Kentucky coach John Calipari is in Venezuela as you read this. Coaching the Dominican Republic. Al Horford is in Venezuela as well. So are Andrei Kirilenko, J.J. Barea and a host of other players you know.
All trying to earn their ticket to London for the 2012 Olympics.
FIBA’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament — all the teams that just missed out qualifying in their regions for the Olympics — are in Venezuela competing for the final three spots in the London games.
Twelve teams get invited to the Olympic men’s basketball tournament and nine teams have already earned their spot — including the United States, which qualified by winning the FIBA World Championships in 2010.
The final three spots are determined from a tournament featuring all the teams that just missed out last year in qualifying. And there are some good teams — Russia, Lithuania, Puerto Rico, and the Calipari-led Dominican Republic among them. (Don’t think Calipari agreed to coach them because a highly recruited player is coming out of the island nation in 2014, that couldn’t be it at all.)
Here is how it works — the top two teams from each group advance to an 8-team single elimination tournament. What are the groups? Glad you asked:
Group A – Greece, Puerto Rico, Jordan
Group B – Nigeria, Lithuania, Venezuela
Group C – Russia, Dominican Republic, Korea
Group D – Macedonia, New Zealand, Angola
The two teams that reach the championship game get automatic berths. The third place game between the semi-finals losers will be the one to watch, a trip to London is on the line.
Predicting who could come out of any single elimination tournament is risky — that’s why the NCAA Tournament is so fun — but I would expect Russia to advance with the Dominican (Horford scored 30 in their first game), Puerto Rico, Greece and Lithuania in the mix for the other spots.
Two of the countries that advance from this land in Team USA’s Olympic first round group.