Monday 21 August 2017 / 06:58 AM

USA v AUSTRALIA PREVIEW

Just as expected in Rio, the United States men’s basketball team has been on a mission. And, as expected, that mission has involved destroying other countries en route to an undefeated gold medal victory.

USA, led by veteran Carmelo Anthony, handled China in their first game by almost doubling up the score. And in their second outing, the ‘Dream Team’ showed some weakness by trailing early and being tied after one quarter, but ultimately obliterated Venezuela.

The United States look every bit as good as advertised, and is the sure favorite to take home the gold in Rio. The conversation has instead changed from, “Can the US do it?” to, “Who has the best chance to pull the upset?”

The Americans’ domination was anticipated. But the performance of the Australian team was not. The Boomers showed a lot of promise in the interleague games before Rio, as the Australians featured an extremely young and talented core.

But just before Rio, two of their projected starters in Dante Exum of the Utah Jazz, and the NBA’s number one pick in the 2016 NBA Draft Ben Simmons declined to turn out for their country, and the buzz surrounding the team faded.

In Rio, however, the Boomers have performed far better than the pundits predicted. Spain was widely considered the team to challenge USA hardest for the gold medal, as the Spaniards have given the US fits in international play in recent years. But the core looks old now, and without Marc Gasol, looks to have missed a step that was present in years past. Spain has already lost a game in Rio, a stunning upset from the Dario Saric-led Croatian team.

And that just leaves Australia, who has looked impressive in their two games in Rio. In the Olympic opener the Boomers demolished a France line-up that featured a plethora of NBA talent. Nic Batum, Tony Parker and Boris Diaw headlined a team that was thought to be a favorite to medal, along with Spain and the United States. But Australia jumped on them early, leading by a wide margin by intermission and putting it away in the second half, winning by 20.

And in game two against Serbia, the Boomers looked strong again, carried by their guards to a double-digit win. The start is incredibly uplifting for a squad missing their two most promising young talents. And now, according to Team USA’s official website and most pundits across the basketball world, the team looks like the best-equipped to provide the star-laden USA with their largest scare when they meet on Wednesday.

The Aussies are certainly going to be flung into the fire early, as the guard-dominant team led by Matthew Dellavedova and Patty Mills looks to provide some kind of adequate answer to the uber-talented Team USA. But this outfit is more than likely the best-suited to play the Americans at an NBA-level defense.

The big-man core of Andrew Bogut and Aron Baynes is punishing, as both are more than able to give quality minutes defending the best low-post scorers. Cameron Bairstow will be called on to play long stretches guarding the best three that the US pushes out, but this team is way more comfortable playing small.

The guard situation for the Boomers is incredibly deep, with Patty Mills and Delly picking up a large portion of the scoring. Joe Ingles plays the three in the small-dominant Aussie line-up.

Sure, the Australia team probably isn’t going to knock off the United States. But the hope for the future is bright with a team that is already the team making the most noise outside of the Yankees, while missing their two most promising featured players. This team is building a force that could end up being the new Spain – and potential silver medallists in Brazil.

But we’ll find out more on Thursday morning (AEST).

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About the author

Austin Albertson

Austin is CBS' senior NFL and NBA analyst, bringing you commentary on everything between the lines and inside the hashes, from the film room to the scoreboard.

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