Men's basketball actually began on Wednesday at the Pan-Am Games, but Team USA's victory over the Dominican Republic seemed to be overlooked by my basketball loving brethren. Thursday night's game for the USA, made up of players signed to play in the NBA Development League this season, should get a bit more publicity however as the game against Brazil will be played live on ESPN2.
Team USA will need better play from its backcourt, a point I mentioned in Wednesday's recap, if they're going to start the tournament with a 2-0 record. Coach Nate Tibbetts started Jerome Dyson and Donald Sloan in the backcourt against the Dominican Republic, but Dyson didn't look to move the ball around as often as I would have liked and Sloan is a much better player with the ball in his hands as opposed to playing second fiddle. In all actuality, it seemed the second-team tandem of Blake Ahearn and Justin Dentmon made up a better backcourt as they offer an interestic dynamic that's difficult to match up with on the offensive end.
The bigs will also need to be more consistent, though part of the problem on Wednesday night may have been due in part to foul trouble fooling with the rotation. Greg Stiemsma and Brian Butch totaled less than 25 total minutes on the court combined; while Lance Thomas and Marcus Lewis filled in as "bigs" admirably in the second half, I'm of the opinion that the team would fare just fine with more Stiemsma on the defensive end.
The Brazilian team isn't quite as sexy of a match-up as Jack Michael Martinez and the Dominican Republic team was, in part due to insurance issues keeping Tiago Splitter, Marcelo Huertas and Co. away from Guadalajra this week, but Brasilia still should offer some stiff competition when looking at their victory over Uruguay on Wednesday night.
The team's best player is probably Guilherme Giovannoni, a 6-foot-8 swingman that's been dominant in the domestic Brazilian leagues after receiving some looks by the Cleveland Cavaliers during the summer of 2004. His strength is his shooting and could be a tough match-up as Brazil played most of Wednesday's games with just one big on the court.
The team's other player that received considerable playing time on the FIBA Americas roster is Marcelo Machado, a 6-foot-7 wing that could hurt Team USA if he's able to use screens to get open looks. Machado is coming in cold after struggling against Uruguay, however, making just two of his 10 attempts from the field.
Without an experienced big man, this game could turn into a track meet ... one that the USA should win, however, as long as they're able to play under control.