Looking ahead to tomorrow's semifinals, here's a look at updated Olympic team stats.
Team Gr Diff ORating Rank DRating Rank PaceHere are the Four Factors numbers on offense and defense for all teams.
United States B 58.7 133.8 1 76.6 1 73.6
Australia A 31.7 115.4 2 84.1 2 72.5
China B 6.3 101.1 4 94.1 5 72.0
Russia A 6.0 102.6 3 94.4 6 69.5
Spain B 3.2 96.7 5 92.8 4 73.0
Belarus A -5.2 87.2 10 92.4 3 73.8
Czech Republic B -9.8 89.5 9 99.5 8 72.9
South Korea A -18.3 90.9 8 107.4 9 70.0
Team Gr eFG% OR% FTM/FGA TO%
Australia A 0.474 0.425 0.250 0.139
Belarus A 0.413 0.339 0.174 0.225
China B 0.465 0.274 0.239 0.164
Czech Republic B 0.431 0.303 0.221 0.222
Russia A 0.486 0.372 0.244 0.211
South Korea A 0.458 0.170 0.139 0.172
Spain B 0.485 0.300 0.220 0.219
United States B 0.607 0.423 0.167 0.127
Team Gr eFG% DR% FTM/FGA TO%I've also used the Log5 method to predict each team's chances of advancing and finishing in each position.
Australia A 0.406 0.768 0.196 0.203
Belarus A 0.434 0.738 0.225 0.184
China B 0.429 0.651 0.134 0.174
Czech Republic B 0.464 0.653 0.242 0.200
Russia A 0.438 0.732 0.194 0.169
South Korea A 0.525 0.561 0.242 0.233
Spain B 0.466 0.650 0.220 0.238
United States B 0.403 0.744 0.172 0.254
Team Final Gold Silver Bronze 4thThe USA remains a heavy favorite, to understate the issue. By these numbers, there's little drama in the semifinals. Subjectively, that's not the case. Let's look at the two matchups.
United States 99.6 94.0 5.6 0.4 0.0
Australia 94.4 5.9 88.5 5.3 0.3
China 5.6 0.0 5.6 47.8 46.5
Russia 0.4 0.0 0.3 46.5 53.1
USA vs. Russia
History is clear: Russia saves its best efforts for matchups against the U.S. Russia has always been unpredictable, but this year that's even more true because of what appear to be legitimate chemistry issues only exacerbated by the addition of Becky Hammon. As I've noted before, however, Russia played much worse in the group round and in the quarterfinals in Brazil, and it did not matter in the semifinals.
From a statistical perspective, Russia's size shows up on the glass, where Australia, the U.S. and Russia (in that order) are the three dominant teams. The USA has rebounded well against smaller teams, but sometimes allows offensive boards to bigger squads like Russia. If Russia wins, presumably 6-8 center Maria Stepanova will have a big game.
A key matchup will pit Hammon against Sue Bird at the point. Hammon has the ability to exploit the USA defense by getting to the basket. Nuria Martinez showed this vulnerability to dribble penetration in keeping Spain in the game for a half. However, the strength of the U.S. defense has been forcing turnovers, and Hammon has committed nearly four a game in these Olympics. (Her assist-to-turnover ratio is 5-to-23; ouch!) If the USA can turn Hammon over, it figures to frustrate both her and her Russian teammates while also offering transition buckets.
Lastly, watch the first quarter closely. In Brazil, Russia jumped out early thanks to hot shooting and the U.S. fell too far behind to catch up. While the last two games (blowing a big halftime lead against Australia, coming back against Spain) have bucked the trend, Russia generally plays much better from ahead. Team chemistry could be a major issue if the USA gets off to a quick start. If Russia is close after one quarter and especially at the half, the U.S. will likely be unable to pull away as it has against lesser competition thus far in the Olympics.
Australia vs. China
This game took on more drama when Penny Taylor sprained her right ankle during Tuesday's quarterfinal win over the Czech Republic. Though Taylor has not had a big Olympics, she's a key threat for the Opals, especially with Lauren Jackson playing at less than 100 percent. The Aussies hope to have Taylor for this game, but it's more likely she will return on Saturday.
The Australian offense has yet to really click for an entire game in Beijing. Taylor's absence would only exacerbate the issue. Belinda Snell will be critical with or without Taylor, but if Taylor is out and the Chinese defense is focused on Jackson (as it figures to be either way), Snell becomes the team's best offensive option. Suzy Batkovic and Laura Summerton also need to offer the Opals scoring down low against a Chinese frontline that is not great defensively.
The offensive glass figures to be a major, major weapon for the Aussies. China is allowing opponents to grab 35.0 percent of their own misses, while the Opals have an Olympics-best 42.5 percent offensive rebounding rate. Add it up and it's entirely possible that missed shots will be a 50-50 proposition for Australia, extending posessions and offering easy looks in the paint.
If China is to win, the Aussies will have to have a very poor shooting night, maybe get into some foul trouble up front and China will have to be hitting, its posts from midrange and perimeter players from long distance. China has the home-court advantage, and if that translates into the refereeing, that could help with getting Australia in foul trouble and keeping China out of it as well as keeping the Aussies off the line, where they like to live. The X-factor is that Tom Maher knows the Opals' core players very well, information that could serve China well. It would still be a massive upset if Australia loses, but don't rule it out.