Since winning their three contests in the FIBA World Qualifying tournament to advance to the Olympics, the Czech Republic has twice beaten Russia – who’s won the last two Olympic bronze medals – to sit on a five game winning streak. With a fourth place FIBA world ranking, the Czechs will look to find a way to slide into the medals for the first time. Here’s a quick look at the team:
Czech Republic | Group A
Olympic Games history: The Czech Republic enter the field for the third-straight time, where they’ve finished fifth and seventh, respectively.
Place at 2010 FIBA World Championship: Second (6-3 overall record)
How they got here: 2012 FIBA World Qualifying Tournament
Names you might recognize: While you won’t see 32-year-old Hana Horakova, the 2010 FIBA Worlds MVP, on the roster, you will find all-tournament team member Eva Viteckova suiting up for the Czech Republic. But the most recognizable name for most will be that of Jana Vesela, who spent the 2010 season with the WNBA-champion Seattle Storm. In her limited time off the bench for the stacked squad, Vesela scored 92 total points and scooped up 58 total rebounds for the Storm. Vesela and Viteckova are the two elder stateswomen on the roster.
Watch out for: The Aug. 3 contest against the United States, a rematch from the 2010 FIBA Worlds finals which the U.S. won 89-69. Though the Czechs have quite a few different faces on that squad two years ago, half of the team still remains, including now three-time Olympian Jana Vesela. Czech Republic outshot the U.S. team by a small percentage (47.5 to 43.7), but committed 20 turnovers and were outrebounded by 14 (43-29). At the FIBA World Qualifying Tournament, the Czech Republic got their rebounding average up to 46.3 per game, good for second of the 12 competitors. They also brought their turnovers down a smidge to 14.7 per night in their three contests played. If they can keep those numbers in check (among other things), they might be able to give the Americans a little scare in group play. IF.
Statistical leaders: Petra Kulichova led the team in scoring during the qualifying tournament, averaging 14.3 points per game. Right behind her was Eva Viteckova’s 13.7 a night to account for a large chunk of the Czech offense that averaged 63.7 points a night. Kulichova led not only the team, but the tournament with her impressive 16 rebounds a game. Ilona Burgrova added eight rebounds a night in the tournament as well. In the aforementioned 2010 FIBA Worlds final, Kulichova had five boards and Burgrova added none to the stat sheet.
Preliminary round schedule: vs. China (July 28), vs. Turkey (July 30), vs. Croatia (Aug. 1), vs. U.S. (Aug. 3), vs. Angola (Aug. 5)