As teams around the world gear up for the 2012 Olympic Basketball Tournament this summer in London, they all share a common goal - to beat Team USA. By now it's no secret that the American team, winners of 13 gold medals including the 2008 Games in Beijing, are heavy favorites to repeat as gold-medalists. With a roster that is stacked with elite players from the NBA, there is indeed a good chance that, come July, the U.S. team will continue their dominance on the international level by winning gold medal number 14.
While there isn't much standing in the way of Team USA and glory, these three teams could potentially give the American men a run for their money:
1. SpainRanked second in the FIBA world rankings behind the United States, Spain is by far the biggest threat to the Americans. Even with the absence of injured NBA guard Ricky Rubio (Minnesota), Spain's roster includes five NBA players: Pau Gasol (L.A. Lakers), Marc Gasol (Memphis), Rudy Fernandez (Denver), Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma City) and Jose Calderon (Toronto). The Gasol brothers will combine with rising star Ibaka to form one of the best front lines in the world. Despite being the runner-ups to the U.S. at the '08 Beijing Olympics, the Spaniards were not satisfied with their performance. This time around, they will look to dethrone the Americans in hopes of winning their first ever Olympic gold medal.
Anchored by NBA stars Manu Ginobili (San Antonio) and Luis Scola (Houston), third-ranked Argentina has an outside chance (if that) at beating Team USA. While Argentina hasn't really gotten any better over the last couple of Olympics, they do possess experienced players (Both Ginobili and Scola were a part of the gold medal-winning Argentina team at the 2004 Games in Athens). At the end of the day, though, the Argentina team just doesn't have enough firepower to give the Americans serious troubles. Although, Ginobili and company have a good shot at making it onto the podium.
Though the French national team is ranked just 12th in the world, they could potentially make a deep run in the 2012 Olympic tournament and possibly challenge Team USA. Of all the non-American teams, France has the most NBA players (8) on its roster. Led by veteran Tony Parker (San Antonio), the French squad includes Nicolas Batum (Portland), Boris Diaw (San Antonio), Ian Manhimi (Dallas), Rodrigue Beaubois (Dallas), Joakim Noah (Chicago), Kevin Seraphin (Washington), and Ronny Turiaf (Miami). The 'Les Bleus' are certainly a team to watch out for this summer.
Gurvinder Singh is a New York City-based freelance sportswriter with west-coast roots. He is a Featured Contributor for the Yahoo! Contributor Network, with a special interest in the NBA and summer Olympics. Follow him on Twitter @SINGHinBROOKLYN.
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