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USA Basketball: Women Are Rolling and the Men Are Surviving

USA Basketball rolling

Both US basketball teams wrapped up pool play on Sunday on their quests to bring home the gold. Neither team dropped a game and both teams are still the favorite to win, but they appear to be headed in opposite directions.

The US Women’s team has been rolling since their opening game winning by an average of 40 points. They have set records for margin of victory, most points scored in a game, assists (twice) and number of threes in a game. The Women’s team are playing the ideal of what “team ball” is with no one averaging more than 24 minutes per contest and a different leading scorer almost every game. They seem to only be getting better with every game and gold is almost inevitable at this point. They continue into single elimination Tuesday against Japan.

The US Men’s team however needs to find a new game plan and quickly. They have not dropped a game in pool play starting out strong downing China and Venezuela by over 45 points. Things took a turn when they started facing better competition and teams with other NBA players. The first test was against Australia where they were pushed until late in the fourth quarter before ultimately winning by 10. The real scare came versus Serbia only winning by 3 and not scoring for the last 2:12 of the game. They also had a 3-point win against France by there was no real opportunity for their opponents to take a late lead.

Maybe the biggest cause for concern is the fact that just two years ago on a team without Carmelo, Durant and George, Team USA breezed through the FIBA World Championships beating Serbia by 37 points and having a margin of victory of 33 points. So what is going on now that’s causing a better team to have inconsistent results?

The problem with throwing together 12 top players from the US is very similar to the problem the Mimi Heat had when James, Wade and Bosh first formed; they are trying to figure out how to play together and build trust. They are playing like a team of alpha males each believing they can break down their opponent one on one instead of finding their game within the team concept. Team USA doesn’t have the best players from the NBA on their roster as age, a long NBA season and injuries have kept some top players home. They simple cannot say I am better than you. George said to Sam Amick of USA Today:

“As good as we are, we can’t continue to keep playing like this. We’re still scoring 100 points taking one-on-five shots, but we’re too good for that. The toughest part is that each and every one of us is confident with the ball in our hands that we can make those shots. It just comes down to a trust factor, not letting one guy have that feeling that he has to do it alone.”

Another issue they must address is their lack of focus late in games. Often time the USA jumps out to a significant lead only to see it dwindle in the second half. In each other the last three games Australia, Serbia and France went on late runs in the second half to make it a game. Not taking away credit for their opponents, but the defensive effort all but disappeared for stretches at a time. The USA needs to realize they are the favorites and are going to get each team’s best effort for 40 minutes. They cannot lose focus for extended period, especially as the competition gets better.

There is no need to panic nor is there anything to indicate the men will walk away with anything but gold around their necks. Pool play might have been just what Team USA needed to realize even though they are good no one is going to hand them the gold. They simply need to remember to make the extra pass and understand their teammate is just as capable of making the shot. Position for position the US is superior then anyone they will play. The said, they must play as a team and compete for the full 40.

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