#Rio2016: Imagination can run wild after draw for Olympic men's tournament - Part 2

(All images are from FIBA)

This first appeared on FIBA.com.

The clock is ticking. The men's basketball tournament at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games tips off on 6 August.  The nine coaches of teams already in the Olympic field have been able to analyze their group opponents since Friday, when the draw for the event was held at the House of Basketball (FIBA's headquarters) in Mies, Switzerland.

For the fans, anything is possible. They can start to let their imagination run wild. 

Australia's unease about a possible meeting with Quarter-Final nemesis USA in the first knockout game at a third straight Olympics? Relax. That won't happen.

Both teams are in Group A with China, Venezuela and two of the three FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) winners. Two-time defending champions USA will be prohibitive favorites in their pool and the tournament. But danger always lurks at every turn in international basketball.

In Group B is a tantalizing mix of heavyweights. Argentina, Brazil, Lithuania, Nigeria, Spain and the other OQT winner will trade blows, looking for a top-four finish and if possible a top-three in order to avoid a likely clash with the USA in the first knockout game. The Americans are not certain Group A winners, yet no one will be betting against them.

Every year, the expectation outside Argentina is that the age factor will at last catch up with the national team, yet it never does. Luis Scola, now 35, remains an elite international basketball player. Since helping Argentina reach the Final of the 2002 FIBA Basketball World Cup, Scola has been a warrior. Last year, he led Argentina to a come-from-behind win over hosts Mexico in their FIBA Americas Championship Semi-Final to qualify for the Olympics. Scola was the tournament MVP.

With another veteran, 36-year-old Andres Nocioni, and point guard Facundo Campazzo in the fold, and with an intelligent coach in Sergio Hernandez that has plenty of savvy, El Alma have a great shot of at least reaching the Quarter-Finals.

A hip operation may end up costing Brazil their experienced center Tiago Splitter, but head coach Ruben Magnano can call on many of the players who did so well at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

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Brazil will have two NBA point guards in Raul Neto and Marcelinho Huertas, front court quality with Nene and Anderson Varejao. There will also be the Brazilian Blur, Leandro Barbosa. Mangano led Argentina to Olympic glory in 2004 and will be hopeful of getting the team to the podium in 2016.

There is not a prouder, more combative basketball nation in Europe than Lithuania. Head coach Jonas Kazlauskas will present his players with a game-plan that gives them a chance to win every time they run onto the court. If Mindaugas Kuzminskas continues his rise to stardom, look out! In 2015, Lithuania were terrific.

Lithuania, who will no doubt take plenty of fans to Brazil, will be looking to return to the Olympic podium for the first time since 2000.

The presence of Pau Gasol, Sergio Rodriguez and Sergio Llull will be reassuring for Spain boss Sergio Scariolo. Coming off his finest hour as a coach, when he led Spain to EuroBasket 2015 glory, Scariolo is confident that his team can go up against any opponent and win.

One big question mark is the health of Rudy Fernandez. If he gets back to 100 percent after missing a lot of games this season due to injury, it will be a huge positive. Scariolo is certain to bring back big-name players that missed last summer's triumph but he must not sacrifice the team chemistry that was so good last year. If Marc Gasol recovers from his foot fracture and plays, Spain may represent the biggest threat to USA supremacy.

African teams have struggled to make their mark at the Olympics but Nigeria will be looking to change that when they compete in Brazil. The conclusion to be drawn from their AfroBasket 2015 title-winning campaign is that Nigeria will have a real shot at a top-four finish.

Chamberlain Oguchi will arrive in Rio as one of the top shooters in international basketball. The 2012 Olympian was a combined 11 of 23 from the arc in D'Tigers' two more important games last year, their AfroBasket Semi-Final triumph over Senegal and their Championship game triumph over Angola.




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