Dominant teams can be their own worst enemies as valuable sportsbook items, leading bettors down the same rabbit hole of risk and overconfidence that the squad itself may suffer from when athletes start to read their own press clippings.
WagerBop, for instance, spends a lot of time working to convince readers that no, Team USA cannot be crowned Women’s Football gold medalists at the Tokyo Olympics until the event happens and several dangerous upstarts are stepped over. The USWNT didn’t win Olympic gold in 2016, or even play in the gold-medal match. United States footballers also spent more than 50% of a 2018 Women’s World Cup semi-final fixture defending without the ball, even though the tournament was supposedly “too easy” for the Yanks.
Men’s Basketball is another example of a “foregone” conclusion’s dangerous lure at the Summer Olympics betting board. Basketball speculators whose punditry consists of counting each national team’s NBA stats-leaders on their fingers and toes didn’t expect the United States to lose any games at all in 2021, let alone to start losing before the squad could reach Tokyo. The
2021 2020 Summer Olympics are still over a week away, and international hoops gamblers are already losing money betting on Sure Things.
But if there’s a marquee Olympic sport for which all that can be set aside, and the champs can be safely crowned ahead of time, it’s the Women’s Basketball event in Tokyo. Like the 20th century Kenyans of long-distance running or Usain Bolt on the 100-meter track, the U.S. National Women’s Basketball Team’s most crucial step in a gold-medal chase is to sign their names on an entry form.
Not only are the WNBA and top-level NCAAW the 2 finest collections of women’s basketball talent until proven otherwise, the WNBA’s international presence has arguably waned over the years. Glance at the ledger of past and current European cagers on American pro teams, and it’s obvious that the WNBA lost some of its best and brightest stars from overseas in the 2010s, with many nations’ prospects for replacing the elite pros a little dicey.
Team USA wrested Women’s Basketball superiority away from Russia in the early 1990s, and has appeared-in and won 6 straight Olympic gold-medal games since then. The United States’ record in the women’s FIBA World Cup is almost as spotless, though a shocking bronze medal finish in 2006 came after the Stars & Stripes failed to contain Russian center Maria Stepanova in the semis.
If brute force and a premier post presence are the keys to upsetting Team USA, bookmakers are convinced that none of the women’s basketball teams in Tokyo have what it takes around the hoop. 1-to-9 gold medal odds on the United States should answer any questions about how Las Vegas thinks the Summer Olympics will go on women’s hardcourt.
Compare the distaff Yanks’ line to win gold with the relatively modest favorite’s odds on Team USA in Men’s Basketball, a division in which oddsmakers (and high-rollers) are so skeptical of talent reared outside North America that Nigeria’s gold medal odds remain in the long-shot category, despite “D’Tigers” taking the floor with a heavy NBA presence and 1 friendly win over USA in the bag. If anyone’s getting a free pass from Summer Olympics futures gamblers, it’s the U.S. Men’s team, and yet the women’s team stands with a well-deserved line as prohibitive as any odds for Tokyo.
Sharks could use the Team USA market for Women’s Basketball as an “Olympics savings account” investment, with designs on boosting a chunk of a sportsbook stake by at least 10% given the expected gold-medal romp by the United States. For recreational bettors looking for some kind of traditional futures bet on Women’s Basketball, the Group Winner odds for each team (outside of the United States and Group B) are more important.
Therefore, don’t confuse the odds below with Tokyo gold medal odds, many of which are astronomical for nations with no chance to beat the Americans. We’ll preview a few “B-for-Bronze flight” teams among the 8 women’s squads below (it’s not controversial to say that less than 7 teams have a real chance to beat the WNBA All-Stars.) But as labeled in Team USA’s preview on top of scroll, each medal contender’s odds refer to Group Stage Winner markets at Bovada Sportsbook, narrowing focus to 3 round-robin tip-offs for each nation looking to finish 1st in Group A and Group C…and thus avoid the United States in the medal round for as long as possible.
Women’s Basketball at the Summer Olympics will begin on Monday, July 26th at Saitama Super Arena, and will conclude with a Bronze Medal Game and Gold Medal Game on 8/7 and 8/8 respectively.
United States ((-2000) Odds to Win Group B)
Don’t giggle, but 1-to-20 odds actually seem a little “fat” given the slender chance of USA losing a round-robin match. It speaks to the respect for France, Japan, and Nigeria, the 3 opposing teams in Group B, that the Americans’ odds aren’t even more prohibitive. (In fact, Nigeria – the expected 4th place squad – is getting better odds to win Group B than South Korea or Puerto Rico’s lines to win Group A and Group C respectively, even though the absence of Team United States makes a Women’s Basketball round-robin approximately 950,000 (be sure to pronounce “nine-hundred and FIF-ty thooouuuusand”) times easier to finish 1st in.
As usual, the United States roster is loaded with established WNBA stars, including Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi in the veteran’s group and A’ja Wilson and Skylar Diggins-Smith among the youngsters. The trailblazing Brittney Griner, who currently plays for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, led scoring during a 2020 Olympic qualification tournament in which the Americans went 3-0 and averaged 33-point victories.
Other double-digit scorers in 2020 qualification include Wilson, the popular Nneka Ogwumike, and Breanna Stewart. Chelsea Gray led the team in total assists with 22.
The team’s only potential weakness is the same Achilles Heel that has always plagued heavy favorites on hardcourt. If an opposing team manages to plug-up all outside to inside passing lanes in the half-court game and force USA to shoot from downtown, there’s always a chance that the shots simply won’t fall, as when the United States scored only 58 points in the 2006 FIBA loss to Team Russia.
