This time around appears that it may be a little different. Already the USA men have shown they are in strong form and the disappointments of the last eight years have hit home with the stars of the team. The blasé attitude has departed to some extent and the USA is doing all it can to waltz home with a gold medal in Beijing.
The Australians play a phyical game and have a significant amount of size in their lineup, which may bristle a few feathers, as it did in September 2000 during the pre-Olympic match held in Melbourne (see photo, right). Vince Carter walked away with a chant from the crowd he possibly had not heard before after not only injuring referee Bill Mildenhall, but also clashing with and standing over Aussie basketball legend Andrew Gaze.
Whilst firey personality Shane Heal is not with the team this time around, the Australians will no doubt still try to make a statement against USA this time around. Only this time it may all be through their play on the court.
Team USA has perhaps its strongest lineup in many years and definitely its most focussed. The athelticism of the team is unprecedented with players such as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade headlining that area. The key area of weakness from the outside looking in, is the lack of depth in the big man department. Carlos Boozer, Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh certainly have an uphill struggle should any of their number have to miss time due to injury or foul trouble and will rely on players such as James to help out down low.
C: ANDREW BOGUT v DWIGHT HOWARD
Whilst Bogut has the height advantage on Howard, Superman from Orlando is a physical specimen that should not be messed with. Australia's front line may have one of the better chances of challenging Howard inside and at least stifling his dominance on the boards. It is worth noting that Bogut's performances against Howard's Magic during his NBA career have been less than flattering. He has performed well below his season averages in points and rebounds against Orlando, whilst Howard has had no such problems with the Bucks. Look to Howard to frollick untethered on the glass. In the background: Chris Anstey (AUS) v Chris Bosh (USA) -- Anstey likes to play on the perimeter a lot, whilst Bosh can mix it up inside or midrange.
PF: MATTHEW NIELSEN v LeBRON JAMES
Once again, Nielsen's height advantage on James may be negated by King James' superior athleticism and raw strength. James is undoubtably only rivalled by teammate Bryant for status as the most talented player in the world and this is an area where Australia will really struggle to contain Team USA. The defensive assignment on James may well fall to someone like David Barlow who has superior lateral quickness and athleticism, leaving Nielsen with a smaller player to guard. Nielsen has proven on the world stage in many stratas that he can perform at a high level and as captain this time around, will be looking to serve his country proudly. He will do his job on the boards and scoring from mid-range, but playing at LBJ's level is a duty beyond the call for the star from Penrith. In the background: David Andersen (AUS) v Carlos Boozer (USA) -- these guys have quite similar games, both can bang inside or hit the jump shot and will provide significant support off the bench.
SF: DAVID BARLOW v KOBE BRYANT
Barlow is a solid and consistent threat from the perimeter, particularly when he has his feet set. See John Rillie's insight on Barlow's game here. The "Prototype" will try his best to keep up with either Bryant or James on the defensive end, but whatever the assignment will be, he will struggle to keep up, as will almost anyone in the world. Bryant has designated himself the "Doberman" of the squad, so it is likely that he will be a harrowing force on the defensive end for Team USA and will look to cool down whichever Aussie gets hot from the perimeter early (whether it be Barlow or Brad Newley). In the background: Mark Worthington (AUS) v Carmelo Anthony -- once again, these guys have similar games. They both can score in a variety of ways, play big for their position and have strong on-court personalities. Worthington likes to play defence though, something Melo is not renowned for.
SG: BRAD NEWLEY v DERON WILLIAMS
Newley has shown some glimpses of brilliance so far in the Olympic leadup. His ability to slash to the basket and hit shots from the perimeter may cause some problems for USA should they decide to stick with the Deron-CP3 backcourt that they have been using for extensive stretches in previous matches. On the other end, Williams will continue to razzle and dazzle in his ball-handling tandem with Chris Paul and will give the Aussies fits at containing his solid decision-making. In the background: Glen Saville (AUS) v Dwyane Wade (USA) -- Sav is a veteran with great poise and versatility, but Wade is in a whole different stratosphere. Look to Wade to play a significant role, whilst Sav provides support in spurts.
PG: CJ BRUTON v CHRIS PAUL
As one of the team's veterans, Bruton will be looking to steady the ship for Australia and not let them get too overawed against their more famous opposition. CJ is a scrappy player that is not afraid to fall on the floor and take a charge (almost too willing some would say) and will do his best to stay in front of Paul, one of the quickest players in the tournament. Much of the time however, it may prove useful for the Boomers to bring out Patrick Mills' blinding pace to have a shot at matching CP3, who will no doubt continue his brilliant domination from the backcourt. In the background: Patrick Mills (AUS) v Jason Kidd (USA) -- the master and the apprentice. Mills at 19 years of age, will see his minutes to give the Boomers a change of pace when things aren't going to plan, meanwhile Kidd will be brought into steady the ship in much the same way, but rather he will be on court due to his experience and heady decision-making.
Australian coach Brian Goorjian will be happy with this result if Australia does not embarass themselves in a blowout. To date the Boomers have acquitted themselves well in all of their matches (wins and losses) and will be looking to keep the confidence levels up going into the Olympic tournament. Noone likes to lose, regardless of there being nothing at stake, so look to Team USA to try their best to make a statement with a big victory here, punctuated by some late game fast-break dunks.
Also see: Australian Boomers Olympic Preview