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Team Canada takes aim at Olympic berth

By in Sports & Health

KADE GATES

Canadian basketball can fast-track the development of their golden age of basketball with a good finish at the 2015 FIBA Americas. A top two finish qualifies Canada for the 2016 Summer Olympics, and a third to fifth place finish would qualify Canada for a final Olympic qualification tournament.

Canada warmed up for the FIBA Americas at the Tuto Marchand Continental Cup. They defeated Puerto Rico 78–72, Argentina 85–80, Brazil 80–64 and Dominican Republic 86–74, winning the tournament with a perfect 4–0 record.

After a small stumble in the opening game of the FIBA Americas, Canada fell 94–87 to Argentina — a game that saw newly signed Toronto Raptor Luis Scola put up 35 points. Canada then reeled off three straight victories, defeating Cuba 101–59, Venezuela 82–62 and Puerto Rico 112–92. Canada was aided through the first round with strong performances from Andrew Wiggins (15 points per game), Nik Stauskas (13.3 points per game) and Kelly Olynyk (11.5 points per game).

Canada showed that their poise was clearly building as they won a very hard fought game against Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico came out hot and were lights out from the three point line in the first half as Canada only led by two at the intermission, 46–44. Canada kept their cool in the second half and when their shots started to fall, they pulled away, beating Puerto Rico 112–92.

The focus for Canada now shifts to the second round of the FIBA Americas tournament as they will go up against Panama, Uruguay, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

Canada is by far the most talented team in the tournament, boasting eight NBA players to the rest of the tournaments combined three. Unfortunately for the Canadians, what the other nations lack in talent they more than make up for in experience.

Canada’s eldest player is former Carleton University Raven Aaron Doornekamp at the age of 29. The oldest starter for Canada is Kelly Olynyk of the Boston Celtics at the age of just 24. Only two of the 12 members of the roster are older than 25 and the youngest member is star player Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves at the ripe age of 20.

Canada’s toughest opponent of the second round will most likely be the host nation of Mexico. The Mexicans were unblemished through their first round of the tournament at 4–0. Team Mexico is led by Gustavo Ayon, who is averaging a double-double with 18.6 points per game and 12.2 rebounds per game.

Uruguay has been the shock of the tournament so far as they rode an opening day upset of world number nine ranked Brazil to a spot in the second round. Uruguay is led by Bruno Fitipaldo who is averaging 14.6 points per game.

Panama finished the first round of the FIBA Americas at 2–2 with wins over Uruguay and Brazil while dropping games to Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Panama could turn out to be a rout, as the Panamanians have given up the most points so far this tournament, while the Canadians have been the highest scoring team.

Dominican Republic was the second place finisher in Group B. The Dominicans may be playing a bit above their heads so far and could be in trouble facing the stronger Group A members such as Argentina, Puerto Rico and Canada. Canada could have a field day against a smaller Dominican team.

All in all, the Canadians should have no trouble advancing through the second round and into the semifinals, where a likely match-up against Mexico, Argentina or Venezuela will be the last thing stopping the Canadians from punching their ticket to the 2016 Summer Olympics for the first time since 2000. Next stop, Rio de Janeiro.

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