Despite three close calls in group play – two of them extremely close – the betting market’s confidence in the USA men’s basketball team is unwavering. Ahead of the quarterfinals of the Rio Olympics tournament, which take place Wednesday, bookmakers have maintained 1/20 odds on the Americans winning their third straight gold medal. That’s the same price at which they opened the Games.
Yes, the USA is 5-0 straight-up through group play, but if you’ve been laying the points with these guys, well, we hope there’s money left in your Olympics bankroll to keep playing through the knockout stages. The Americans have not cashed a ticket since covering the 49.5-point spread against China in their opening game. Since them, they’ve failed to cover -51.5 vs. Venezuela (113-69), -29 vs. Australia (98-88), -23.5 vs. Serbia (98-94) and -20 vs. France (100-97). France’s Tony Parker, by the way, did not play against the Americans.
It’s been, shall we say, too close for comfort.
Has fatigued been a factor? Why is the U.S. defense not been able to shut teams down as anticipated? Where is Kevin Durant when they need him? These are all questions for which coach Mike Krzyzewski needs answers.
The U.S. is a 23-point favorite in its quarterfinal against Argentina. Perhaps the narrow escapes are what was needed to motivate this group, so we’re not ready to take the points with the South Americans. A blowout would not surprise us.
On the flip side of that, we’re not laying the points either. There’s nothing more motivating than the opportunity to beat the big, bad USA, so expect nothing less than Argentina’s best effort. Plus, we need to see more from the U.S. before we lay spreads in the 20-plus range.
The best game of Thursday’s lot figures to be Spain vs. France, as Pau Gasol goes up against Parker, his new Spurs teammate. The Spaniards, at 14/1 odds at offshore book Bovada, are the second favorites to win gold and are -4.5 vs. their European rivals in the quarters. The winner of this contest gets the USA in the semifinals – if the Americans take care of their own business Thursday, that is.
Here are Thursday’s Olympic basketball point spreads and totals, as well as updated odds to win the gold medal.
Thursday’s men’s basketball betting lines
Australia (-3.5, 159) vs. Lithuania, 10 a.m. ET
Spain (-4.5, 155) vs. France, 1:30 p.m. ET
USA (-23, 188.5) vs. Argentina , 5:45 p.m. ET
Croatia vs. Serbia (-5.5, 157), 9:15 p.m. ET
Olympics men’s basketball – odds to win gold medal
USA 1/20 (-2000)