The 2020 Olympics opening ceremony was today in Tokyo, Japan. And with that, let’s go over the countries who will have Washington Mystics and Wizards players on their rosters.
- Nickname: Team USA
- Mystics players on Team USA: Tina Charles, Ariel Atkins
- National anthem: The Star-Spangled Banner
- How they made the Olympics: The Americans won the 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup which earned them an automatic berth.
- Schedule: Tuesday, July 27 vs. Nigeria at 12:40 a.m. ET on USA Network; Friday, July 30: vs. Japan at 12:40 a.m. ET on USA Network; Monday, Aug. 2: vs. France at 12:40 a.m. ET on USA Network. The USA is in Group B.
The United States is looking to win a seventh consecutive gold medal in women’s basketball dating back to 1996. Back in those days, there was no social media, no smartphones, T-1 access was the only high-speed internet available at a ridiculously high price, and there was no WNBA. Today’s American team is the favorite on paper, but they are 1-2 in friendlies, losing in the WNBA All-Star Game and to Australia.
While most of the teams America will face in Group B are going to be “minnows” like Nigeria and host Japan, it remains to be seen how they would fare against the best of FIBA Europe, like France, Spain, Serbia and Belgium. All of these teams have prepared together since the spring for Women’s EuroBasket and will be playing like well-oiled machines than even the Opals.
If America wins Gold, Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird (who was also one of the USA’s two flagbearers) and Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi will win their FIFTH medal, dating back to the 2004 games in Athens, Greece. They will also win the gold because their talent and hopefully, increased chemistry carry them through the next couple weeks.
Contrary to some of our commenters’ beliefs of who I’m rooting for, I’m actually rooting for Team USA to win Gold. But I’m not going to deny that it’s harder for the Americans to win now than 20 or 10 years ago.
- Nickname: The Opals
- Mystics players on Team Australia: Leilani Mitchell
- National anthem: Advance Australia Fair
- How they made the Olympics: The Australians won a berth by placing in the Top 3 of a Qualifying Tournament in Bourges, France in Feb. 2020.
- Schedule: Tuesday, July 27 vs. Belgium at 4:20 a.m. ET, Friday, July 30 vs. China at 8 a.m. ET, Monday, Aug. 2 vs. Puerto Rico at 8 a.m. ET. Games can be streamed on Peacock. Australia is in Group C.
Australia will be a medal threat in the Olympics. Their head coach is Sandy Brondello, the head coach of the Phoenix Mercury. And their roster has many active WNBA players who actively play in the WNBA each summer, unlike European teams. Ezi Magbegor (Seattle Storm) showed her potential against the USA in their friendly last week and Rebecca Allen (New York Liberty) will all be expected to play a bigger role after Liz Cambage’s sudden withdrawal after an incident she had with the Nigerian team. Mitchell of course will remain their floor general for the Olympic games.
If Australia wins the Gold Medal instead of the USA, they will have the benefit of having a roster that has consistently played together for much of the last four years. Most of the roster on the Olympic team was also part of the 2018 team that won the silver medal in the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup.
That said, I don’t see the Opals winning Gold and their first Group C stage match against Belgium could determine whether they or the Cats end up in an elimination stage bracket that is more (or less) favorable for them.
- Nickname: The Belgian Cats
- Mystics players on Team Belgium: Emma Meesseman
- How do you say Belgium in their official languages? België (Dutch), Belgique (French), Belgien (German)
- National anthem: De Brabançonne (Dutch) / La Brabançonne (French) / Das Lied von Brabant or Die Brabançonne (German). All of the titles mean “The Brabantian” in English.
- How they made the Olympics: The Belgians won their berth by placing in the Top 2 of an Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Oostende, Belgium in Feb. 2020.
- Schedule: Tuesday, July 27 vs. Australia at 4:20 a.m. ET, Thursday, July 29 vs. Puerto Rico at 9 p.m. ET, Monday, Aug. 2 vs. China at 4:20 a.m. ET. Games can be streamed on Peacock. Belgium is in Group C.
In four short years, Belgium has gone from being an unranked FIBA team to No. 6 in the world after winning the bronze medal in Women’s EuroBasket in 2017, advancing to the semifinals of the 2018 Women’s Basketball World Cup and being a consistent EuroBasket presence since then. After the Olympics, Belgium should see their ranking move up a little more since the last rankings were done in March, no matter what happens.
