It’s official ladies and gents, the 2020 Olympic Games are (finally) upon us. In one of the most unprecedented years in sports and world history, the Games can finally commence. Despite being scheduled a year later, the USA Basketball team rosters are finalized and the athletes have made it to Tokyo.

With both the men’s and women’s teams going in with such high expectations, the pressure is on to deliver and bring home the gold for the United States, again. However, both teams have faced struggles leading up to competition which raises concerns on how well they will actually perform.

Sights set high for USA women

The games officially started Friday and will go until August 8th. Basketball will begin playing on Sunday, July 25th.

Team USA women are seeking their seventh straight Olympic gold medal. This incredible accomplishment has never been achieved by any other Olympic women’s basketball team before, per The Gist.

The team is headlined by Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, both of whom will be playing in a historic fifth Olympic Games. The four other repeat Olympians on the roster are Sylvia Fowles, Tina Charles, Brittney Griner, and Breanna Stewart. The six first-timers are Chelsea Gray, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Jewell Loyd, A’ja Wilson, Ariel Atkins, and Napheesa Collier, per SB Nation.

Despite some controversy finalizing the roster, Team USA is going in as the heavy favorites. Although, in the prelims, they uncharacteristically lost an exhibition game against Australia’s team without its best player, Liz Cambage. Maybe this is a reminder that the other competitors are not to be dismissed. The US shouldn’t take any matchup as a guaranteed win.

“This is a team that it’s its first time together; we have a lot of first-time Olympians,” Bird said. “Obviously we lost two games back to back, which nobody wanted to do but at the same time, I thought it taught us some things. We’re gonna use that. Those losses could end up being our biggest wins if you will,” per the Boston Globe.

Too many superstars for USA men?

On the men’s side, Team USA lost their first two games to Australia and Nigeria. Considering how much talent comes with this roster, this was unexpected.

While most other countries provide the same national team each Olympic Games, Team USA typically changes the roster every four years. The result is a lack of team chemistry. Speaking of team chemistry, Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker and Milwaukee Bucks’ Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday are part of this year’s roster. Since the Bucks just defeated Booker and the Suns, there may still be some bad blood between these players who now have to play together. On top of that, this trio has not played a minute with their Olympic teammates due to their obligations to the NBA playoffs. 

Despite these worries, the men are still clear favorites to win the gold in Tokyo, just like their female counterparts. Hopefully, with some recent wins leading up to the Games, both teams can secure their confidence and come out on top.

Covid-19 setbacks

Both teams have experienced their struggles with Covid-19, like former UConn basketball player Katie Lou Samuelson‘s last-minute withdrawal from the Games due to testing positive and Zach Levine’s delayed start due to remaining on the Covid protocol list. But maybe the biggest challenge of all will be performing at an Olympic level without the normal Olympic atmosphere. USA Basketball 

This year’s Olympic Games will be completely different from previous years due to the lack of spectators and family members allowed in the crowd. All athletes will have to adjust to this major change in energy while competing. It’s arguable that the players will have less motivation to perform at the highest level without fans.

View Team USA’s game schedule for the Games here!

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Featured Image via David Butler II/ USA TODAY Sports USA Basketball