Olympic Games 2020: 6 Mystics and Wizards players represented in basketball
The opening ceremony for the 2020 Olympics took place today in Tokyo, Japan. And with that, the
- Nickname: United States Team
- 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, earning them an automatic berth.
- Program: Tuesday July 27 against Nigeria at 12:40 am ET on USA Network; Friday, July 30: vs. Japan at 12:40 a.m. ET on USA Network; Monday, August 2: vs. France at 12:40 a.m.ET on USA Network. The USA are in group B.
The United States is looking to win a seventh straight gold in women’s basketball dating back to 1996. At that time, there was no social media, no smartphones, T-1 access was the only one. High speed internet available at a ridiculously high standard. price, and there was no WNBA. Today’s US team are the favorites on paper, but are 1-2 in friendlies, losing to the WNBA All-Star Game and against Australia.
While most of the teams America faces in Group B will be ‘minnows’ like Nigeria and host Japan, it remains to be seen how they fare against the best in FIBA Europe, like France, Spain, Serbia and Belgium. All of these teams have been preparing together since spring for the Women’s EuroBasket and will play like well-oiled machines even the Opals.
If America wins gold, Seattle Storm goaltender Sue Bird (who was also one of the two standard bearers for the United States) and Phoenix Mercury goaltender Diana Taurasi will win their FIFTH medal, dating back to the Games. 2004 in Athens, Greece. They will also win gold because their talent and hopefully increased chemistry will lead them over the next two weeks.
Contrary to the belief of some of our commentators as to who I support, I actually support Team USA winning gold. But I’m not going to deny that it’s harder for Americans to win now than it was 20 or 10 years ago.
- Nickname: Opals
- Mystical players of the Australia squad: Leilani mitchell
- National anthem: Advance Australia Fair
- How they made the Olympics: The Australians won a spot by placing in the Top 3 at a qualifying tournament in Bourges, France, in February 2020.
- Program: Tuesday, July 27 vs. Belgium at 4:20 a.m. ET, Friday July 30 vs. China at 8 a.m. ET, Monday August 2 vs. Puerto Rico at 8 a.m. ET. The games can be streamed on Peacock. Australia is in Group C.
Australia will be a medal threat at 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 every summer, unlike European teams. Ezi Magbegor (Seattle Storm) showed his potential against the United States in their friendly last week and Rebecca Allen (New York Liberty) is expected to play a bigger role following Liz Cambage’s sudden withdrawal after an incident she had with the Nigerian team. Mitchell will of course remain their floor general for the Olympics.
If Australia wins the gold instead of the United States, they will have the advantage of having a roster that has consistently played together for much of the past four years. Most of the Olympic team were also part of the 2018 team that won the silver medal at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup.
That said, I don’t see the Opals winning gold and their first Group C game against Belgium could determine whether they or the Cats end up in a more (or less) favorable playoff phase for them.
- Nickname: Belgian cats
- Mystics players on Team Belgium: Emma Meesseman
- How do you say Belgium in their official languages? Belgium (Dutch), Belgium (French), Belgian (German)
- National anthem: From Brabançonne (Dutch) / The Brabançonne (French) / Das Lied von Brabant or Die Brabançonne (German). All titles mean “The Brabantian” in English.
- How they made the Olympics: The Belgians won their place by placing in the Top 2 of an Olympic qualifying tournament in Ostend, Belgium, in February 2020.
- Program: Tuesday July 27 vs. Australia at 4:20 a.m. ET, Thursday July 29 vs. Puerto Rico at 9 p.m. ET, Monday August 2 vs. China at 4:20 a.m. ET. The games can be streamed on Peacock. Belgium is in group C.
In just four short years, Belgium went from unranked FIBA team status to 6th in the world after winning bronze at the Women’s EuroBasket in 2017, qualifying for the semi-finals of the World Cup. women’s basketball 2018 and being a constant presence at EuroBasket since then. After the Olympics, Belgium should see its ranking go up a little more since the last rankings were made in March, no matter what.
Meesseman has a few extra gears when playing for the Cats, which was most evident at EuroBasket this year when they won another bronze medal. But if it has an inconsistent game at 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. This is even taking into account that they have a young rising star in Indiana Fever Guard Julie German and former mystic guard Kim Mestdagh as their main sidekicks.
Belgium’s first 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 hopes of a playoff push.
I think Belgium will end up with a medal at the Olympics, but it’s either silver in a loss to USA or bronze depending on how their group stage matches go.
- Nickname: Japanese team
- Wizards of the Japan team: Rui Hachimura
- How do you say Japan in Japanese? Japanese or Nihon
- National anthem: Kimigayo, or “The Reign of His Imperial Majesty” in English
- How they made the Olympics: It’s the home team.
- Program: Monday, July 26 vs. Spain at 8 a.m. ET, Thursday July 29 vs. Slovenia at 12:40 a.m. ET, Sunday August 1 vs. Argentina at 12:40 a.m. ET. The games can be streamed on Peacock. Japan is in Group C.
Japan have had a surprisingly good run in friendlies, especially when Hachimura has played in each of their last two games against Belgium and France, the latter team that is in the games.
Although Hachimura (who was also one of the standard bearers for Japan) and Toronto Raptors forward Yuta Watanbe (who went to GW here in DC for college) will keep the games competitive, it will be difficult to keep up. seeing them advance to the quarter-finals, which requires at least a third place finish and a higher total of points scored in total.
That said, I can’t wait to see Team Nippon in their first Olympic appearance since 1976 and will encourage them to advance to the quarterfinals with one of us in the lead! The most interesting game seems to be against Slovenia which has Dallas Mavericks goaltender Luka Doncic as their centerpiece.
- Nickname: Die Mannschaft (The team)
- Wizards of the German team: Issac Bonga
- How do you say Germany in German? Germany
- 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.
- Program: 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. The games can be streamed on Peacock. Germany is in Group B.
The Germans weren’t exactly the favorites to win their Olympic spot when they entered the Olympic qualifying tournament. That said, they’ve won four straight games to get there, including a narrow 69-67 victory over Russia to get there. Former Wizards center Moritz Wagner won the tournament MVP title in his league game against Brazil, where he scored 28 points off the bench.
Bonga averaged 7.5 points per game in two games of the tournament, but missed the last two games with a minor injury. It will be difficult to see the Germans place in the top 2 on paper, but as a fan of the Wizards I still encourage them to advance to the quarter-finals. This is the first time they have participated in the Olympics since 2008.
What about the USA Basketball Men’s National Team?
Bradley Beal was named to the Olympic squad but was kicked out of the squad after being placed on coronavirus protocols. I can see the Americans winning a medal, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see them not even making it to the semi-finals given how poorly they played in their first two friendlies. Of course, they beat Argentina (who are not a favorite for the medals) and Spain, but I’m still not optimistic.
They must also integrate several players who were in the NBA finals at the last minute as well as JaVale McGee who replaced Kevin Love at the last minute. Not ideal for a team that was starting to regroup. We have plenty of other teams and players to cover over the next couple of weeks.
So unfortunately without Beal the American men are not a priority for me like the other teams I have mentioned. That doesn’t mean I won’t have anything on them. It’s just that I have little bandwidth (and the NBA Draft is next week too!).
Here’s the schedule for the US Men’s Team: Sunday, July 25 vs. France at 8 a.m. ET, Wednesday, July 28 vs. Iran at 12:40 p.m. ET, Saturday, July 31 vs. the Czech Republic at 8 a.m. ET. The games can be streamed on Peacock. They are in group A.
Good luck to the Mystics and Wizards players who will represent their country at the 2020 Olympic Games!