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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Recent history would practically guarantee Argentina would take part in the 2016 Olympic Games basketball competition, as has happened in the last three Games. But at the same time, reality would dictate otherwise. This national team is quite different from years past in which the Golden Generation won gold in Greece 2004, bronze in Beijing 2008 and a respectable fourth place in London 2012. Those accomplishments are but a fleeting memory.
And the same goes for the Golden Generation itself.
Argentina is mired in the uncomfortable situation of uncertainty to obtain a qualifying slot for the Olympics. It must vie, with a larger group of contenders, for the precious two direct qualifying slots to the Río de Janeiro Games. Nothing short of maintaining a high level throughout the FIBA Tournament of the Americas will suffice.
Argentina has a team with a clear gap in makeup, experience coming with their two main players, Luis Scola and Andres Nocioni. And then the others. These young players need to step up. In addition, because both Scola and Nocioni are 35, and no other selection competition exists that is more exhausting than the Torneo de las Américas -- with 10 games in 12 days for those who arrive at the finals.
What does Argentina have in its favor in helping to win a bid?
Above all, a player like Scola is key. In three of the last four qualifying continental tournaments, he was appointed team captain. He is a positive leader, who will be in the good company with Nocioni.
He also can count on reliable team play. Although the new players are still in an adjustment stage, all the men put their team first, something that is not infrequent here on this continent. With whatever the result may be, Argentina will boast a particularly orderly game, down to passes and a wise selection of shots.
Besides, one can recognize a predominantly young team (average age 24.2 years), that demonstrates character and power of ability to react when faced with drawbacks. Perhaps this may frequently recur for them.
What factors are in play against the Argentina team?
Among the deficiencies Argentina suffers is the lack of an interior game. It sounds strange to say this with Scola there. It's just that each time the captain distances himself from the NBA court, he finds himself with more responsibility to come back to. In Argentina's favor is that its rivals do not boast big inside games, either.
Unlike other years, Argentina also does not rely on players with an attitude for tough defense. It's true the team has discipline to defend, but it's displayed intermittently. If Argentina wants to secure an Olympic spot, it will need a stout defensive performance.
Another area in which Argentina suffers is its lack of offensive options. Besides Scola and Nocioni, there aren't many other go-to players.
The Argentines also lack consistent shooters. That's why Selem Safar, Nicolas Brussino and Leo Mainoldi are there, but they still haven't contributed what Scola needs: a consistent threat on 3-pointers that forces defenses to defend and gives Scola space to work with inside.
This is different Argentina team. With barely two legends like Scola and Nocioni, and a group of perhaps the right players, although there is still a lot to show internationally. But watch out, because seven of the Argentina players are younger than 25 (five younger than 23). The future of Argentina basketball will be on display.