- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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Updating ESPN's Olympic Power Rankings as the tournament moves into the knockout stage:
1. UNITED STATES
Even with all the injuries, even amid the spells of vulnerability, you'll note that only one team in the tournament got through group play unbeaten. Oh, yeah: Team USA is shooting 54 percent from the floor as a team, 46 percent on 3-pointers and averaging 117.8 points.
The only game the Russians lost, on a buzzer-beating 3 by Australia's Patty Mills, came after they had already wrapped up Group B with wins over Brazil and Spain. "What we've done these last seven years," coach David Blatt says, "is create the identity for Russian basketball."
Up here on reputation? Fair comment. Spain hasn't looked like Spain yet, even in its three wins. Europe's reigning champs, though, realistically still rank as the biggest threat to Team USA. And they should get another shot at Russia in the semis to avenge their pool-play defeat.
Shouldn't Brazil be higher than Spain after beating Spain, not to mention that it placed No. 3 in the pre-tournament rankings? Fair points. Yet I can't shake the suspicion that this emotional quarterfinal against Argentina is going to be harder than it should be when you look at the rosters.
Opening up against Team USA, when Tony Parker clearly wasn't back to being Tony Parker yet, couldn't have worked out better. Everything else, including the critical win over Argentina to snag the No. 2 spot in Group A despite a negative point differential, was easier by comparison.
It's an undeniable shock to the system to see Argentina this low. But there's nowhere else to put then after two losses in pool play. Trust me: It's been no treat for the committee (of one) to hear the told-you-so cackling from one of our trusted European consultants who urged us to put Russia higher from the start.
Wanted to put the Lithuanians higher after the way they thoroughly discombobulated the tournament's overwhelming favorites. The problem? Can't overlook the fact that Kleiza, Jasikevicius, Songaila & Co. didn't look nearly that dangerous in any of the other four games they played.
The Aussies reeled off wins over China, Great Britain and Russia in their final three group games to post a pretty strong record (3-2) for a fourth-place team. Which wouldn't have surprised you if you saw how pesky they looked in the games they lost to Brazil and Spain to open the tournament.
9. GREAT BRITAIN
Still can't explain Team GB's almighty second-half collapse against Australia that ruled out any hope of setting up a dream quarterfinal against Team USA for the swarmed-at-all-times Luol Deng. Yet we won't soon forget all the problems that the hosts gave Brazil and especially Spain.
Everyone's favorite no-hopers. They didn't have the depth to play a four-quarter game, but the Tunisians -- especially when plucky guard Marouan Kechrid was healthy -- were competitive (and entertaining) for a half no matter which opponent they faced. As some humbled Yanks could tell you.
I know, I know: Nigeria edged Tunisia in the Group A opener for both teams, so Ike Diogu & Co. have a case for the No. 10 slot. But Tunisia, for me, played the consistently better ball after its dreadful first half in that first game. An 83-point loss is tough for the committee to overlook, too.
Remember when we said that just getting to the Olympics was the medal for China? Turns out American coach Bob Donewald had even less to work with, post-Yao Ming, than we expected. Especially when Yi Jianlian and Wang Zhi-Zhi started picking up injuries along the way.