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Preview: Group A technically still up for grabs as Team USA takes on Argentina

By Royce Young | NBA writer
Argentina only needs to beat the U.S. by 110 points to win Group A. (Getty Images)

One last game before they really start to matter. And with the United States essentially having Group A and a top seed locked up heading into their fifth and final group play game, this one could be taken as a solid tune-up for the knockout rounds.

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But technically speaking, Group A is still on the line. While a win for Argentina puts them at 4-1 and drops the U.S. to the same record, since France defeated Nigeria and created a potential three-way tie for first, the next tiebreaker point differential. Something Team USA has a major advantage in, especially after that 83-point skunking of Nigeria. The U.S. would need to lose by 110 points to Argentina in order to lose the top spot in Group A. Kinda hard to picture that happening.

Losing though is never OK or an option for the American team. Especially against Argentina, a team that the U.S. has some history with.

USA (4-0) finishes up play in Group A by taking on Argentina (3-1) Monday at 5:15 p.m. ET.

How did they get here?

Argentina automatically qualified for the Olympics by winning the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship.

In London they opened with an impressive 102-79 win over Lithuania but followed that up with a somewhat surprising loss to France. They bounced back soundly beating Tunisia and Nigeria. But if you want something to compare, Argentina beat Nigeria by by just 14. That's 69 less points than what the U.S. beat them by.

Do they have a history of winning?

Argentina has appeared in the Olympics six times, winning gold (2004) and bronze (2008). They've established themselves as one of the premier international teams, consistently ranking in top five in the world rankings. They've won gold once at the FIBA World Cup (1950) and silver once (2002).

And take note of this: They beat the U.S. in that 2002 World Cup and eliminated them from gold medal contention in 2004 in Athens.

Who are their best players?

You definitely know some of these players. There's Manu Ginobili, one of the NBA's best players. There's Luis Scola, a top line NBA forward and one of the best international players in the world. There's Andres Nocioni and Carlos Delfino, two NBA level players.

And there's also Pablo Prigioni who has signed to play with the New York Knicks next season.

There's a sold amount of depth on the roster, but it's really all about Ginobili and Scola, who can carry the team at any time. Both are clearly high level NBA players and guys that aren't at all intimidated by Team USA's talent and depth.

What do the match-ups look like?

Like most any other team, Argentina doesn't hold any obvious advantage over Team USA. Scola presents potential problems on the block with his ability to score.

Like the NBA, there's not really anyone on the U.S. roster that matches up well with Ginobili. His ability to create looks out of nothing and hit tough shots isn't something Team USA can expect to cover.

With Nocioni and Delfino, Argentina has a little perimeter size to possibly defend LeBron, Durant and Melo, but they aren't exactly known defensive stoppers. But they do have some size and length there, at least more than a lot of other teams.

Does Argentina have a chance against the United States?

Argentina possesses solid talent across the board and with Lithuania kind of showing the way in how to keep close with Team USA, you can be sure the Argentinians will employ every tactic available to them. They'll foul on fast breaks, try and draw cheap fouls, flop and do what it takes to throw the U.S. off their game.

There's a little recent history here to go off of too. The U.S. beat Argentina in an exhibition a few weeks ago 86-80. But Argentina played a strong second half against the Americans proving the point that they're going to compete.

What was obvious in that exhibition is if there's any lapses, Argentina can and will pounce. They're feisty, frustrating and play constantly tough-nosed basketball. They can hit open shots and with Ginobili and Prigioni, create good looks for shooters.

 
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