Recently a lot of people (including our own Appel) have been comparing the 1992 Dream Team to the current USA team, which is a dream team in itself. This article won’t continue to hammer at that now worn out topic, but rather pose a new question about Olympic basketball. If last year’s University of Kentucky basketball team replaced Team USA, where would they place?
With Olympic basketball shifting toward an era where players might have to be 23 or younger, this scenario is not too far-fetched. Obviously other schools would have a representation on the squad, but if Kentucky keeps having their entire starting five in the lottery, who knows.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand, where would Kentucky place in this year’s Olympics? I think the only team that is a guaranteed loss for Kentucky is Spain, as they have too much experience and enough talent and athleticism to compete with anyone in the world, let alone Kentucky. However, since the teams would be in different pools, Kentucky would not have to deal with Spain until later on if at all. In Pool A, I imagine Kentucky would lose to both Argentina and France, as they would have never played anyone with the skill of Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili, not too mention that both teams are fairly deep with NBA talent. Due to their experience, strength, and depth, Argentina and France should be able to handle UK, but it would not surprise me if there was an upset. Keep in mind that at least four of the starting five from Kentucky last year could easily average at least ten points per game, which is something neither France nor Argentina can claim.
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As for Nigeria, Tunisia, and Lithuania, I think Kentucky would handle them all rather easily. We all saw the thumping that Team USA put on Tunisia, and when Anthony Davis played it was clear that he would have been the best player on their team too. The only NBA players on Nigeria are Al-Farouq Aminu (promising bench warmer for the Hornets) and formerly Ike Diogu. Quite frankly, Kentucky is far too talented for Nigeria to compete with, even though they have somewhat of a talent in Aminu. As for Lithuania, although this team has experience with each other and is familiar with the European game, their only NBA players is Linas Kleiza and soon to be Jonas Valanciunas, which once again means Kentucky has more talent than this team.
So heading into elimination games, I imagine the standing looking something like this: Group A: 1) France 2) Argentina 3) Kentucky 4) Lithuania Group B: 1) Spain 2) Russia 3) Brazil 4) Australia.
This would leave Kentucky in a showdown against Russia, as the three seed from Group A plays the two seed from Group B. At first site, Russia looks like an impossible matchup for Kentucky, but wait just one second. Anthony Davis would still probably be the best player on the floor (you may be thinking AK47, but would he make Team USA? Probably not). Russia’s next best players are Alexey Shved, who was just signed by the Timberwolves and Timofey Mozgov, who is most famous for being dunked on by Blake Griffin. No other player on the team has played in the NBA for more than 5 years. Keep in mind that Kentucky had more size than most teams, with a front line of Anthony Davis, Terrance Jones, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who stand in respectively at 6’10, 6’9, and 6’7. Now in no way is this game a lock, but for fun, I’m saying Kentucky wins this game, putting them in the final four with Spain, Argentina, France, and Spain.
This would set up a matchup between Kentucky and Spain; a game in which Spain would teach the young Wildcats a few lessons about professional basketball. This would set up a rematch with either France or Argentina for the Bronze medal, and due to the implications of the big game, I see the Kentucky falling short, which would place them fourth in the Olympics. Placing as the fourth best team in the world is definitely an impressive mark, especially for a bunch of young college kids. Don’t get me wrong, if my pool play predictions were correct Russia could take down Kentucky, which would place them at 5th/6th, but that is still an impressive mark since everyone valuable on Kentucky is born after 1990.
In case you completely disagree with me keep in mind the following things: 1) Kentucky already has great team chemistry. 2) They have enough size to compete. 3) Fatigue would not be a factor as games are only once every three days, far less consistent than the NCAA Tournament. 3) Anthony Davis would be the best player on the court in all but three games. 4) The “European Game” is suitable to Kentucky, as their bigs are mobile and the three-point line is no further than in college.
Let me know your thoughts, and congrats Kentucky Nation, you almost won a hypothetical medal.