GEELONG, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 27: Patrick Mills of Australia takes the ball up court during the third match between the Australian Boomers and Greece at Geelong Arena on June 27, 2012 in Geelong, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Australia is a regular in the Olympic knockout round, but has never gotten over the hump to finish with a medal. Will this be the year for the Boomers?
I have ranted more than a few times about FIBA's status quo that places two Oceanic teams in every World Championship and one Oceanic team in every Olympics even though there are only two Oceanic teams that actually field teams, Australia and New Zealand.
While teams like the Dominican Republic, Macedonia and Jordan run through gauntlets for a bid to either of the global tournaments, Australia and New Zealand play essentially a home-and-home in regional competition, one that isn't even needed ahead of FIBA Worlds years. It's bizarre.
That said, Australia, Oceania's sole Olympic contender, is a good team that should make the knockout round out of Group B despite playing without star center Andrew Bogut. Bogut missed the bulk of last season but hopes to be ready for the Golden State Warriors for training camp. That's ruled him out for the Olympics.
Instead, the Boomers will be led by point guard Patty Mills, who played with the San Antonio Spurs last season after getting out of a Chinese contract (which he signed after getting out of an Australian league contract signed at the start of the lockout). The other Aussie you'll see in London with NBA experience is David Andersen, formerly of the Rockets and Raptors.
Australia has advanced to the knockout round in eight of the past nine Olympic tournaments, including in Beijing 2008. But the Boomers have only won their quarterfinal game in three of those tournaments and have never won a medal. Australia is consistently solid, but a definite step below the best teams in the world -- the Spains, Argentinas, USAs. Without Bogut, expect that to continue.
Australia's best bet is to somehow land at No. 3 in group play, likely behind Spain and either Russia or Brazil. Finishing No. 4 almost assuredly means a quarterfinal date with Team USA, which is liquid doom.
Australia's biggest non-N.Z. rival in the world -- and the team it figures to battle for a knockout spot -- is China. The two teams played in something called the YouYi Games in June, and Australia won all three games. It's impossible for me to determine whether each team had its best players available, though, so take it with a grain of salt. Whatever the case, the YouYi Games definitely features the coolest logo featuring a robot panda and a robot kangaroo.
Here's Australia's rundown.
FIBA World Ranking: No. 9
How they got here: Won the two-team FIBA Oceania Championship
Previous Olympic experience: 13 appearances, no medals
Most important group play games: vs. China (August 2), vs. Great Britain (August 4)
Players you've heard of: Patty Mills, David Andersen, maybe even Brad Newley!
Medal hopes: Not totally unreasonable but pretty unlikely