USA Women Draw Japan, France, Nigeria for Olympic Preliminary Round Play
FIBA conducted the draw for the Tokyo Olympics women’s basketball competition virtually Tuesday from its headquarters in Mies, Switzerland, and the U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team has been drawn into Group A alongside host Japan, France and Nigeria for the July 26-Aug. 2 preliminary round.
Rounding out the 12-team field are Canada, Serbia, South Korea and Spain in Group A; and Group C features Australia, Belgium, China and Puerto Rico.
The XXXII Olympic Games women’s basketball competition will be held July 26-Aug. 8 at the Saitama Super Arena, Saitama, Japan.
The American women will open Olympic preliminary round play on July 27 against 2019 FIBA Africa champion Nigeria (all game times are to be announced by FIBA at a later date), will face host and 2019 FIBA Asia gold medalist Japan on July 30 and cap the first round with a contest against 2019 FIBA Europe silver medalist France on Aug. 2.
“It doesn’t matter who is in our pool, although our pool will be competitive, we have the same goal as always and that is to win the gold,” said Dawn Staley, USA National Team and University of South Carolina head coach. “Nigeria is getting better every year, France is always a tough team to play and Japan has such a different style of play than what we’re used to seeing, plus they’re the home team. We are not looking past any of these opponents. We know that we will have to beat the best of the competition to make it to the top of the podium.”
This summer, the 12 teams will be split into three groups of four teams apiece for preliminary play, held July 26-Aug. 2. Following the preliminary round, teams will be seeded, and the top two teams from each group and the two best third place teams, according to FIBA’s placement rules, will qualify for the medal round. In the medal round, teams will compete in a knockout bracket, with winners advancing from the Aug. 4 quarterfinals to the Aug. 6 semifinals. The bronze medal game will be played on Aug. 7 (3:30 a.m. EDT), and the gold medal game will be played on Aug. 8 (Aug. 7 at 10:30 p.m. EDT), on the morning of the 2020 closing ceremony.
The 2020 medalists will play six games, while teams not advancing to the quarterfinals will play three.
“It is a different format than we are used to seeing, but I am okay with that,” Staley added. “We’ll play just six games instead of eight, which gives us more time to prepare between some of our games than we had in the past.”
France, ranked No. 5 in FIBA’s world rankings, claimed the silver medal at the 2019 FIBA European Championship, and then earned a 3-0 record at the 2020 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in France to earn its Olympic berth. Over the past two Olympiads France finished fourth in 2016 and earned the silver medal in 2012.
Ranked No. 10 in the world according to the FIBA rankings, Japan earned an automatic berth to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by virtue of being the host nation. However, Japan earned a berth outright through FIBA’s Olympic qualifying process and clinched it after finishing third at the 2020 Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgium.
Nigeria is a team on the rise and made history at the 2018 FIBA World Cup as the first African nation to advance to the medal round at a top FIBA women’s event and finished in eighth place. After sweeping its competition in pre-Olympic qualifying, Nigeria earned its berth with a third-place finish at the 2020 Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Serbia.
Winners of the past six Olympic gold medals, the USA owns a record eight gold medals, one silver medal and one bronze medal, while compiling a 66-3 record in Olympic play since women’s basketball was first introduced to the Olympic program in 1976. In Olympic competition, the USA is 35-1 against teams in the 2020 field.
The No. 1 team in the world, the USA captured the gold medal at the 2018 FIBA World Cup, which qualified the nation for the 2020 Olympic Games. Regardless, the USA would have earned a berth through the FIBA qualifying system after earning gold with a 6-0 mark at the 2019 FIBA AmeriCup in Puerto Rico, going 3-0 for first place at the 2019 FIBA Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament and claiming first with a 3-0 record at the 2020 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Serbia.
In 2016, the most recent Olympic Games, the U.S. took the gold medal, while Spain captured silver and Serbia won bronze.
It is expected that the 12-member USA squad will be selected from the 2021 USA Basketball Women’s National Team pool, which currently stands at 36 athletes. They are: Ariel Atkins (Washington Mystics), Seimone Augustus (Los Angeles Sparks), Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Jordin Canada (Seattle Storm), Tina Charles (Washington Mystics), Layshia Clarendon (New York Liberty), Napheesa Collier (Minnesota Lynx), Elena Delle Donne (Washington Mystics), Diamond DeShields (Chicago Sky), Skylar Diggins-Smith (Phoenix Mercury), Stefanie Dolson (Chicago Sky), Asia Durr (New York Liberty), Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx), Allisha Gray (Dallas Wings), Chelsea Gray (Los Angeles Sparks), Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury), Tiffany Hayes (Atlanta Dream), Jewell Loyd (Seattle Storm), Kayla McBride (Minnesota Lynx), Angel McCoughtry (Las Vegas Aces), Kelsey Mitchell (Indiana Fever), Tiffany Mitchell (Indiana Fever), Arike Ogunbowale (Dallas Wings), Chiney Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks), Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks), Kelsey Plum (Las Vegas Aces), Katie Lou Samuelson (Dallas Wings), Odyssey Sims (Minnesota Lynx), Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm), Brittney Sykes (Los Angeles Sparks), Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury), Jasmine Thomas (Connecticut Sun), Morgan Tuck (Seattle Storm), Sydney Wiese (Los Angeles Sparks), Elizabeth Williams (Atlanta Dream), A’ja Wilson (Las Vegas Aces).
WNBA head coaches Dan Hughes of the Seattle Storm and Cheryl Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx, as well as George Washington University head coach Jennifer Rizzotti will serve as assistant coaches to Staley and the U.S. Olympic Team.