The best opals have fire to them. The Australian Opals are emulating their gemstone namesake on the basketball court. The stone while polished and brilliant, has a uniqueness all its own due to the intense fiery colors seen flashing depending on the angle at which you hold them. Ready and determined to unseat the champs, the Opals shown dogged focus in putting country before WNBA in preparations for the 2012 Olympics.
Australia | Group B
Olympic Games history: This is Australia's eighth consecutive appearance, and they have earned medals in their last four trips to the games (Third - 1996, Second - 2000, 2004, 2008).
Place at 2010 FIBA World Championship: Fifth (7-2 overall record)
How they got here: 2011 FIBA Oceana champions
Key player: Lauren Jackson | Rising star: Liz Cambage | Legend: Michele Timms
Names you might recognize: Lauren Jackson, the Australian flag bearer for the Opening Ceremonies and all-everything player for the Seattle Storm. Liz Cambage, the Tulsa Shock's first all-star since relocating from Detroit. Fellow members of the youth movement are Abby Bishop, Jenna O'Hea and Rachel Jarry. Of all the teams not named USA, you'll find that nearly every Australian player on the roster will ring a bell, at the very least.
Statistical leaders: Six of the top 10 scorers at the FIBA Oceana Qualifying Tournament were Aussies. Suzy Batkovic led the charge, scoring 17.7 points a game with Abby Bishop's 16.7 just behind her. This twosome also led the tournament in rebounding, combining for 15.7 boards a game. Of the 15 total blocks in the tournament, 14 were by Aussies.
As much as the U.S. dominates their neighbors in competition, Australia did the same to New Zealand, winning 77-64, 92-73 and 82-57. In pre-Olympics outings, Australia has an 11-3 record, posting losses to Hungary, Russia and France, but sweeping four meetings with Brazil.
The Aussies have height and defense. They've got shooters and scorers. And they've got that fire. If they can make it through group play relatively unharmed, a U.S. vs. Australia title tilt could be in the cards.
Preliminary round schedule: vs. Great Britain (July 28), vs. France (July 30), vs. Brazil (Aug. 1), vs. Russia (Aug. 3), vs. Canada (Aug. 5)