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Summer Games odds: Betting the men’s basketball tournament

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The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are well underway, and we’ve already witnessed some early drama with Olympic men’s basketball odds that have impacted the outright markets. 

The USA Basketball Men’s National team remains the betting favorite at -250 (71.4% implied probability) at BetMGM to win the gold medal for the fourth Summer Olympics in a row. The U.S. team rebounded from an ugly group stage loss to France by smashing Iran and getting back on track to reach the podium. 

Even after the convincing win over Iran, the vulnerabilities have shown up for a USA squad that can’t just throw together a roster of NBA players with minimal practice and dominate. This has opened up the possibilities of another basketball nation taking the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics — the teams trailing USA on the oddsboard are Australia (+800) and Slovenia (+900).

The Aussies upset the Americans during the exhibition circuit just under two weeks ago, while Slovenia may have the best player in the tournament after Luka Doncic nearly dropped 50 points on Argentina in the opening game. It remains to be seen how they’ll fare against the USA when the games have legitimate consequences, but in an elimination-style tournament like this, the Americans can’t be thought of as untouchable.

After those three countries are Spain and France, each at +1000, two teams that are basketball powerhouses with NBA talent and were ranked second and seventh by FIBA entering the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Let’s take a look at the USA’s chances to win gold for Olympic Men’s Basketball odds and if there might be another team worth betting on to pull off the upset and be atop of the podium:

Gold medal odds for Olympic men’s basketball

(Odds from BetMGM)

Team Odds
USA -250
Australia +800
SLovenia +900
Spain +1000
France +1000
Italy +5000
Germany +5000
Argentina +8000
Czech Republic +10000
Nigeria +12500
Iran +100000
Japan +100000

Why is USA the favorite for Olympic men’s basketball odds?

Unless this is your first time watching international basketball, you’re probably quite aware that the United States National Team is the dominant force of this sport. The roster is littered with high-end talent from the NBA. They’ve won the last three gold medals in this sport and, outside of 2004, have won Olympic gold each time NBA talent was allowed to be involved. That’s why the initial group-stage loss to France should’ve sounded the alarm bells for Olympic men’s basketball odds, because this shows that high-end talent isn’t enough to beat the best teams in the world.

Unlike 2008, 2012 or 2016, we have to acknowledge this U.S. team isn’t the strongest. Sure, they still have All-Stars up and down the roster and are led by arguably the best player in the world in Kevin Durant, but chemistry is just as important for success in this style of tournament. A lot of key players got injured or declined to play that could easily take this team over the hump like Stephen Curry, James Harden, Paul George, Anthony Davis and 2014 FIBA World Cup MVP Kyrie Irving.

That said, it was one game, and head coach Gregg Popovich is still a Hall of Fame coach who will make adjustments to allow the players better spacing on offense. In fact, offense isn’t really the issue when it comes to chemistry as France continuously exposed the Americans with high-low passing and three-point shooting. Unfortunately, that just comes down to effort, not talent.

At this point, it’s a tough sell to the general public on fading the U.S. team in this type of tournament but we saw during the 2019 FIBA World Cup that if you get complacent and send a B squad, this team can be beaten.

Long shot bet for Olympic Men’s Basketball Gold Medal odds

France +900, BetMGM

Prior to their game against the U.S., I was harping that France could be a decent bet at +1800 for odds to win the Olympic men’s basketball gold medal and now am kicking myself for only putting a coward sprinkle bet on them:

The French have since dropped to +1000 following that win, and I still love them at this price, because the win over the U.S. all but sealed France to making it to the knockout stages of the tournament. Part of the reason why I loved France was Rudy Gobert, who was made for international basketball.

The Utah Jazz center scored 14 points and had nine rebounds while patrolling the paint and played a key part in holding the Americans to 41 percent shooting inside the arc. His ability to disrupt shots in the middle and put-back dunks make him a force to be reckoned with.

If Evan Fournier continues his hot shooting and the French maintain solid defense, they have just as good of a shot to win the gold medal as another nation trying to take down the United States for Olympic men’s basketball odds.

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