Andres Nocioni

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Men’s basketball quarterfinals set, U.S. draws Argentina

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With group play in men’s basketball coming to an end Monday night with Croatia’s win over Lithuania, the four quarterfinal matchups are now set. And for the U.S. men’s basketball team, that means an opponent they certainly have some familiarity with.

Thanks to the combination of their loss to Spain and Croatia’s victory, Argentina gets first crack at the Americans in the bracket rounds. Argentina’s got some players fans will certainly be familiar with, as Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola and Andres Nocioni are still mainstays on the roster. But there’s another player on Argentina’s roster, point guard Facundo Campazzo, who has the potential to give the U.S. trouble if they aren’t better defending the pick and roll than they were in their last three games in group play.

Campazzo scored 33 points and dished out 11 assists in Argentina’s double-overtime win over Brazil, and he averaged 16.4 points and 5.2 assists per game in group play. The U.S. did blow out Argentina in an exhibition leading into these Olympics, but Ginobili played just over 14 minutes with Scola and Nocioni playing a shade over 23 and 22 minutes, respectively.

Also on that side of the bracket are France and Spain, with the French finishing third in Group A and the Spaniards second in Group B. The U.S. beat France by three in their final game in group play, and they’ve defeated Spain in each of the last two gold medal games. On the other side of the bracket, Group B winner Croatia takes on Serbia in one quarterfinal, with Group A runner-up Australia drawing Lithuania in the other.

Wednesday’s Quarterfinal Schedule

Australia vs. Lithuania, 10 a.m. Eastern
Spain vs. France, 12:30 p.m.
U.S.A. vs. Argentina, 5:45 p.m.
Croatia vs. Serbia, 9:15 p.m.

Manu Ginobili leads Argentina Olympic basketball roster

Manu Ginobili
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Manu Ginobili will try to lead Argentina to a third Olympic basketball medal in four Games, headlining the 12-man roster announced Saturday.

Ginobili, 38 and a national-team player since 1998, was one of four notable members of the 2004 Olympic champion team that made Argentina’s squad for Rio. The others are Andres Nocioni and Luis Scola, both 36, and Carlos Delfino, who is 33, all of whom have played in the NBA.

Ginobili missed the 2013 FIBA Americas, 2014 FIBA World Cup and 2015 FIBA Americas and reportedly said in 2014, “I can say for almost certain, 98 percent, that I won’t play any more [for Argentina].”

He changed his mind in March, making himself available for the Olympic team.

The San Antonio Spurs All-Star led Argentina to gold at the Athens 2004 Games, handing the U.S. its last loss in Olympic competition in the semifinals. That’s the only team other than the U.S. to win men’s basketball gold since 1988. He also helped Argentina take bronze in 2008 and finish fourth in 2012.

Argentina qualified for the Rio Games by reaching the 2015 FIBA Americas final without Ginobili.

Ginobili is so revered that a statue was erected of him in Buenos Aires.

In August, Ginobili will be older than all but one Olympic basketball player since 1992, according to sports-reference.com. The oldest player in that stretch was Puerto Rico’s 40-year-old Jose Ortiz in 2004.

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Canada’s return to Olympic basketball on hold after heartbreaking loss; Argentina qualifies

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Canada came oh-so-close to making its first Olympic men’s basketball tournament since 2000 on Friday but will now have to wait until one month before the Rio Games for its last chance to qualify.

“Our dreams have just been put on hold,” Canada coach Jay Triano said, according to TSN.

The Canadians, with nine NBA players on their roster, lost 79-78 to Venezuela, with zero NBA players on its roster, in the FIBA Americas semifinals in Mexico.

With the game tied 78-78, Venezuela guard Gregory Vargas was fouled on an offensive rebound with three tenths of a second left (a call held up after review) and hit the first of two free throws to clinch his nation’s first Olympic basketball berth since 1992.

“It was David versus Goliath and we came on top, we leave everything out there,” Venezuela coach Nestor Garcia said, according to The Associated Press. “This is an historic day for Venezuela. Many people doubted that we were capable of this.”

Venezuela joined the U.S., Brazil, Australia and Nigeria in the Olympic field so far. Later Friday, 2004 Olympic champion Argentina beat Mexico 78-70 in the other FIBA Americas semifinal and became the sixth nation to make the Olympic field that will eventually be 12 teams.

Canada, Mexico and fifth-place Puerto Rico advanced to a global, last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament in July.

Canada has the talent to compete for a medal in Rio, should it qualify.

Its FIBA Americas roster featured NBA Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins, Toronto Raptors guard Cory Joseph and Boston Celtics center Kelly Olynyk, who had game highs of 34 points and 13 rebounds against Venezuela.

For the Olympics, it could add Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson.

The talent is much deeper than the 2000 Canadian Olympic team that had two NBA players — eventual two-time MVP Steve Nash and center Todd MacCulloch.

Nash, now the general manager of Team Canada, has said as much and described that 2000 team as “out for a scrap.” It lost by five points to France in the quarterfinals, just missing the chance to play for a medal in Sydney.

Nash was reportedly sobbing and had to be dragged off the floor after that defeat, but he recovered to smuggle beer into the Closing Ceremony the following Sunday.

Canada owns one Olympic basketball medal — silver at Berlin 1936, the first Olympics to include basketball.

Venezuela’s roster at FIBA Americas included Kobe Bryant‘s cousin John Cox. It could add Milwaukee Bucks guard Greivis Vasquez for the Olympics.

Argentina, which has played the U.S. in the last three Olympic semifinals, qualified for Rio without stalwart Manu Ginobili, who at 38 has likely played his final international game.

Argentina’s team at FIBA Americas included 2004 Olympic champions Luis Scola and Andres Nocioni.

MORE BASKETBALL: Five Olympic questions with Steve Nash

*Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported Gregory Vargas was fouled while shooting with three seconds left.