Team Canada tips against Brazil Wednesday at the FIBA Americas tournament in Argentina.
The good news for Canada: Much like themselves, Brazil is missing two of their country's top basketball players. Both Nene and current (for now) Raptor Leandro Barbosa excused themselves from the team. Anderson Varejao is also not playing.
The bad news for Canada: Even if they beat a still-sound Brazillian squad that features Tiago Splitter and Euro league star point guard Marcelhino Huertas, they're still in a tough Group A alongside the Dominican Republic, whom they play the next day on Thursday.
Canada fell into a 24-2 hole to start and lost by 17 to Brazil in a tune-up game Wednesday, although Cory Joseph wasn't playing for the Canucks.
The other countries in the group -- Venezuela and Cuba -- are beatable, but are certainly not guaranteed wins when you consider that 2010 saw Canada fall to both New Zealand and Lebanon in the World Championships.
The most intriguing team in Canada's pool -- and a potential tourney dark horse -- is the Dominican. Headed by Kentucky coach John Calipari, it features Al Horford, Charlie Villanueva and Francisco Garcia among others. They'll also have revenge against us on their mind -- Canada surprised the Dominican in the deciding game of the tournament to advance to last year's worlds.
In the coaching department and on paper, this is simply a better team than Canada.
The class of the tourney is easily Argentina. With Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni and Carlos Delfino all on board, many are expecting a near-cakewalk for the host nation. Luckily for Canada they're in Group B, where their closest competition should come from Puerto Rico. Springtime feel-good story J.J. Barea holds down the backcourt along with Carlos Arroyo and Knicks forward Renaldo Balkman.
The best-case scenario for Canada is a 3-1 record in group play, although 2-2 is more likely. And that's where it gets tricky. Only the top two teams from this tournament advance to next summer's London Games, while the third, fourth and fifth-place finishers will get another crack at an Olympic qualifier next year.
Is Canada at least the fifth-best team in this tournament? Maybe. But playing the games may tell a different story.
Likely Team Canada starters:
F Aaron Doornekamp
F Levon Kendall
C Joel Anthony
2G Andy Rautins
PG Cory Joseph
Bench: Jermaine Anderson, Denham Brown, Murphy Burnatkowski, Carl English, Jeff Ferguson, Alex Hartman, Kelly Olnyk, Jevohn Shepherd, Jesse Young.
Still on the topic of young ballers, word comes that Kevin Thomas, one of the Lone Star State-bound Canadians, has not qualified academically to attend the University of Texas this year. According to bloggers who cover the Longhorn program closely, the
Brampton, Ont., product will be forced to play at a U.S. junior college this season.
Not sure what the story is here, but this has happened to highly-touted Canadians in the past, most notably names like Theo Davis. Looks like Myck Kabongo will be the main Canuck in Austin this year.
And in other NCAA news, Toronto giant Sim Bhullar has decommitted from Xavier and will instead attend New Mexico State this fall. The seven-foot-four Bhullar was quoted in the Cincinnati Enquirer as saying that once he discovered he wouldn't qualify for a full scholarship at Xavier, he opted for the cheaper New Mexico State. The Aggies currently have five other Canadians on their roster -- Myck's cousin Christian Kabongo, Renaldo Dixon, Hernst Laroche, Daniel Mullings and Tyrone Watson.
For the record, Bhullar told the Enquirer that annual tuition was approximately $42,000 US at Xavier, versus $25,000 at New Mexico State. Bhullar, however, won't be able to play this season as NCAA rules state that an athlete must sit out one year after transferring schools.
I'll avoid snide remarks about the Miami Hurricanes.
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