Rio 2016: Americans favored for basketball gold, again

Depleted of star power, Team USA is nonetheless far and away the favorite to take home basketball gold during the Rio Olympics.

Among those who have opted to stay home are LeBron James, Steph Curry, Chris Paul, James Harden and Blake Griffin.

The loss of that caliber of players may seem like a death knell for the team, but the sheer depth of the American team ensures it will reach the medal round, barring catastrophe.

Leading the charge will be two-time Olympic gold winner Carmelo Anthony, former NBA MVP Kevin Durant and 2016 NBA champion Kyrie Irving.

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The U.S. will not be the only team missing key players. Spain will be without Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, France will take the court without Tony Parker and Argentina will be missing Manu Ginobili.

The U.S. has been undefeated in 17 consecutive games dating to the 2004 Athens Olympics. If it matches expectations, it will take home its third straight gold.

Argentina last interrupted the U.S.’s gold dominance in Athens, which was only the second time the Americans failed to take gold since 1988 when the Soviet Union emerged victorious.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski has helmed the U.S. national team to a 75-1 record over the past decade.

In last week’s exhibition games, Team USA bested Argentina, considered a strong medal contender, 111-74, and routed China 106-57, portending a strong showing for the odds-on Olympics favorite.

Competition will take place in a bracket format with teams split into two groups.

Along with the U.S. and China, France, Venezuela, Serbia and Australia will compete in Group A.

Spain, Brazil, Lithuania, Croatia, Argentina and Nigeria will compete in Group B.

On the first day of competition, Aug. 6, Australia will play France, China will take on the U.S. and Venezuela will face Serbia.

Group B will kick off competition Aug. 7 with Brazil facing Lithuania, Croatia competing against Spain and Nigeria taking on Argentina.

The gold-medal final game will take place on the Olympics’ last day, Aug. 21, at 3.45 p.m. local time in Rio (0145GMT). The bronze medal game will take place earlier that day at 11.30 a.m. (1730GMT).

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