Olympic Games: Group B preview

Orazio Cauchi
Staff Writer
2021-07-22 09:35
Credit: BNS, FIBA, Reuters - Scanpix | BasketNews illustration/A.Zaikauskas
Credit BNS, FIBA, Reuters - Scanpix | BasketNews illustration/A.Zaikauskas

The Group B of the Olympic Basketball Tournament is expected to be one of the most interesting and well-balanced in the entire tournament. With Australia, Italy, Nigeria and Germany set to start in the group and with only two teams directly advancing to the next round, it's gonna be an interesting battle.

Australia is probably the strongest team and the most likely candidate to finish first. Italy is coming from an outstanding performance at the Olimpic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade, Serbia. The last time they participated in the Olympic Games, they ended up getting a silver medal. Nigeria has impressed during the last few weeks, their roster is full of NBA players, and their social media guys are riding a huge wave of success. Germany, just like Italy, arrived after the victory in one of the Olympic Qualifying Tourna. Despite the absence of a real star, they beat Russia, Croatia, and Brasil to get the ticket to Tokyo. 

AUSTRALIA

The Boomers have recently shown the great form, winning all their exhibition games against the USA, Argentina, and Nigeria. Patty Mills (22 points), the leader of this team and the flag bearer of the Australian delegation in Tokyo, made it abundantly clear during the game against the USA: Australia will be a very tough team to beat.

It looks like the entire group immediately created great chemistry after the arrival of new coach Brian Goorjian, who replaced Brett Brown. Yeah, Ben Simmons will not be in Tokyo. Still, considering that the Sixers' star hasn't really been a part of the group over the past few years, and he's coming from a very difficult postseason, his absence isn't really something that should bother the Boomers.

The addition of another Sixers player, Matisse Thybulle, has brought even more energy and defensive stability to the team. Thybulle, in fact, is providing a superb presence on the perimeter defensively. With his long arms and destructive attitude, he's a constant threat to opponents. Offensively he's making his shots from a distance, and he's a smart cutter.

Australia, so far, has only allowed 78.6 points per game while scoring 95.3 points per game. The roster is well-balanced. They have several veterans like Mills, Baynes, Ingles, Dellavedova, Chris Goulding, and a few younger guys who can provide energy and scoring (Thybulle, Landale, Green, and Reath). Australia has been on the rise for several years now, reaching the semi-finals at both the 2016 Olympics and the 2019 World Cup, but now they look even hungrier for a medal. 

4 Chris Goulding SG 192 cm 92 kg 32 yr.
5 Patrick Mills PG 183 cm 84 kg 32 yr.
7 Joe Ingles SG, SF 203 cm 98 kg 33 yr.
8 Matthew Dellavedova SG 191 cm 89 kg 30 yr.
9 Nathan Sobey PG, SG 188 cm 86 kg 31 yr.
10 Matisse Thybulle SF 196 cm 91 kg 24 yr.
11 Dante Exum PG 198 cm 86 kg 26 yr.
12 Aron Baynes C 208 cm 123 kg 34 yr.
13 Jock Landale C, PF 211 cm 116 kg 25 yr.
14 Duop Reath C 211 cm 111 kg 25 yr.
15 Nick Kay PF, C 206 cm 104 kg 28 yr.

ITALY

After winning the Qualifying Tournament, Italy is ready to play again in the Olympic competition for the first time since 2004. This was an unexpected achievement for Italy, but now that reality has sunk in, it's time to make some more magic. The roster will remain basically the same except for one major addition: Danilo Gallinari. The Atlanta Hawks forward will join the national team after the Hawks' playoffs run ended in the Eastern Conference finals against the Milwaukee Bucks. Gallinari will give Italy what they didn't have during the tournament in Belgrade: a closer, someone who's going to have a ball in his hands in difficult situations.

Nico Mannion, Achille Polonara, and Simone Fontecchio shared most of the scoring responsibilities in Belgrade, doing a fantastic job. Nicolo Melli, who just signed a multi-year deal with AX Armani Exchange Milan, didn't do much offensively but has provided great defense and veteran presence. Coach Meo Sacchetti has created a well-balanced offense and a defensive system in which every single player was ready to switch to maintain constant pressure on the opponents. 2021 has been very good for the Italians so far, and maybe there's still some room for additional celebrations. 

