Advertisement

USA Basketball learns its groupings for the Paris Olympics. Tough draws await the men and women

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr gestures toward players during the first half of the team's NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks in San Francisco, Monday, March 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

USA Basketball's men's team will see Serbia and South Sudan in two of its three group-stage games at the Paris Olympics, while the U.S. women will open their schedule in a gold-medal-game rematch against Japan in France this summer.

FIBA, the sport's global organizing body, held the draw for the Paris Games in Mies, Switzerland, on Tuesday, slotting the fields for the 12-team basketball tournaments. The women's field is complete; the men's field still has four spots that will go to winners of qualifying tournaments in early July before the Olympics open on July 27.

The U.S. men will be coached by Steve Kerr and are seeking a fifth consecutive gold medal, the U.S. women will be coached by Cheryl Reeve and are seeking an eighth consecutive Olympic title. Both are ranked No. 1 in the world, and both programs have been — by far — the dominant force in Olympic basketball since its inception.

The U.S. men open with Serbia on July 28. The U.S. women open with Japan on July 29. Other group-stage games for the U.S. men are July 31 against South Sudan and Aug. 3 against a qualifier. The U.S. women also play on Aug. 1 against Belgium and Aug. 4 against Germany.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge of preparing for and playing in the Olympic tournament," Kerr said. "The excitement continues to build, especially now that we know we will face both Serbia, who finished second at the World Cup last summer, and South Sudan, who we will get to host in London as part of the USA Basketball Showcase.”

The American men will play South Sudan in London a few days before arriving in Paris as part of a pre-Olympics series of exhibitions.

But particularly on the men's side, gold for the Americans is no longer assured. The U.S. didn't medal at the 2019 World Cup in China nor the 2023 World Cup in the Philippines, and although the Americans intend to send a more star-studded roster to the Olympics — LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Joel Embiid and others have said they want to play — that doesn't guarantee anything.

Carmelo Anthony, who was at the draw as a FIBA ambassador, said it's clear that international men's teams “feel confident and comfortable enough to go out there and compete with the USA.”

“It’s all about confidence that these other players and countries have,” said Anthony, one of two three-time men's basketball gold medalists — fellow U.S. standout Kevin Durant, who will bid for a fourth gold in Paris, is the other. “As far as USA goes, I am praying and hoping that we send the correct team out there. I know what it feels like when you have the right team that’s out there and you go out there trying to win. I’m sure the U.S. will bring the guys that they need to bring in order to get that feeling back.”

The U.S. women will have a gold-medal game rematch from the Tokyo Olympics in the group stage. The Americans open their quest for an eighth consecutive gold medal with group-stage games against Belgium, Germany and Japan — the host three years ago that fell to the U.S. 90-75 in the final at Saitama, Japan.

The U.S. also played Belgium in the most recent women's World Cup, winning 87-72 in 2022 in a matchup that was a single-digit game in the second half.

That said, the world's top-ranked team will still be a huge favorite.

“Obviously, you can never go past the U.S. They've proven their dominance and they're at the pinnacle of the game,” FIBA ambassador and former Australia star Penny Taylor said. “But what I love to see is teams bringing their unique style of play to the Olympics. I love watching Japan and what they do and what they do so well. China, obviously, has always been competitive. My heart is always with Australia and I love to see them out there and I hope they know past Opals are right there with them.”

USA Basketball plans to announce the men's and women's teams for the Paris Games later this spring.

Serbia's men's roster will likely feature Denver star Nikola Jokic, an NBA MVP and NBA Finals MVP who is one of the game's most dominant players. Serbia finished second to Germany at the World Cup last summer and didn't even have Jokic on the roster.

In Group C, the U.S. will also face South Sudan and the winner of a qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico — either Mexico, Ivory Coast, Lithuania, Italy, Bahrain or Puerto Rico.

In Group A, Australia and Canada await two qualifying tournament winners — one from Spain (participating nations Spain, Finland, Poland, Bahamas, Lebanon, Angola) and the other in Greece (participating nations Slovenia, New Zealand, Croatia, Egypt, Dominican Republic and Greece).

Host France, featuring Victor Wembanyama, headlines Group B and will face World Cup champion Germany, Japan and the winner of the Latvia qualifying tournament (Georgia, Philippines, Latvia, Brazil, Cameroon, Montenegro).

“There are no groups that are easy after this draw,” FIBA secretary general Andreas Zagklis said. “Whoever you see smiling, just say, ‘Well, see you in August.’”

MEN'S GROUPS

Group A: Australia (world ranking 5), Canada (7), Spain OQT winner, Greece OQT winner.

Group B: Germany (3), France (9), Japan (26), Latvia OQT winner.

Group C: United States (1), Serbia (4), South Sudan (33), Puerto Rico OQT winner.

WOMEN'S GROUPS

Group A: China (world ranking 2), Spain (4), Serbia (10), Puerto Rico (11).

Group B: Australia (3), Canada (5), France (7), Nigeria (12).

Group C: United States (1), Belgium (6), Japan (9), Germany (19).

SCHEDULE

Group stage: Men, July 27-Aug. 3. Women, July 28-Aug. 4.

Quarterfinals: Men, Aug. 6. Women, Aug. 7.

Semifinals: Men, Aug. 8. Women, Aug. 9.

Medal games: Men, Aug. 10. Women, Aug. 11.

FORMAT

It is the same for the men's and women's tournaments. Teams will play three group stage games. The top two finishers in each group, plus the two best third-place teams, will advance to the quarterfinals.

___

AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Mies, Switzerland, contributed to this report.

___

AP Summer Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games