Tokyo 2020 Olympic Basketball: Women's 3x3 Tournament Preview and Predictions

July 22, 2021

A new event in the Summer Olympics, 3x3 basketball is a fun twist on the standard game. And with the USA men’s 3x3 team failing to qualify for the Olympics, the hopes of Americans in this version of basketball rests with the women’s 3x3 team. Boasting some serious talent from the WNBA, the American team is the favorite to win the tournament. But will they be able to get it done against more experienced competition?

3x3 Basketball Rules and Format

The rules for 3x3 basketball at the Olympics are vastly different than the rules for traditional basketball. The most obvious differences are that there are three players on the floor instead of five, and that the game is played on a half-court rather than a full-sized basketball court. Games last for 10 minutes, with teams looking to be the first to score 21 points or to have the lead when time is up.

In terms of scoring, shots inside the three-point line are worth one point, and shots from outside the arc are worth two points. The shot clock in this event is just 12 seconds, rather than the 24 that teams enjoy in five-on-five basketball. This leads to a fast-paced game where teams have to get shots up in a hurry on both ends.

The Olympic 3x3 event will see the eight teams participating play in a round robin format, with teach team getting seven games in the group stage. The six teams that perform the best in those round robin games will move onto the knockout rounds. There, the top two seeds receive a bye into the semifinals.

Team USA: Deserved Favorites

The American team is ranked the lowest in the women’s 3x3 competition, by virtue of the country not having played a competitive game in 3x3 since 2018. But they also have the most talented roster in this event. Team USA brings Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young from the Las Vegas Aces, along with Stefanie Dolson of the Chicago Sky and Allisha Gray of the Dallas Wings.

This roster is the only one relying on WNBA talent to bring home the gold, and will have a distinct talent edge over the competition. The only question here is whether or not they can consistently beat the top teams in this tournament who are used to playing in this 3x3 format instead of full-court five-on-five games.

Other Contenders

France is considered the biggest threat to the United States, as they are ranked number one among the teams that have qualified for this event. All four of their players are ranked in the top-101 in the world in 3x3 women’s basketball, something no other team can boast in this tournament. They will face the Americans in their opening game, which will be very telling about both team’s chances to win gold.

Italy, while ranked fifth heading into the tournament, is another serious threat to the American squad. They beat a less talented Team USA in the 2018 3x3 women’s World Cup, winning the championship in that event just a couple of games later. They are led by Wisconsin alum Raelin D’Alie, with “Rae Rae” being one of the best 3x3 women’s basketball players in the world when she is not playing five-on-five in Italy.

Russia and China are also threats to win the gold, as both have experience heading into the tournament. These two sides round out the top-three among teams that have qualified for the Olympics, and should be able to position themselves nicely in the group stage to challenge for the title in the knockout rounds.

3x3 Women’s Basketball Prediction

In 3x3 basketball, the short nature of each game should reward talent over experience. The fact that Team USA has the most talented roster, with Kelsey Plum being the best scorer in this competition, should help the United States win the inaugural 3x3 women’s basketball gold medal. At just over even money, take Team USA to claim the gold and make history in Tokyo.

The Pick: USA +110 to win tournament
Jay Sanin
Jay Sanin is a sports writer and broadcaster from Albany, NY. He has covered sports betting and the gambling industry since 2013.