U.S. men open FIBA tournament against Venezuela

Updated: March 21, 2007, 5:49 PM ET
Associated Press

LAS VEGAS -- The United States will open qualifying for the 2008 Olympics against Venezuela in the FIBA Americas tournament.

Brazil, Canada and the U.S. Virgin Islands also were placed in the same group as the United States in a draw held Wednesday.

The tournament will be held from Aug. 22-Sept. 2 at the Thomas & Mack Center. The top two teams will earn spots in Beijing, while the teams finishing third through fifth have another chance in a qualifying tournament to be held in July 2008.

Each team plays the other four teams in its group, with the top four finishers advancing to the second round.

"Teams that advance to the finals of the FIBA Americas championship 2007 will play 10 games in 12 days, so this championship will be very demanding on every team," U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "It will be as much about each team's depth as it will be about talent.

"This tournament format is unique. If you advance to the second round, you end up playing eight of the other nine teams competing, and so you'll see a little bit of everything in terms of style of play."

The United States was forced to play in the qualifier after finishing third at last year's world championships. The U.S. team is 26-0 in regional qualifying, sweeping six games in Portland, Ore., in 1992 and going 10-0 in both 1999 and 2003 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Along with the draw, FIBA Americas honored five former players who competed in the 1992 tournament: Clyde Drexler, Carl Herrera of Venezuela, Uruguay's Horacio Lopez, Marcelo Milanesio of Argentina, and longtime Puerto Rico star Jose "Piculin" Ortiz.

Herrera played on the team that finished second to Drexler and the Dream Team in the first event and won an NBA title with the Houston Rockets. Lopez was the leading scorer in that tournament as well as the 1984 Olympics, while Ortiz played for the Puerto Ricans in three Olympics, and helped them upset the United States in the opener of the 2004 Games.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press