After two big lop-sided wins by the USA Basketball men's national team over Argentina and China, the women's national team now begins its series of friendlies.
Except that today's friendly is a really friendly match. The Americans will play the Select Team, or a group of younger Americans who didn't make the cut this go-round, but may in future World Cups and Olympic tournaments.
Here is info on the game and some things to look for, not just with the National Team, but also for Stefanie Dolson and Kahleah Copper, who made the Select Team.
When: Monday, July 25, 10 p.m. ET
TV/Online: NBA TV. If you need a stream, watch it on USA Basketball's or the NBA's Facebook pages.
FIBA Rankings: USA is #1.
Where: Galen Center, Los Angeles, California
Here is the roster for the USA Basketball women's national team:
|Seimone Augustus||Minnesota Lynx||G|
|Sue Bird||Seattle Storm||G|
|Tamika Catchings||Indiana Fever||F|
|Tina Charles||New York Liberty||C|
|Elena Delle Donne||Chicago Sky||F|
|Sylvia Fowles||Minnesota Lynx||C|
|Brittney Griner||Phoenix Mercury||C|
|Angel McCoughtry||Atlanta Dream||F|
|Maya Moore||Minnesota Lynx||F|
|Breanna Stewart||Seattle Storm||F|
|Diana Taurasi||Phoenix Mercury||G|
|Lindsay Whalen||Minnesota Lynx||G|
And the roster for the USA Basketball women's select team:
|Kelsey Bone||Phoenix Mercury||C|
|Kahleah Copper||Washington Mystics||F|
|Stefanie Dolson||Washington Mystics||C|
|Natasha Howard||Minnesota Lynx||F|
|Jewell Loyd||Seattle Storm||G|
|Tiffany Mitchell||Indiana Fever||G|
|Aerial Powers||Dallas Wings||F|
|Sugar Rodgers||New York Liberty||G|
|Odyssey Sims||Dallas Wings||G|
|Kiah Stokes||New York Liberty||C|
|Elizabeth Williams||Atlanta Dream||C|
The women's national team is basically like Argentina's men's team. Except they're older and better within their sport - The average age of the Team USA roster is 30. Six of the players are 30 or older. Four of them are 34 or older. Those players are Sue Bird, Tamika Catchings, Diana Taurasi, and Lindsay Whalen. Of these four, all but Whalen have participated in every World Cup and Olympics since 2004.
The good news about this group of sages is that they've won Gold Medals at every Olympics since 2004, and won every FIBA World Cup Gold Medal since 2010 (they won Bronze in 2006). The bad news is that ... they're old. Catchings is retiring this season. Bird has improved this season thanks to being surrounded by younger teammates, but I'm not so sure if she's playing until the age of 40. And Taurasi is also closer to the end of her career than at the beginning of it.
There's going to be a big changing of the guard with the next World Cup and Olympic cycle. The Select Team players better know that - The Select Team is made up of a number of up and coming players. Nine of the 12 players on the national team were in the 2012 Olympics, and I don't see all nine of them returning for 2020. There will be plenty of spots available because quite frankly, Team USA is a bit too old in my opinion.
This is where Stefanie Dolson and Kahleah Copper can make an impact as Select Team members. If they make a good impression in practice and hold their own while playing tonight, that's going to help boost their cases for the 2018 FIBA World Cup and hopefully the 2020 Olympics.
Of the two, I'll say Dolson has the best shot to make Team USA sooner. She did play on the senior team last year during a series of friendlies in Europe. However, she is having a down year with the Mystics and will play alongside 2015 Most Improved Player Kelsey Bone, Kiah Stokes, and Elizabeth Williams who also play center. Williams, in particular, has had a better season than Dolson so there's reason to believe that she may have a better shot to make the senior team at this point.
There's going to be a BIG VOID at point guard in future World Cups and Olympics - Sue Bird has been Team USA's starting point guard since... 2006. She will be 36 later this year, and backup point guard Lindsay Whalen is 34. Diana Taurasi is also a point guard but starts alongside Bird generally plays as a shooting guard for the Americans.
I'm a little surprised that Odyssey Sims was the only point guard to make the Select Team (and she was on the FIBA World Cup team by the way). She should have a much easier path to make the next World Cup and Olympic Teams, but is Jewell Loyd perhaps going to be playing as a point guard over the long term? Or will the women's team be a bit more flexible with positioning like the men's national team? It will be interesting to see how this plays out long term.
Where are Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike? - This is one storyline that is irrelevant for Mystics fans but is relevant in the general women's basketball world.
When the senior roster was announced, Parker was left off the roster which is controversial considering that she's one of the biggest superstars in the WNBA, a multi-time MVP, and has won two Olympic Gold Medals in 2008 and 2012. This caused an uproar among many women's basketball fans, especially Sparks supporters, and Tennessee women's basketball fans since that's where Parker went to college. Tennessee was once UConn's biggest rival in the sport but haven't played each other since 2008.
This gives some people a convenient way to accuse USA Basketball of being pro-UConn because Geno Auriemma is the head coach, and five players on this team played for him in college.
In a smaller, but still significant controversy, Ogwumike participated in the 2014 World Cup but isn't on this team either. This year, the Sparks posts are taking that out on the league by leading them to a league-best 21-3 record.
Ultimately some star is going to be left off Team USA. Unfortunately, Parker and Oguwmike were left off this team, but if you're a Sparks fan, that is probably a blessing in disguise.
The national team will be expected to win, and win big.
But if the Select Team pushes the tempo and gets on a hot streak early, things may be a bit more interesting than I expect it to.