This appears in the Thursday June 24, 2010 edition of the Business Mirror.
NCAA Season 86 Preview Part 2
by rick olivares
The Arellano University Chiefs were a pleasant surprise in their maiden year in the NCAA last season. They finished fifth with a 8-10 record and nearly made the last seat on the Final Four bus.
They lost Gio Ciriacruz who made the Mythical 5 selection last season and to lose that kind of talent will have repercussions on their make up. What the Chiefs have are a collection of forward-centers who are almost all of the same height but who can all drive to the hoop and shoot from the outside. Easily, the most talented player is Isaiah Ciriacruz and he should be a go-to player when the Chiefs need to put points on the board, but he will have plenty of help from Andrian Celada. Jerald Lapuz replaces Gio Ciriacruz and should get better with more minutes.
The Achilles heel of the Chiefs is their backcourt. Leonard Anquillo is no mere sidecourt attraction because of his height as he can provide some leadership. On the other hand, if Anquillo cannot get the Chiefs off the blocks or even hit the outside shot then they will be at a disadvantage. Rocky Acidre could start if Anquillo will not get the job done but he needs to make better decisions with the ball.
The Chiefs have shown a startling propensity to collapse when the press is on. They have their work cut out for them but if they solve that then they could barge into the Final Four.
The Mapua Cardinals could spoil a lot of things and upend a lot of other teams and make it to the Final Four. That’s the potential of this team. Of course, they could be a middle of the pack squad or tumble all the way to the cellar.
However, one has to like how this team rounded out into fighting form in the pre-season. They didn’t win a whole of lot of games but they were fighting it out until the very end.
Power forward Macky Acosta will be vital to his team’s fortunes. A big man with a good stroke from the outside as well as three-point range, if he’s on he can bring out the opposing big men. If he’s not, then there will be no second servings on offense. Also playing out their final seasons is forward Erwin Cornejo and guard TG Guillermo so expect them to give their all. Along with guard Allan Mangahas, their starting unit (along with center Mark Sarangay) will see a lot of minutes. With a long NCAA season, it’s vital for a Jekyll and Hyde bench to contribute or else it will be over for them. The good news is Jonathan Banal is back as he sat out last year with a knee injury. He provides some quality relief for Mangahas at the point. However, his scoring is still suspect. Rodel Ranises seems to have found his shooting touch from the outside and will be a huge help off the bench.
If there’s one thing that’s obvious about the Cardinals is that they love to shoot from the outside. An off day will be a long day and a long season for them.
This year’s edition of the Letran Knights is Louie Alas’ weakest team ever. They know that and everyone else does. But what everyone else knows is that they will have to work hard to eke out a win. With JRU’s talented core of recent years gone and with them the “bad boy” tag, that falls now to the Knights. “Never give in. Never give up.” It’s more than a slogan. It’s a warning to all who dare take the floor with them.
Alas, the head coach will have to squeeze every ounce of talent that this team has and that really isn’t saying much. They will rely heavily on Jam Cortez, Kevin Alas, JP Belencion, and Jonathan Belorio for scoring but their tough full court four quarters of hell defense will carry them. 2150112
Now if Frank Dysam can finish some plays and Belencion light it up from the outside then they can still upend Arellano for the four slot in the semis ticket.
If Letran will rely on all hands on deck if they want to get anywhere, the PCU Dolphins, er, Perpetual Help Altas of Boris Aldeguer will live and die with their trio of high scoring guards. Jett Vidal (there are four former Dolphins in this year’s Altas line-up) will lead this team in scoring and could become one of the NCAA’s best with his deadeye shots from beyond area code and his slashing drives.
There’s Chris Elorpe who will have a lot of help in the backcourt from Vidal and Arnold Danganan. If all three have their game on and they light it up from the outside as if was Christmas in June. They would have had better chances had Marlon Gomez and Paul Nuilan suited up. But the two had been declared ineligible at the last minute because they had also enrolled in other colleges. That leaves Harold Sumera and Raffy Ynion to carry the fight inside. If Ynion can work himself into proper game shape and take less outside shots then they’ll be slugging it out.
From a starting vie and a sixth man, for College of Saint Benilde Blazers, they will live and die with their backcourt of Mac Abolucion and Carlo Lastimosa. And of course, there’s former Blue Eaglet Luis Sinco and RJ Agramino who will also provide scoring.
Center Robbie Mañalac and forwards Ian dela Paz and Mark de Guzman will have to make their presence felt if they want to tow the Blazers out of a seventh straight losing season.
And rounding out the NCAA is the Emilio Aguinaldo Generals. They were touted to contend in their first year in the NCAA but the loss of key players to eligibility and a rough welcome to the Grand Old League knocked them out early. Too often they found themselves on the receiving end of blowouts and they finished seventh with a 6-12 record.
Guard Argel Mendoza will lead this team in scoring and will vie for scoring duel with the Altas’ Jett Vidal. But that isn’t the target. A higher finish is.
The knock on the Generals is that they play well for a half then have disappointing tendency to fold in the second half. Hopefully they have learned from last season but after watching them once more flounder in the pre-season, one wonders if it’s going to be more of the same this Season 86.
The Generals’ charge will be led by Claude Cubo, Jeff Lapitan, Lowell and Russell Yaya, and Franz Chiong. Now if they only subscribe to the adage that the best offense is a good defense then EAC can make things pretty interesting.