Marc Stein laid out what he thought were each national team's chances for a gold Saturday, but by Saturday night, things had changed. Australia blew out France.
Early assessment of the Olympic Power Rankings: @andrewbogut will surely have something to say about the blowhard who had Australia at No. 8— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) August 6, 2016
Still, Stein's rankings are the best of a small bunch. Here's how he ranks Argentina (No. 6) and Croatia (No. 9). They're also a good preview. He also reports that Greivis Vasquez "is still recovering from the ankle injury that cost him most of last season in Milwaukee." That's further than what the Nets stated when he dropped out of the Olympics. At that point, Sean Marks would only say Vasquez will need "time to get back to full strength."
One more ride for Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni and Carlos Delfino ... mainstays for the Albiceleste that should be so familiar by now that last names surely suffice.
We've been lamenting since the 2014 World Cup in Spain what a shame it is that Argentina seems to have so little in the pipeline to try to carry on the proud tradition established by its Golden Generation, which won an unforgettable gold medal in Greece in 2004. Yet we must note that there is some new blood here with a couple of Texas-bound youngsters joining the vets: Dallas Mavericks signee Nicolas Brussino and San Antonio Spurs-bound Patricio Garino.
The sad reality, though, is that this figures to be the last major tournament for some time that Argentina can expect to be any sort of force.
The end is unavoidably at hand, more than a decade removed from Argentina's famous victories over the United States in the 2002 World Championships in Indianapolis and the 2004 Summer Games in Greece that played such a big part in triggering the broad changes Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski would eventually implement with USA Basketball.
Scola is Argentina's flag-bearer at these Olympics and point guard Facundo Campazzo is always good for a Jason Williams-esque highlight or two, so perhaps we're getting sucked into the nostalgia of it all to have the Argentinians this high. A bronze medal would represent a tremendous (and frankly improbable) showing for a proud squad fighting a futile battle against Father Time.
Long known for its penchant for self-destruction, Croatia is finally starting to rewrite its reputation, thanks to a promising crop of youngsters and a huge recent overtime victory over Italy -- in Italy -- to secure its Olympic berth in a win-or-go-home game.
This is the Mario & Dario Show now: Orlando's Mario Hezonja and Philadelphia's Dario Saric will team with top scoring threat Brooklyn's Bojan Bogdanovic to lead a squad of potential spoilers in Group B.
Depth is a problem at the moment -- as is point guard play -- but Mario and Dario have brought a new spirit and fight to a basketball nation that badly needed both.
Croatia also arrives in Rio, like France and their forever rivals from Serbia, freshly battle tested because it had to win the last-chance qualifier featuring Italy and Greece just to get here. Which can only help with sharpness.
The committee obviously would have been even more enthused about what's happening with the Croats if Dragan Bender, freshly drafted by the Phoenix Suns away from perennial Israeli power Maccabi Tel Aviv, was on the Olympic roster. But there's plenty to see here even without Bender ... especially for Sixers fans who have been waiting for a firsthand glimpse of Saric's talents for two years.
For the record, Team USA is No. 1 (duh). Croatia's opponent Sunday at 6 p.m. is Spain, No. 2 and Argentina's opponent at 9:30 p.m. is Nigeria, No. 10.