While the standard, 5-on-5 version of basketball has been an Olympic event since 1936, it won’t be the only basketball event to take place at the upcoming 2021 Summer Games in Tokyo. In addition to the classic format, this year’s Olympics will introduce 3-on-3 basketball as a medal event for the first time.
While 5-a-side may resemble the game most commonly seen in the NBA and college basketball, this year’s Olympics will also bring a more casual, pickup-style format with 3-on-3 play. The 3-on-3 format was added to the field of competitions in an attempt to get more younger viewers interested in tuning into the Olympics.
As is the case with standard basketball, both men and women will compete in 3-on-3, which will take place from July 24-28. While the U.S. women were able to qualify for the competition, there will be no American men’s side in the field. The women’s team was allowed to use professional players from the WNBA, but no NBA players will compete in 3-on-3.
What should you know about betting on 3-on-3 hoops at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics?
How Is the Game Played?
Learning the rules of the game is a good first step, no? While FIBA rules call for 5-on-5 games to play four quarters lasting 10 minutes apiece, the rules for 3-on-3 aren’t quite as stringent.
The object of the game is be the first team to reach 21 points in the 10-minute game. If neither team has scored 21 points by the time the 10 minutes expires, the team with the lead will be declared the winner. If the game is tied at that point, the first team to score two points in the OT session will win.
However, all games of 3-on-3 basketball will end when one team reaches 21 points. So, if both teams are tied at 20 when overtime begins, the first team to score wins the game.
Each roster will consist of four players in all, with three on the court at a time. The games will be played on a court about half the size of a traditional basketball court. Baskets scored inside the arc count for one point apiece, while buckets from beyond the classic “three-point line” will be worth two points.
Rather than using the standard tipoff format, the game begins via a coin flip, with the team that wins the coin flip deciding which team gets the ball first. The ball has to be cleared beyond the aforementioned arc after rebounding missed shots, while possession changes after every made basket. Unlike on the playground, there is no “make it, take it” format in 3-on-3 Olympic hoops.
Substitutes may enter the game at any point during a dead-ball situation by tagging an outgoing player. The game does feature a 12-second shot clock, which is half the length of the standard FIBA or NBA shot clock.
Who Is Favored in Men’s 3-on-3?
While Team USA is a massive favorite in 5-a-side men’s hoops, Serbia is currently listed as a pretty sizable +165 favorite to take home the gold in 3-on-3 men’s basketball. BetOnline has the Serbian side slightly ahead of Latvia (+200), with full odds listed below:
- Serbia (+165)
- Latvia (+200)
- Russian Olympic Committee (+700)
- Netherlands (+900)
- Poland (+1400)
- Belgium (+1600)
- China (+2500)
- Japan (+4000)
Serbia is the top-ranked 3-on-3 basketball team in the world, led by star Dusan Bulut. Many consider Bulut to be the world’s best 3-on-3 player, and his presence alone is enough to install his side as the early favorites for the gold.
Bulut and Serbia have a very decorated history when it comes to winning these kinds of competitions. Bulut led Serbia to gold medals in the World Cups in 2012, 2016, 2017, and 2018, in addition to a silver medal at the 2014 World Cup in Russia.
Serbia also won back-to-back gold medals at the European Championships in this competition in 2018 and 2019 after winning silver in 2015. Serbia was also a bronze medal winner in the 2015 European Games in Baku.
Bulut has been the standout performer at just about every event thus far. The 35-year-old is a two-time FIBA 3×3 World Tour MVP and a two-time FIBA World Cup MVP.
Most impressively, Bulut was named Serbia’s Basketball Player of the Year in 2019. That’s no small feat considering the nation has produced several high-quality NBA players including Nikola Jokic, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Nemanja Bjelica, and Milos Teodosic.
Can Anyone Dethrone Serbia?
All eight teams in the field will compete against one another in a round-robin format to begin the tournament. The teams that finish seventh and eighth after the first round will be eliminated, with teams seeded No. 3 through No. 6 advancing to the quarterfinal round. The two teams that finish the round-robin with the best records will earn byes to the semifinal round.
Given the team’s decorated track record in a variety of 3×3 competitions in recent years, it’s hard to imagine that Serbia won’t be one of the two teams to earn their way to an early berth in the semis. This competition features a pretty even playing field with each team facing each other team in the first round.
Oddsmakers clearly don’t like Japan’s chances of enjoying any sort of home-court advantage given their long +4000 odds. Frankly, wagering on any team other than Serbia (+165) or Latvia (+200) looks like a fool’s errand at this point.
Latvia doesn’t have as many gold medals on their resume, but they have come close in recent years. The Latvians took gold at the 2017 European Championships along with a silver the following year. Latvia was also a silver medalist at the 2019 World Championships and a bronze medalist earlier this year in Olympic qualifying. Poland (+1400) wound up taking the gold, but face long odds at the main event in Tokyo.
At 35, Bulut may not have another chance to win Olympic gold. I would expect him to make the most of his last and best opportunity to do so, so take form to hold in the men’s competition. Serbia is the best bet to win gold in 3-on-3 basketball.
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