Aug 23, 2011, 8:49 AM EDT
From now through the middle of September, the field for next summer’s London Olympics will come into sharp focus. The United States is already in by virtue of winning the World Championships last summer. Great Britain is in because it is there party next July.
The first qualifying tournament on the calendar is FIBA Africa, where they are down to 16 teams in a single-elimination tournament (which starts today). Your four undefeated top seeds from group play being Tunisia, Nigeria, Senegal and Cameroon. The winner of the tournament gets into the 12-team field in the London Olympics. Come in second or third and you can go to the pre-Olympics qualifying tournament early next July (most likely, time and place officially TBD). Nobody is giving any team in this tournament a real shot at medals, but getting the Olympic experience is something.
If you are looking for NBA names playing in this event, we give you Ime Udoka of Nigeria (most recently of the Spurs, but the Lakers, Knicks and Trail Blazers have been stops). And that’s it. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is not playing and Hasheem Thabeet’s (Rockets) native Tunisia did not qualify.
Who do we take to win? Heck if I know. I know Angola has lost just one game in Africa in 10 years, but that was to Senegal just this week. I know Nigeria has Udoka and won each of its three group stage games by 15 points or more, so why not take them? But probably Angola anyway.
The other Olympics qualifying tournaments this summer are EuroBasket, FIBA Americas, FIBA Asia (which just started, Korea is defending champ), and the FIBA Oceania tournament (just pencil in Australia as the winner there).
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