August 08, 2008

Somewhere Dr. James Naismith is having a laugh.

History's most famous P.E. instructor conceived basketball as a team game emphasizing skill over strength. And it's the institutional neglect of this very principle which has enabled nascent hoops hotbeds like Spain, Argentina and Greece to threaten America's place as undisputed king of the court.

That said, this year's U.S. team should win the gold medal. They have the best coach and they have the best players. Whether they have the best team -- and I believe they do -- remains to be seen.

But it's been eight years since the U.S. even reached the final of a major world tournament. Which is why our pre-Olympics power rankings finds the so-called Redeem Team one spot short of the No. 1 designation once considered a birthright.

Here's a quick look at the international pecking order enter the Olympic hoops tournament. The morning after the Aug. 24 final, we'll debrief with a post-Olympics edition. In the meantime, I'll be live blogging Team USA's games on FanNation starting Sunday when the Americans face off against China.

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