USA Men’s Basketball Still Gold Medal Favorites, But Losses Cause Olympics Odds to Plunge

  • BetMGM’s opening line for USA gold was -1,000; it now sits at -250
  • Team USA lost two of three exhibition games this month and its first Olympic contest
  • The team still has a good chance to qualify for the medal round
  • Team USA men’s basketball has won 15 gold medals in 18 Olympics
After an opening round loss to France, the USA men’s basketball team is just a -250 favorite to win gold at the Olympics after opening at -1,000. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Uphill climb after first round loss

The USA men’s basketball team has stumbled out of the gate at the 2020 Summer Olympics, losing to France 83-76 in its first game of group play. It was the team’s first loss in the Olympics since 2004. Because of the early loss and the team’s struggles in exhibition games leading up to Tokyo, sportsbooks have dropped USA’s odds of winning gold considerably.

the team shocking lost to Nigeria, 90-87

According to The Action Network, BetMGM set the opening line on the USA men’s team winning it all at -1,000, meaning it was an overwhelming favorite. A lock if there ever was one. On July 10, however, the team shockingly lost to Nigeria, 90-87, and the line fell to -800. Two days later, USA lost to Australia and the gold medal futures line dropped to -600. Still a massive favorite, but things were shaky.

Fans breathed a sigh of relief when the USA beat Spain in its final exhibition game before the Olympics, but when the NBA’s second-leading scorer Bradley Beal had to withdraw from competition because of COVID-19 protocols and Kevin Love dropped out because of injury, BetMGM’s line fell even more to -350.

Now, a few days after the loss to France – a game in which the USA led by seven with less than four minutes left – the gold medal futures line is down to -250 at most books, with a low of -222 at Resorts.

All hope is not lost

So, despite losing three of its last four games, including the opening game in Tokyo, the USA men’s basketball team is still the favorite to take gold, even if it is not the overwhelming favorite it once was.

There is plenty of reason to be optimistic if you are a USA basketball fan or have money riding on the team’s results. Most of all, this is still the most talented team in the field. While not every American basketball star is on the team, there are still guys like Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, and Jayson Tatum on the roster. In addition, Devin Booker arrived late after playing in the NBA Finals, as did Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, whose Milwaukee Bucks won their first NBA title since 1971. The two of them didn’t get into Tokyo until 1am the day of the first game. There isn’t much time left, but the team could very well still be gelling and figuring out their roles.

Team USA needs to defeat the Czech Republic and Iran

Team USA’s path to the medal round should not be all that tough, either. There are three groups of four teams each in the current stage. Each team plays the three other teams in their group once. The top two in each group plus the two best third place teams move on to the final phase. To finish at least second, Team USA needs to defeat the Czech Republic and Iran, neither of which is particularly strong.

Should Team USA qualify for the final phase, they will have to win three games in a row in a standard eight-team tournament format.

Team USA is historically dominant

The sheer fact that the USA men’s basketball team even lost a single game is shocking to many. It is by far the most successful team in international competition, medaling in all 18 Olympic Games in which it has participated, winning 15 golds.

Up until the late 1980’s, US teams were made up of amateur players, typically stars at the college level, but after seven straight gold medals, they had fallen behind other countries – primarily Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union – who fielded teams of professional players. In 1989, FIBA changed the rules to allow NBA players to compete on Team USA, which led to the famed “Dream Team” of 1992. The team was filled with Hall of Famers like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan, and ran roughshod over its opponents.

The USA has been dominant ever since except for a stretch in the early 2000’s. The team did not medal at the 2002 FIBA World Championships and only managed a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympic Games.

This year’s team is generally regarded as the weakest the USA has put together in a long time, but still has the talent where, after a loss, it is still considered the gold medal favorite.