Despite Early Uncertainty, Team USA Still Favorite for Gold


There were lots of questions and some backlash when the USA women’s basketball national team was announced. Many people felt there were snubs, or some players shouldn’t have made the team. While that may be true, this is the team we have, and they’re full of talent. It is most certainly still the team to beat as the gold medal favorites.

A New-Look Squad

The first three games of pool play had their share of ups and downs, as was expected. Getting used to playing with new teammates and a different style of play takes time, especially with six first-time Olympians and a new head coach. It isn’t as easy as just throwing the ball in the air and saying “go win” like with past teams.

Those past squads had hall of famers and much more experience, but at some point you do have to get younger-  Team USA has done that to an extent. A’ja Wilson, reigning WNBA MVP and first time Olympian, has been the best player through the first three games. Breanna Stewart, reigning Finals MVP, is competing in her second Olympics at age 26. They will without a doubt be the face of Team USA over the next two Olympic Games.

The team includes young stars, but also experienced vets like Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi who are looking to make history by winning their fifth gold medals, plus Sylvia Fowles, Tina Charles and Britney Griner too. Other first time Olympians like Ariel Atkins and Napheesa Collier have not played very many minutes, but they could still make an impact in a knockout round game. Skylar Diggins-Smith, Chelsea Gray and Jewell Loyd are other first-time Olympians contributing well in their minutes off the bench.

Competition in Tokyo

Team USA’s first game against Nigeria didn’t start great, but they turned it around with their defense and transition play. A’ja Wilson was the key in the second quarter. Her energy impacted the entire team and they turned the game around, going on a 23-0 run. Team USA was able to hold onto a lead the rest of the way and won 81-72, thanks to Wilson’s 19 points and 13 rebounds and Griner’s help with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Bird didn’t shoot the ball well but dished out 13 assists.

The second game against Japan was a difficult one defensively. The USA starting lineup is much bigger with Stewart, Wilson and Griner in the frontcourt. The speed and shooting from Japan was a problem in the first quarter, but the US communicated better, were more disciplined and clamped down after. Japan only scored 39 points through the second and fourth quarters and the US went on to win 86-69. Wilson led the way again with 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Stewart contributed 15 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. Griner and Loyd also dropped 15 and 12 points respectively.

The third game against France, the fourth-ranked team in the world, was circled by many when the schedule came out. The game was close throughout and France actually led the US with nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter. France got a near steal and could’ve gone up three, but instead the ball ended up back in Team USA possession, which subsequently hit a three to take the lead back. That started a 22-10 run to close out the game. Wilson again led the team with 22 points and 7 rebounds, and Stewart helped out with 17 points (14 in the second quarter), 7 rebounds and 7 assists. Tina Charles was another key player in the game, scoring 15 points (8 in the fourth), 5 assists and going 3-3 from the three-point line. Also, Loyd had 8 assists while Griner added 11 points.

Searching for Gold

The USA women haven’t played a complete game, or played up to our past teams’ standards yet. With that being said, they are still 3-0 and considered the favorite to win the gold medal. While they are likely the best team left, they will still need to play their best basketball in the knockout rounds as they face off against Australia first.

The chemistry gets better every day, the defense gets better throughout the game, and their offense is always consistent. The US hasn’t caught fire from three, but they have enough shooters to be optimistic that shooting will come along. The road to gold starts Wednesday at 12:40 AM ET.

About Tariq McDowell

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