The United States will enter the first-ever Olympic women’s 3×3 basketball as the favorite to win gold, but there are plenty of question marks about this new format heading into the Tokyo Olympics.

Olympic 3x3 basketball odds women
The United States is favored for gold in the first-ever Olympic women’s 3×3 basketball tournament. (Image: Guo Chen/Xinhua/Getty)

Team USA benefits from elite talent in the form of four well-known WNBA players, but lacks the consistent 3×3 basketball experience of some of its competitors.

Samuelson out due to COVID-19 test

The US team suffered a blow earlier this week when Seattle Storm forward Katie Lou Samuelson had to withdraw from the Olympics after testing positive for COVID-19. While Samuelson said she was fully vaccinated and took “every precaution,” the positive test meant she wouldn’t be able to make the trip to Tokyo.

“Competing in the Olympics has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl and I hope someday soon, I can come back to realize that dream,” Samuelson wrote on Instagram.

Still, the US brings plenty of firepower to the women’s 3×3 basketball tournament. Chicago Sky center Stefanie Dolson, Dallas Wings guard Allisha Gray, and Las Vegas aces point guard Kelsey Plum make up a talented batch of starters, while Aces guard Jackie Young will come off the bench as the fourth player.

That level of talent makes the US the clear favorite heading into Tokyo. BetMGM rates the Americans as the +100 even-money pick to win the gold medals.

Women’s Olympic 3×3 Basketball Odds – To Win Gold (via FanDuel Sportsbook)
United States: +100 France: +300
Russian Olympic Committee: +600 China: +800
Japan: +1600 Italy: +2500
Romania: +4000 Mongolia: +6600

But the biggest names don’t guarantee victory, especially considering the fact that 3×3 basketball plays very differently than the full-court, five-a-side version of the WNBA.

France, China boast recent 3×3 basketball success

France (+300) may pose the biggest threat to the US. The French 3×3 basketball team won both the 2019 and 2021 Women’s Series events, going a perfect 10-0 in 2021. During the Olympic qualifying tournament, Team USA beat France by a 21-17 final, and the two could easily meet again for a tight gold medal game in Tokyo.

Both Russia (+600) and China (+800) have reasonable odds of winning gold. China won the 2019 FIBA 3×3 basketball World Cup, though it brings a very different roster to the Tokyo Olympics. Russia has regularly been competitive in international play, and currently ranks second in the world behind France. Japan (+1600) could also make a medal run; the country did win the U23 World Cup in 2019.

In 3×3 basketball, teams play on a half-court. Baskets are worth one point each, or two points behind the traditional three-point line. Whoever scores 21 points first wins; if the game goes a full 10 minutes, the team in the lead takes the victory.

The eight teams will play a full round-robin, with the top six making the knockout rounds, and the top two earning byes to the semifinals.

The US expects nothing less than gold, even in the new women’s 3×3 basketball format. But as those rules suggest, there are no guarantees in this short, fast-paced format.

“Anything can happen in 10 minutes,” head coach Kara Lawson told the Chicago Tribune. “You think about the number of times a team that is the heavy favorite in 5-on-5 is down at the end of the first quarter … you don’t have time to turn it around in 3-on-3. You’re down at the end of the first quarter, you’re out of the tournament.”

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