I agonized over today’s column evaluating the U.S. women going into the Beijing Olympics. I first started looking at some of the numbers comparing the USA’s performance in the 2006 World Championships to Australia and to the U.S. in the 2004 Athens Olympics last fall, but chose not to use them in my “state of the national team” story. Now that there’s so much talk of “what went wrong” for the USA in Brazil and the challenges facing the team going into Beijing, I figured it might be the right time to revisit the numbers.
I’ve got to say, even I’m not totally sold. One thing I didn’t fit into the column was that, as well as the U.S. defended overall in Brazil, its defense did break down against Russia in a way that didn’t happen in the semifinals and finals in Athens, when strong defense carried a mediocre U.S. offense against Russia and Australia. Still, I think that offense was more of an issue in that game, and who’s to say how things are different if Oxana Rakhmatulina – 4-of-22 from three-point range the rest of the tournament – doesn’t hit three triples. That’s the kind of thing that can happen in a one-and-done format that isn’t necessarily predictive going forward.
So, what do you think? Are the numbers compelling? Is the U.S. the clear favorite? I’m curious what readers think.