FIBA Americas opens Tuesday, watch out for Argentina

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Argentina is one stacked squad. And they are playing at home.

Which is why everyone expects them to exit with one of the two Olympic berths to be handed out at the FIBA Americas Tournament, which starts Tuesday in Mar Del Plata, Argentina.

The top two finishers in the 10-team Americas tournament get an automatic berth in the 2012 London Olympics. Finishers three through five get a ticket to the pre-Olympics Qualifying Tournament next year where they can face off against a number of good teams trying to back door into the Olympics.

Argentina, as we said, is loaded. They have the man who should be the single best player in this tournament in Manu Ginobili. After that they have Luis Scola, who was one of the standout players at last year’s World Championships. Up front with Scola can be Andres Nocioni. The point guard is Carlos Delfino, and they have Fabricio Oberto. And that’s just the NBA guys, the rest of the team is season international players.

They should walk away with the gold.

The second Olympic berth will likely to one of three teams:

The Dominican Republic: They have an impressive front line with Al Horford and Charlie Villanueva. Horford will be a steady scoring presence in the paint and, if his NBA career is any indication, Villanueva will be awesome one out of every for games or so. Francisco Garcia will hold down the backcourt.

Puerto Rico: They rival Argentina for the best backcourt in this tournament, starting Carlos Arroyo and J.J. Barea. Not the tallest or best defensive backcourt, but one that can make plays in international ball. Up front they have Renaldo Balkman, who will bring energy and defense.

Brazil: If they had their full compliment of players, we’d say they would rival Argentina, but Nene, Anderson Varejao and Leandro Barbosa all are sitting this one out. That leaves Tiago Splitter to carry the load. That may well not be enough