Meesseman has an extra couple gears when playing for the Cats, which showed for the most part in EuroBasket this year when they won another bronze medal. But if she has an inconsistent game in the Olympics, don’t be surprised to see the Cats lose a game they otherwise shouldn’t, especially if it’s against another Top-5 team. That’s even considering the fact that they have a rising young star in Indiana Fever guard Julie Allemand and former Mystics guard Kim Mestdagh as her main sidekicks.
Belgium’s earliest test will be against Australia next Tuesday, which will be a must-see for Mystics fans. Once the games are over, it will be interesting to see whether the 2019 WNBA Finals MVP returns to the Mystics for the remainder of the 2021 season or not in their hopes of a playoff push.
I think Belgium will finish with a medal in the Olympics, but it’s either the silver in a loss to the USA or bronze depending on how their group stage matches go.
- Nickname: Team Nippon
- Wizards players on Team Japan: Rui Hachimura
- How do you say Japan in Japanese? Nippon or Nihon
- National anthem: Kimigayo, or “His Imperial Majesty’s Reign” in English
- How they made the Olympics: They’re the home team.
- Schedule: Monday, July 26 vs. Spain at 8 a.m. ET, Thursday, July 29 vs. Slovenia at 12:40 a.m. ET, Sunday, Aug. 1 vs. Argentina at 12:40 a.m. ET. Games can be streamed on Peacock. Japan is in Group C.
Though Hachimura (who was also one of Japan’s flagbearers) and Toronto Raptors forward Yuta Watanbe (who went to GW here in D.C. for college) will keep games competitive, it will be tough to see them advance to the quarterfinals, which requires at least a third-place finish and a higher total points scored total.
That said, I look forward to seeing Team Nippon in their first Olympic appearance since 1976 and will root for them to make the quarterfinals round with one of our own leading the way! The most interesting match looks to be against Slovenia who have Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic as their centerpiece.
- Nickname: Die Mannschaft (The Team)
- Wizards players on Team Germany: Issac Bonga
- How do you say Germany in German? Deutschland
- National anthem: Deutschlandlied (The Song of Germany)
- How they made the Olympics: They won the championship in a Qualifying tournament in July 2021 in Split, Croatia.
- Schedule: Sunday, July 25 vs. Italy at 12:40 a.m. ET, Tuesday, July 27 vs. Nigeria at 9 p.m. ET, Saturday, July 31 vs. Australia at 4:20 a.m. ET. Games can be streamed on Peacock. Germany is in Group B.
The Germans were not exactly favored to win their Olympic berth when they entered the Olympic qualifying tournament. That said, they won four consecutive games to get there, including a close 69-67 win over Russia to get there. Former Wizards center Moritz Wagner won the MVP of the tournament in their championship game against Brazil, where he scored 28 points off the bench.
Bonga averaged 7.5 ppg in two games in the tournament but sat out the final two games due to minor injury. It will be tough to see the Germans get a Top-2 finish on paper, but as a Wizards fan, I’m still rooting for them to make the quarterfinals nevertheless. This is the first time they have made the Olympics since 2008.
What about the USA Basketball men’s national team?
Bradley Beal was named to the Olympic squad but was cut from the team after being placed in coronavirus protocols. I can see the Americans win a medal, but it also wouldn’t surprise me to see them not even make the semifinals given how poorly they played in their first two friendlies. Sure, they beat Argentina (who’s not a medal favorite) and Spain, but I’m still not optimistic.
They also have to integrate several players who were in the NBA Finals last minute as well as JaVale McGee who was a last-minute replacement for Kevin Love. Not ideal for a team that was starting to gel together. We have plenty of other teams and players to cover during these next two weeks.
So, unfortunately, without Beal, the American men aren’t a priority for me like the other teams I mentioned. That doesn’t mean I won’t have anything on them. It’s just that I only have so much bandwidth (and the NBA Draft is next week too!).
Here’s the USA men’s team’s schedule: Sunday, July 25 vs. France at 8 a.m. ET, Wednesday, July 28 vs. Iran at 12:40 a.m. ET, Saturday, July 31 vs. Czech Republic at 8 a.m. ET. Games can be streamed on Peacock. They are in Group A.
Best of luck to the Mystics and Wizards players who will represent their countries in the 2020 Olympics!