As the reigning world champion, the Team USA men's basketball squad was an automatic qualifier for the 2012 Summer Olympics. With 12 nations divided into two groups, the United States will face tough tests in Group A and later in Group B if they want to repeat as gold medalists. Here's a look at the three biggest challengers to the U.S. men's national team at the 2012 Summer Olympics
With a great mix of players currently showcasing their skills in the NBA to solid reserves playing for clubs in France and Spain, the French Olympic squad could provide plenty of trouble for Team USA. Currently lead by Vincent Collet, coach of ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne, this deep roster will contend for its first Olympic medal since earning Silver at Sydney, Australia in 2000 and its first ever gold medal at the Olympics. With Tony Parker manning the point and solid big men like Joakim Noah, Kevin Seraphin, and Boris Diaw, Team France won a silver medal at FIBA EuroBasket 2011 and is a relatively young team that is on the rise and currently holds a No. 12 FIBA World Ranking.
Ranked No. 3 in the FIBA World Rankings, Argentina has always been a thorn in the side of Team USA. The first team to defeat a United States roster comprised solely of NBA players at the 2002 FIBA World Championship in Indianapolis, Indiana, Argentina was last holding the first position in the FIBA Men's Ranking after the 2008 Olympic Games. An elite basketball team featuring talents such as Luis Scola, Manu Ginobili, Carlos Delfino, and Pablo Prigioni, Argentina could also give the U.S. some trouble in Group A play.
Ranked right behind the United States as second in the FIBA World Rankings, Spain faced the United States in the final at the 2008 Olympics. Also the most recent European champions at EuroBasket 2011, Spain has an excellent Olympic roster featuring Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Jose Calderon, Ricky Rubio, Serge Ibaka, Rudy Fernandez, and Juan Carlos Navarro. Aside from the versatile big men inside and several great passing playmakers at point guard, Spain's definitely a contender for the gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
NBA players lose first international game, CNNSI.com
FIBA Ranking for Men, FIBA.com
Austin is a lifelong basketball enthusiast and Featured Contributor for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. Follow this contributor on Twitter @_austinchang.