Olympic Basketball: Qualifying Tournament Enters Knockouts

The 2012 London Olympics are coming up on us rather quickly, and by the end of the weekend, the world will know which teams they'll be watching go to work on winning a gold medal. The FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament has completed pool play, leaving eight teams to play a single-elimination tournament over the next few days that will see the top three teams advance.

The top two teams won't play a championship game -- they'll just head straight to the Olympics -- while the third team getting the automatic bid will be decided with a traditional third-place game. Friday's action will get us to that point, too, because all four first-round games will take place on the same day (it's like March Madness, except in July and in Venezuela!).

Russia vs. Angola (11:30 a.m. ET)

The Russian national team looked outstanding in pool play, handily taking care of its games against the Dominican Republic and Korea -- though the latter wasn't expected to be much of a challenge. The odds are with Andrei Kirilenko and Russia again on Friday, though, because Angola -- who upset Macedonia to make it this far -- is likely going to be too small to match up well with Russia's length.

Greece vs. Nigeria (2 p.m. ET)

Aside from Russia, Greece is the only team that was able to escape pool play without a loss. Vassilis Spanoulis and Georgios Printezis, both former NBA draft picks, have looked really solid thus far in the tournament. Nigeria has NBA talent of its own, too -- Hornets wing Al-Farouq Aminu and Ike Diogu were instrumental in leading an upset over Lithuania to keep Nigeria's Olympic hopes alive.

FYR Macedonia vs. Dominican Republic (5:30 p.m. ET)

This might very well be the most exciting game on the first day of the tournament -- at least as far as our fan favorites are concerned. The "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" as they're referred to for now is led by naturalized citizen Bo McCalebb whereas Dominica is led by Kentucky Wildcats coach John Calipari and features NBA All-Star Al Horford (and the always-entertaining Jack Michael Martinez).

Lithuania vs. Puerto Rico (8 p.m. ET)

While the heart strings of yours truly are going to be pulled earlier in the evening, Lithuania and Puerto Rico will probably be the game international basketball fans want to tune in to on Friday night. Lithuania has continued to struggle following last summer's showing in the original Olympic qualifiers, but the team featuring Linas Kleiza, Sarunas Jasikevicius and former Duke wing Martynas Pocius seems too talented to fail. Puerto Rico is a worthy adversary, though, featuring Jose Barea, Carlos Arroyo, Renaldo Balkman and Peter John Ramos.

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