0 Marco Spissu PG 184 cm 71 kg 26 yr.
1 Nico Mannion SG 188 cm 86 kg 20 yr.
7 Stefano Tonut SG 194 cm 90 kg 27 yr.
8 Danilo Gallinari PF, SF 208 cm 102 kg 32 yr.
9 Nicolo Melli PF 205 cm 100 kg 30 yr.
13 Simone Fontecchio SF, SG 203 cm 91 kg 25 yr.
16 Amedeo Tessitori SF, PF 208 cm 97 kg 26 yr.
17 Giampaolo Ricci PF 201 cm 102 kg 29 yr.
24 Riccardo Moraschini SG 194 cm 99 kg 30 yr.
31 Michele Vitali SG 196 cm 89 kg 29 yr.
33 Achille Polonara PF, SF 203 cm 93 kg 29 yr.
54 Alessandro Pajola PG 193 cm 86 kg 21 yr.

NIGERIA

The Nigerian NT is having great momentum. They beat Team USA in an exhibition game. Their social media accounts exploding the internet. They are led by an NBA coach Mike Brown and have eight NBA players on their roster (the most by any team aside from the USA). They're the youngest team in the tournament, with most of the players under 25 years old, and the only two real veterans being Ekpe Udoh and Stan Okoye. Nigeria's length and depth, especially on the wings and in the frontcourt, are impressive. Precious Achiuwa of the Miami Heat and Josh Okogie of the Minnesota Timberwolves are two potential key contributors for this team. Achiuwa is a great rim protector and runs the floor really well for a big man, while Okogie is a swingman with great perimeter defense abilities and the potential to heat up as a scorer too.

Coach Mike Brown, so far, has done a very good job in trying to create a system that fits the roster characteristics. Caleb Agada and Gabe Vincent will have to share the playmaking responsibilities, which could probably be the thing that this team is still lacking. In the exhibition games played in Las Vegas, Nigeria won against the USA and Argentina, then they lost badly to Australia. The team will arrive in Tokyo with a huge hype train following them, no matter what happens, Nigeria will be one of the teams to watch during these Olympics.

  Nnamdi Vincent PG 191 cm 91 kg 25 yr.
  Obi Emegano SG 190 cm 98 kg 28 yr.
  Josh Okogie SG 193 cm 96 kg 22 yr.
  Caleb Agada SG 193 cm 95 kg 27 yr.
  Miye Oni SG 198 cm 94 kg 23 yr.
  Ike Nwamu SG, PG 196 cm 96 kg 28 yr.
  Jordan Nwora SF 203 cm 102 kg 22 yr.
  Precious Achiuwa SF 203 cm 102 kg 21 yr.
  Ekpe Udoh PF 208 cm 111 kg 34 yr.
  Chimezie Metu PF 208 cm 102 kg 24 yr.
  KZ Okpala PF, SF 203 cm 97 kg 22 yr.
  Jahlil Okafor C 211 cm 125 kg 25 yr.
 

GERMANY

One of the main stories for Germany was their superstar point guard's Dennis Schroder absence from the Tokyo Olympics. The cost of his insurance was way too high and, with the player hitting the NBA free agency, it was clear that his presence was unlikely. But even without Schroder, Germany were able to secure a ticket to the Olympics by beating Croatia and Brazil. Henrik Rodl's team was lead by Maodo Lo and Moritz Wagner, whom both had superb performances. In this Group B, Germany figure to be a kind of an underdog, but that's something coach Rodl appreciates.

With Australia and Nigeria drawing most of the media hype on themselves, Germany will have a must-win game in their opener against Italy on Sunday morning. It's a classic game between the European teams, and it should produce a nice show for the fans (remember the one at EuroBasket 2015 when Italy won at the overtime?). Even without Schroder, this team remains dangerous. Maybe their backcourt is not super talented, but Maodo Lo has already proved that he can step up as a scorer, and Bonga is a significant presence defensively. The frontcourt has a very nice set of options with Wagner, Voigtmann, Barthel, and Thiemann. Germany looks comfortable in the underdog's role. Remaining a little bit in the shadows might actually help them in the end.

0 Isaac Bonga SF, SG 203 cm 82 kg 21 yr.
1 Joshiko Saibou PG 188 cm 80 kg 31 yr.
4 Maodo Lo PG 192 cm 86 kg 28 yr.
5 Niels Giffey SF 201 cm 93 kg 30 yr.
6 Jan Niklas Wimberg PF 206 cm 91 kg 25 yr.
7 Johannes Voigtmann C 211 cm 114 kg 28 yr.
12 Robin Benzing PF, C 209 cm 95 kg 32 yr.
13 Moritz Wagner PF, C 211 cm 111 kg 24 yr.
19 Lukas Wank SF 199 cm 87 kg 24 yr.
22 Danilo Barthel PF 207 cm 100 kg 29 yr.
32 Johannes Thiemann PF, C 205 cm 110 kg 27 yr.
42 Andreas Obst SG 191 cm 91 kg 25 yr.

 


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