usually put a lot of stock in the "they have so much experience playing together" thing, but in the top heavy Russian league, most of their roster plays for or has played for one of three teams - CSKA, Dynamo or Khimki - so yeah, these guys have experience playing together.
It's certainly not out of the realm of possibility that Australia could beat Russia. They have one of the most dynamic guards in the tournament in Patty Mills of the Blazers, not to mention Rocket center and EuroLeague veteran David Andersen.
Talk amongst yourselves. I'll talk to you Tuesday.