The USA Basketball women's national team plays its last two friendlies tonight and Sunday. I'm going to put some quick notes on here for those of you who are interested.
Friday's Game - Team USA vs. Canada
When: Friday, July 29, 7 p.m. ET
FIBA Rankings: USA is #1, Canada is #9
Where: Webster Bank Arena, Bridgeport, CT
- Canada is a rising power in women's basketball - Like the men's national team, the Canadian women are also quickly becoming relevant in the world stage. They have two WNBA players: Indiana Fever center Natalie Achonwa and Phoenix Mercury guard Nirra Fields who will take a leading role. In addition, UConn junior guard Kia Nurse will also don the roster. She averaged 9.3 ppg for the Huskies last season. Six of the Canadians also play professionally in France, which has one of the stronger professional leagues in FIBA Europe.
- Welcome to the Mecca of Women's Basketball - They say that Madison Square Garden or at least New York City is the Mecca of Basketball. Connecticut -- and especially the University of Connecticut -- is the Mecca of women's basketball. We aren't in Storrs or Hartford tonight, but five Team USA players, head coach Geno Auriemma, AND Canada's Kia Nurse are from UConn. This game should be well attended to say the least given the high amount of enthusiasm for women's basketball in the state.
Sunday's Game - Team USA vs. Australia
When: Sunday, July 31, 4 p.m. ET
TV/Online: Same as Friday.
FIBA Rankings: USA is #1, Australia is #2
Where: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NY
- A rivalry renewed - The Australian women's national team has consistently been the fiercest competitors for the Americans since the turn of the century. Unlike the Americans, who we just call Team USA, the Australian women's team is known as the Opals, and the men's team is known as the Boomers. From hereon, I'm going to refer to women's team as the Opals. To put some perspective, Team USA and the Opals faced each other for the Olympic Gold Medal Game in 2000 and 2004, while facing the Americans in the Olympic semifinals in 2008 and 2012. In the World Cup, they have faced each other in the 2002 and 2014 semifinals, and the Opals were the last team besides the USA to win a World Cup or an Olympics when they did so in 2006.
- Is Liz Cambage the successor to Lauren Jackson? Jackson retired recently due to injuries. Many expect Cambage, a 6'8 center to carry the torch. Cambage has had some ridiculously high stats in China's WCBA where she is close to a 30 point, 10 rebound threat each night. She also played for the now-Dallas Wings in 2011 and 2013 where she was also a consistent scorer and rebounder each and every night. Her 2013 numbers (16.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg) certainly give reason as to why she is a legit successor. That said, she hasn't played in the WNBA since 2013, mostly because she would get paid more money to play in China than stateside.
- Are there more young Opals ready to make it in the WNBA? There are two Opals who are active WNBA players: Penny Taylor and Erin Phillips. However. Taylor is 35 and retiring after this season while Phillips is 31. Leilani Mitchell also played for the Mercury last season but is an American who has Australian citizenship and has decided to practice with the Opals instead of playing stateside. I'll admit that I don't know too much about Australian women's basketball in the WNBL, but can the Opals continue to be the world's best team after the US after these Olympics?
- From one Mecca to another - Team USA gets to finish their exhibition play at MSG, so you can't ask for a much better place to finish than that. In addition, Tina Charles gets to finish exhibition play at her home arena, while some other players, like Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart are from New York.