But unlike the current incarnation of the U.S. men’s team, the women’s cagers have proven to be so strong defensively that easy buckets in the 1st half can be taken for granted. Once the American fast break builds some type of lead, Team USA can adjust to any bouts of icy shooting by driving mercilessly to the lane and drawing fouls, winning wars of attrition and putting the 5 best free-throw shooters on the floor if necessary.
Until a national squad comes along that can go bonkers around the rim without handing the Yanks turnovers, fast-break points, and an advantage in the fouls column, there’s no point picking against the United States to win a Women’s Basketball group stage or medal round.
Australia is a (relatively) optimistic gold-medal wager at just 15/1, and enjoys the shortest Group Stage odds of any team apart from the 6-time defending champions. Belgium is the only other Group C team considered to have a realistic chance to qualify in 1st place, with odds of (+325) next to China (+1200) and Puerto Rico (+5000).
It’s safe to say that the odds are based on Summer Olympics history and not recent outcomes. Australia finished 2nd in its group in qualifying with a record of 2-1. An 11-point loss to France doesn’t bode well for Australia’s chances to go all the way in Tokyo. There won’t be a rematch until at least the medal round, however, making the France vs Australia narrative somewhat moot from a gambling POV. Eyes will be drawn to various United States competitors soon after the Opening Ceremonies next week, but an Australia vs Belgium tip-off in Women’s Basketball on Tuesday could be quietly portentous in the race for silver and bronze.
Las Vegas Aces center Liz Cambage is still dominant at the international level after leading all players in scoring average at the 2016 Olympics. Aussies will need stellar play from Cambage’s teammates Bec Allen and Alanna Smith to make a deep run at the summer games 5 years later.
France’s hefty Group Stage odds are largely thanks to having been drawn into Group B, in which Team USA lurks. If qualifying tournaments are useful as barometers of form in addition to prizefights for a sport’s bubble nations, there’s a lot to be optimistic about as the Tokyo Olympics draw close.
Team France has the 3rd-shortest odds to win gold in Japan (+1800), but Les Bleues looked like the 2nd-best team in the field in Q-trials. France went 3-0 in the tournament and finished with a+64 point differential.
Sandrine Gruda has carried the team on both ends of the court, putting up 20.7 points and 9.7 boards per game on route to the
2021 2020 Summer Olympics. Teammate Bria Hartley is an assist-artist with a big UConn following from her days with the national-champion Huskies.
There’s no WNBA-level French supporting cast to further buoy Hartley and Gruda’s exploits, but the fact that France is a handicapped as a silver medal favorite in Tokyo despite its lack of North American pros on the roster is a great sign for women’s hoops in Europe. By time the 2024 (or at least the 2028) Summer Olympics roll around, the French could be poised to teach big-shot club professionals a lesson, like Finland in IIHF hockey over the last few cycles.
Of course, that’s unless the youngsters on Team France are playing in the WNBA by then…not an unlikely scenario.
Team Canada is a rising commodity in women’s basketball, a reason why the Habs are handicapped at shorter than 2/1 to win Group A over Spain, Serbia, and Korea.
Canada finished a perfect 3-0 with about a 100-point total differential in 2020 qualifying. Guard Kia Nurse led the team with 16 points per contest, while Natalie Achonwa held down the defense with 6.3 rebounds per game.
Nurse was held to 3-of-17 from the field in Canada’s Q-Final loss to France at the 2016 Summer Olympics, underscoring Canada’s biggest problem – a lack of championship national team experience that comes from 0 medals at the Olympics or FIBA World Cup since 1984 , and the confidence issues that plague an improving squad with no legit track record.
Kayla Alexander of the Chicago Sky is Canada’s lone WNBA player, but a large NCAA contingent gives the Canadians a chance to run 2 or 3 Group A teams off the hardwood.
Spain’s matching odds to win Group A reflect an experienced roster that could beat Canada without having to run faster, jump higher, or even out-shoot the Habs.
Even without any WNBA workhorses on the squad, the Spanish team is the distaff version of the style of team United States Men’s Basketball has struggled with over the years, featuring a dozen grizzled veterans of FIBA whose fundamentals carry the program through tight spots.
A close loss to China in 2020 was somewhat disheartening for Spain, but China’s perfect record in Q-tournament play makes it look more like a respectable defeat than a worrisome upset. The Spanish can turn to plenty of competent pros like forward Alba Torrens for offense, though the passing and shooting of Group A’s weak sisters may bother Spain more than Canada, which could be playing for a perfect 3-0 round-robin record when tipping-off with Spain in Saitama on August 1st.
Team Serbia had the misfortune of landing in the United States’ group in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, but still managed to finish 2-1.
Fans of EuroBasket will recognize the 17th-ranked Serbians as the squad that’s claimed 2 sets of gold medals and a bronze medal victory in 4 tournaments after never having finished better than 4th in the program’s history up to 2015. The upstarts pulled off a similar watershed feat with a bronze medal in the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Serbia’s 19-point loss to the Americans in 2020 is actually a positive sign, especially considering that the Serbians don’t have any WNBA players to buoy the team’s scoring. Tina Krajisnik pulled down a team-high 7.7 boards per game in last year’s 3 qualification tip-offs.
Group C underdog Belgium parallels Spain as a national women’s team without WNBA players that nevertheless puts an experienced and competent team on the floor, featuring 6 pros 28 or older. Australia meets Belgium on 7/27.
Power forward Emma Meesseman will be the Belgian player to watch in Tokyo. She has led Belgium with 20.3 points and 6 rebounds in the current squad’s ledger so far.
Women’s Basketball Group Stage Futures Picks:
Group A: Canada (+160)
Group B: United States (No Bet Except in Parlays)
Group C: Belgium (+325)
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.