In the finals weeks leading up to the Olympics, we profile on the U.S.'s top medal contenders, the Women's National Basketball team.
Head Coach: Geno Auriemma
If you want to talk about an Olympic pedigree, the U.S. national women’s basketball team is the place to start; they’re 50-3 in Olympic play with six gold medals, one silver and one bronze in eight appearances. They’re winners of the last four gold medals and are in the midst of a 33-game win streak dating back to the 1992 Games in Barcelona.
F Tamika Catchings – Team USA’s offensive prowess is headed up by Catchings, a two-time Olympic gold medalist (2004, 2008), a WNBA MVP (2011) and a former Lady Vol who helped Tennessee to four SEC titles, a national championship and a 134-10 record during her time with the school. Evidence of her abilities might best be summarized by a 1997 stat line: 25 points, 18 rebounds, 11 assists, 10 steals and 10 blocks, the first quintuple-double officially credited to anyone.
C Sylvia Fowles – Fowles, the 6’6” center, is what you would call a four-tool player and the defensive center piece for team USA. Her WNBA career numbers speak for themselves: 16.3 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 2.0 bpg and somehow she manages to fit in 1.1 spg. If you asked her to pass to up the assist numbers she probably would, but you’d rather have her scoring at will.
C/F/G Candace Parker – Parker, the sister of NBA star Tony, is a one-(wo)man band: she plays whatever position she wants/is required of her and plays it superbly. Selected first overall in the 2008 WNBA draft, she averages 17.4/9.6/2.9 a game and is one of only three professional American basketball players to win both the Rookie of the Year award and the MVP in the same season (the other two are Wes Unseld and Wilt Chamberlain).
Player to Watch:
F Maya Moore – The youngest member of Team USA, Moore earned her spot on the roster with an impressive collegiate career in which she averaged 18.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg and .526/.410/.776 career shooting mark. Though talent abounds on Team USA, Moore’s presence on the bench is part of the reason this team is so deep; during their pre-Olympic game against China, Moore came off the bench and netted 15 points in the lopsided 100-62 win.
Along with head coach Geno Auriemma, Team USA features six former UConn Huskies, a testament to the strength of the school’s program. Since 1991, UConn has had 7 NCAA titles, 13 Final Four appearances, 17 conference titles and holds the record for longest consecutive win streak (men’s or women’s) at 90 games.
Olympic Scouting Report: Put it this way: if Team USA does not win gold it will go down as one of the biggest upsets of the year and probably in the history of the Olympics. This year, the team includes seven returning Olympians from the 2008 Games along with a handful of new talent, enough that team veteran Sue Bird told ESPN this might be the deepest, most complete team to date. “I think back to 2004, I don’t know that we were as deep…You can go out there and exert all your energy because you know that with the next person coming in, there’s going to be no drop-off.”
That said, there is work to be done; in their first tune-up of 2012 against China (coincidentally the first team they’ll face in London) they allowed 21 turnovers to only 16 assists. While there is little doubt Team USA could ride their offense to another gold medal, they’ll want to tighten up their defense to ensure untimely mistakes don’t lead to misfortune.