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Team USA is Ready.

The last friendly has been played. The US has went undefeated in the warm-ups. There's only one player left to cut after a less-than-serious injury pulled Gilbert Arenas out.

This team is ready.

The real tournament starts Saturday, when the Americans will face Puerto Rico to open up Group D action. And with all due respect to Carlos Arroyo, Yao Ming, and (insert Slovenian superstar here), but the real test for Team USA isn't in the preliminary round. It's in the knockout stages, where the team will first likely meet Turkey or Lithuania, and then either Germany or Spain or France or Serbia. When it's down to eight teams, that's when the team has to perform at or near its peak to win.

And that's exciting. Yeah, the Dream Team was great. But you knew Angola and Australia had no shot. There was no drama. (Well, except for wondering if Christian Laettner would get into the game. Always a crapshoot.) There's going to be drama in early September. Whether it's self-inflicted or caused by a team on a roll (Spain), a young team finding itself (France), or the defending gold medalists asserting their will (Argentina), it'll be something we don't typically get out of international basketball.

Here are my predictions for the tourney. The top four teams from each group make it to the knockout stage, and I've listed them in the order I think they'll finish. After that, it's pretty self-explanatory. The pairings for the knockout rounds can be found here.

PRELIM ROUND

GROUP A
Argentina
Serbia
France
Venezuela
Nigeria
Lebanon

GROUP B
Spain
Germany
Japan
Panama
New Zealand
Angola

GROUP C
Turkey
Brazil
Australia
Lithuania
Greece
Qatar

GROUP D
USA
China
Puerto Rico
Italy
Senegal
Slovenia

ROUND OF 16
Argentina def. Panama
Brazil def. Puerto Rico
Turkey def. Italy
Japan def. Serbia
Spain def. Venezuela
China def. Australia
USA def. Lithuania
Germany def. France

QUARTERFINALS
Argentina def. Brazil
Turkey def. Japan
Spain def. China
USA def. Germany

SEMIFINALS
Argentina def. Turkey
USA def. Spain

FINALS
USA def. Argentina

Sorry, I'm not going to predict the losers bracket. Okay, what the hell. Brazil beats Japan, China beats Germany, China beats Brazil for 5th. Germany beats Japan for 7th. And Turkey beats Spain in the third-place game.

The best game of the prelim round will be Spain v. Germany, unless France gets its act together and puts up a fight against Argentina. (They had better hurry - this game is Saturday.) In the round of 16, I look forward to possible matchups between Germany and France, and Brazil and Puerto Rico. If the semifinals end up as I predict, that will be some damn exciting basketball. Hell, even the third-place game would be awesome!

Let's hear your predictions in the comments.