|FIBA World Ranking||No. 4|
|How qualified||2012 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women|
|Key veteran||Point guard Hana Horakova, MVP, 2010 Women's World Championships|
|Rising star||Small forward Katerina Elhotova|
|Olympic medals||None. Best Olympic finishes were quarterfinals in Beijing 2008 and Athens 2004|
|World Championship medals||Gold - none; Silver - one (2010); Bronze - none. The Czechs also took two silvers (1971, 1964) and four bronze medals (1975, 1967,1959, 1957) when competing at the World Championships as the former Czechoslavakia.|
|Preliminary round group||Group A|
Going into the Olympics, the consensus is that the United States, Australia and Russia are the teams most likely to be in the final four -- but there's no such consensus on which team will fill out the semifinal quarter.
Enter the Czech Republic. After failing to make it to the podium in international competition for most of their brief history as an independent nation, the Czechs burst upon the European scene in 2003, seemingly out of nowhere, taking silver at the European Championship for Women and putting a serious scare into Russia, long the dominant European power, by pushing them to the brink in a 59-56 final match. Two years later, it was more than a scare, as the Czech Republic surprised the world by marching undefeated through the preliminaries and then dethroning the Russian champions in another final-round squeaker (72-70) at 2005's Eurobasket Women.
Since then, the Czechs have demonstrated that they are not only a European contender but a world women's basketball power to be reckoned with by taking the silver at the 2010 Women's World Championships. True, they may have been riding the wave of the crowd's support as the host nation, but that alone would not account for their ability to take out mighty Australia (79-68), Brazil (84-70) and Spain (77-57) on the way to the medal stand.
Though the Czechs slipped out of the money at last year's Eurobasket Tournament after being knocked out in the semis with an 85-53 drubbing by a Russian team exacting its revenge, then falling to France, 63-56, in the bronze medal game, the Czech Republic proved itself to be still among the world's elite with an undefeated performance at the 2012 Olympic Qualifying Tournament, where the Czechs they booked their reservations for London.
One of the best bits of news for the Czechs is that World Championships MVP and National Team veteran and captain Hana Horakova, who missed the 2011 Eurobasket while hoping for rest and perhaps to start a family, is back in command at the point. Horakova, who put up 21 points, pulled down eight boards, handed out three assists and snatched three steals in the Czech's 2010 upset of Australia, is a do-it-all point who averaged 12.1 points (on 57% field-goal shooting), nearly five rebounds and nearly four assists per game at the 2010 Worlds. About the only thing she lacks is a reliable three-pointer, shooting just 29.6% from beyond the arc, but even there, she has shown the ability to knock them down from long range when her team needs her to do so.
Though veteran center Ivana Vecerova (7.4 points, 4.8 rebounds per game) retired after the Worlds, her shoes are being more than capably filled by 6-6 center Petra Kulichova, who averaged a marginally better 7.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 23 minutes a game at last year's Eurobasket. Kulichova is backed up by a committee of bigs, including 6-5 center Ilona Burgrova and 6-4 post Jana Vesela, who brings with her a year's worth of experience coming off the bench for the WNBA's Seattle Storm, with 6-5 Michala Hartigova and 6-3 Zora Skrabalova filling in the garbage minutes. Not one of these posts is a significant scoring threat -- but then again, neither was Vecerova -- but Kulichova, Burgrova and Vesela provide a defensive presence in the post, as well as some muscle on the boards.
Veteran forward Eva Viteckova (12.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists per game) was also named to the All-Tournament Team at the 2010 Worlds, and she is back for this year's Olympic campaign, which gives the Czechs another scoring option, and they picked up some additional firepower with the arrival of 22-year-old newcomer Katerina Elhotova, a 5-11 wing who averaged a team-high 14.2 points per game at 2011's Eurobasket Women and represents the team's best three-point option, shooting 48.8 percent from downtown.
The Czech Republic is a veteran team that understands how to win at the elite levels of international play, and has both a strong point guard and a solid paint presence. That combination not only could propel the Czechs into the semis in London, but also could be enough to get them to the medal stand as well.
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