The U.S. women's national team will start its quest for a sixth consecutive Olympic gold medal. Their first opponent in Rio 2016 will be a Senegalese squad that on paper doesn't appear to have a shot at keeping things close with the most dominant women's basketball team in the world. The game will take place at 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCOlympics.com.
Despite experiencing tremendous success in the recent past, Geno Auriemma's team couldn't escape controversy heading into the games, as the decision to leave Candace Parker out of the final roster was heavily criticized. A dominant win in the tournament debut should finally quiet the voices that were clamoring for the two-time WNBA MVP to be a part of the squad.
While Parker is not in Rio, this iteration of the team doesn't lack star power. Not only does it have veterans like Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi around, but also some of the best young players in the WNBA. Elena Delle Donne and Brittney Griner are the next wave of elite talent that will keep the U.S. the supreme power in women's basketball, joining stalwarts Maya Moore, Tina Charles and Angel McCoughtry. Breanna Stewart, a 21-year-old with superstar upside, is also on the team gaining valuable experience as she gets ready for a bigger role in the future.
The talent gap with Senegal, the reigning African champion, is simply huge and it wouldn't be surprising to see a lopsided score similar to the 52-point beatdown Angola suffered against the U.S. in the London Olympics. That will work out fine for Auriemma, who should be able to keep everyone's minutes monitored, thinking about the more testing matchups ahead.
Unless something catastrophic happens, the U.S. women's basketball team should once again be at the top of the podium on the last day of the competition. It has the veterans that will keep everyone focused, the superstars in their prime to break open games and the young talent that can provide a jolt of energy and athleticism when needed.
Senegal is the first step on a road that in all likelihood will lead to gold.
USA vs. Senegal
Time: 11 a.m. ET
Streaming: NBC Olympics