Home » ‘We have to earn it’: How Opals, Boomers could realise their Paris medal dreams

‘We have to earn it’: How Opals, Boomers could realise their Paris medal dreams

‘We have to earn it’: How Opals, Boomers could realise their Paris medal dreams

The first pot includes the two best-ranked teams, the second the third and fourth-ranked teams, the third the fifth and sixth, and the fourth the seventh and eighth.

The teams from the first pot will be drawn against the teams from fourth and the teams from the second will be drawn against those from the third.

Presuming gold medal favourites, the USA – in both the men’s and women’s competitions – will be in pot one, the Aussies must avoid finishing seventh or eighth as those two face the top-two teams. Teams from the same group can’t play each other until the semis.

The winners of the quarter-finals play off for the medals. The top two teams, if they win, can’t play each other in the semis either, so finishing in the top two is a huge advantage.

Why the Opals are a realistic gold medal chance

In women’s basketball, Team USA are in dominant form. They have an all-time 70-3 [win-loss] record and last suffered a loss in 1992. They will again start as the raging favourites, even without young superstar Caitlin Clark, who was sensationally left off the team.

Australian Ezi Magbegor (right) takes on US star and former No.2 overall draft pick Cameron Brink in the WNBA.Credit: Getty Images

The Opals looked destined to challenge the US in the 2022 FIBA World Cup in Sydney before China knocked them out of the semi-finals. Since then, Lauren Jackson’s return has gone from strength to strength, while the likes of Ezi Magbegor, Rebecca Allen and Alanna Smith are all in career-best form in the WNBA while Izzy Borlase, Tolo and others have looked sharp for the domestic-based Opals.

The team has depth, size, and plenty of experience, but there remains some questions around the point guard position with the shooting struggles of Sami Whitcomb, captain Tess Madgen’s recent return from injury, and Kristy Wallace’s history of injuries.

”We have a lot of versatility in our side and we know we can mix it with the best, so we are excited to get over there,” Madgen said on Friday.

Marianna Tolo of the Opals drives against China.

Marianna Tolo of the Opals drives against China.Credit: Getty Images

Why they could miss out altogether…

Tolo laid down exactly why she will refuse to let her teammates get too far ahead of themselves in their dreams of a medal.

“The last two [lead-up] tournaments given me confidence in this group,” Tolo said.

“I feel like we are right there where we want to be. But the Olympics are a whole other beast.

“It’s a high, high-pressure situation and everyone brings their best. Everyone comes to play, and we can’t just turn up and expect to be there [in the medal rounds] as it is not going to happen like that.

Australia’s Lauren Jackson and Josh Giddey.

Australia’s Lauren Jackson and Josh Giddey.Credit: Artwork: Matt Davidson, Photos: Getty Images

“In my first Olympics, in Rio, we were winning games by one or two points, and then we got knocked out in the quarters. It can be that one game that matters – that can be the difference between medalling or not.

“We can’t go in with the attitude like we expect to be there – we have to earn it through the way we play.”

Patty Mills lets a shot fly.

Patty Mills lets a shot fly.Credit: Getty Images

Why the Boomers can challenge for a medal

Josh Giddey, Josh Green and Dante Exum are all poised to fire and their ability to play fast and create could be a point of difference, as could Jock Landale and Duop Reath inside, with both proving to be a great fit with their teammates.

Patty Mills, Joe Ingles and Matthew Dellavedova know this is their last chance at a gold medal and they will be desperate.

Boomers coach Brian Goorjian says every team in Australia’s group of death could push for gold, including his charges.

“We can compete with anybody but it’s going to be nasty, and we’ve got to play a certain way and focus on us right now,” Goorjian said.

“We have a formula here that I think could be pretty special, and the coaching staff feels that way as well.”

Why the Boomers could fall short

Injuries, fatigue from NBA Finals duo Green and Exum, and veterans like Mills and Ingles not meshing well enough with their younger teammates could all be reasons for a possible green and gold demise.

Mills’ recent shooting woes are also a potential issue, given how much he has been relied on in the past.

That’s not to mention the bevy of NBA superstars on medal contenders, such as USA (LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry), Serbia (Nikola Jokic) and France (Victor Wembanyama).

But Bogut fears it could be a bad loss that takes the Boomers into an impossible quarter-final.

“I think the podium is going to be very hard,” Bogut said on the NBL’s Gold Standard podcast.

“We’ve got the pool of death and people aren’t talking about that. We’ve got a pool that’s going to get two qualifiers from Europe.

“I hate having two qualifiers because they’re playing basketball right now. They’re playing games that matter. They’re not playing China. They’re not playing USA and Serbia in friendlies where they hide their sets. These qualifiers they’re playing, they mean everything.”

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