Russia vs. Lithuania
Russia enters as the definitive favorite over a Lithuanian squad that finished fourth in Pool A with a 2-3 record. They didn’t play remarkably well as they merely defeated two lesser teams in Nigeria and Tunisia.
On the other hand, Russia was the surprise of preliminary play following their relatively surprising victories over Spain and Brazil. While they didn’t dominante in either victory, it’s clear that Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved are competent enough to make up for their deficiencies — namely talent level, which will only come in to play as they advance deeper into the knockout round.
For Lithuania, they’re the only country that played well for 40 minutes against the United States but, admittedly, they look a little soft. If Russia can neutralize Lithuania’s frontcourt (Linas Kleiza and Jonas Valanciunas), under the excellent coaching of David Platt, they’ll continue their journey to the semifinals — at the very least.
France vs. Spain
These two teams have produced a slew of excellent NBA players. The key to defeat France will be to wall off the paint, send extra defenders at the pick-and-roll and force France to convert from behind the arc. This strategy, if executed correctly, stands to be highly effective against Les Bleus as they have converted on 28.3% of their 3-point attempts. With Spain’s personnel, I fully expect them to succeed.
Brazil vs. Argentina
While this matchup doesn’t match the grandeur of the typical Brazil-Argentina soccer match, it will likely be highly entertaining.
This match will be especially significant for Argentina as this is essentially their last chance for the core of Carlos Delfino, Manu Ginobili, Andres Nocioni, Pablo Prigioni and Luis Scola to add another medal to their decorated resumes. Argentina hasn’t replenished their team hence their over reliance on Ginobili and Scola, both upwards of 30 years old.
Brazil, for all intents and purposes, looks prime to supersede the Argentinean dynasty. Nene, Anderson Varejao and Tiago Splitter form a legitimate frontcourt and the luxury of having a floor general like Marcelinho Huertas is immense — their offense is impervious to pressure defense and, combined with Splitter, they have an effective crutch on offense, the pick-and-roll.
But I’m a big believer in experience and Manu, and I believe Argentina will stave off their imminent threat to South American supremacy.
United States vs. Australia
USA’s perimeter defense and their array of talented scorers who can score from anywhere on the floor severely outweigh Australia and their top heavy attack of Patty Mills, Joe Ingles and David Andersen. The result should be pretty obvious, right? Barring any unforeseeable upset, the United States will continue to prove to the whole world that they are still the team to beat.