Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Looking at the FEU Tamaraws: A many-headed monster

A many-headed monster
by rick olivares

How many players in this UAAP basketball season qualify as amazing? I’d say that there are two – FEU’s RR Garcia and Ateneo’s Kiefer Ravena. But the former is ahead of the class because for one he’s had four years in college (including his residency year) and he’s been pretty much consistent since he first showed what he could do.

How many of us thought that the FEU Tamaraws would burst out of the gates and take out all their anger and frustrations on the UP Fighting Maroons?

I was one. But Jojo Gamboa, father of Mike Gamboa and a former Blue Eagle himself, gently reminded me that UP has played FEU well since the summer leagues. It’s one of those strange contrapelo things that at times cannot be explained.

FEU’s misery began with the loss to UP about two weeks ago. And there were those back-to-back games with Ateneo that translated into a three-game slide. And I wondered about back-to-back games and their effect on a team heading into the homestretch.

Since Imperium Technology began compiling the statistics of UAAP hoops in Season 66, there have only been three cases of consecutive games which are game seven and eight that bridge the end of the first round and the start of the second.

In Season 71, UE beat DLSU 68-62. DLSU returned the favor with a 70-61 victory. What happened after that? UE lost in the Final Four while La Salle fell in the Finals to Ateneo.

In Season 74, we’ve had two back-to-back match-ups: Ateneo-FEU and we know the result; and NU-UE where the Red Warriors piped the Bulldogs 72-71 followed by a revenge meet where the Sampaloc team crushed the Recto squad 91-51. We have no idea how the rest of the season will pan out.

All FEU (and everyone) knows is they couldn’t take a fourth loss that would derail their season.

Garcia and FEU’s alleged head coach Bert Flores related that there have been sleepless nights. Maybe the insomnia, maybe the anguish caused them to play lethargic. And the Maroons, emboldened by the thrashing that never came, found their confidence.

That is until that incandescent fourth quarter by Garcia where he tied the 18-points scored by Jayvee Casio (who scored that number in a match against UST in his final year) to match his career high of 25 points. When the Tamaraws went big and played a zone, the Maroons faltered. And I am surprised why the UP coaching staff did not adjust. The moment Garcia went ballistic, why didn’t they throw a double team and force the other Tams to beat them? After all – to borrow the words of a coach who likes to use this all the time – Flores could have filed a missing persons report on those who didn't show up. The moment the ball went into Garcia’s hands, UP should have forced him to pass. Anyway, RR, with ice in his veins took over. And that was a remarkable sequence of shots including that one to take the lead where he banked in a runner.

In discussions with other basketball observers, when talking about FEU, one of the questions asked is, what ails them?

After seven games (I will not look at the second round matches just yet), they were 4-3. I wanted to correlate that with their stats from the first round of Season 73 and you’d be surprised how they stacked up:

Outside the drastic drop in scoring (scored and given up) it’s pretty much the same. So what’s wrong?

It has been cited that the loss of Pippo Noundou is huge for FEU. Noundou, who is out for the season because of an ACL injury, averaged in 13 games: 16.9 minutes, 6.7 points and 5.7 rebounds.

I like Noundou, but I always thought that more than the Cameroonian, the player they are missing the most is Reil Cervantes and Paul Sanga.

This year’s Tams have not had anyone who could step into the shoes of Cervantes and Sanga. Could Pippo have approximated what Cervantes gave to FEU? Maybe. Maybe not. I always thought that Pippo was a complimentary player and not a go-to guy like Cervantes.

The Reil Deal averaged in 13 games: 11.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. And Cervantes, who played the four and five, was their legit post-up scorer who also had a good medium range with the occasional trey (7-27 for 25.9%). And I think that he is an underrated passer.

This year, FEU have started Mark Bringas and Carl Cruz at the four-spot with Christian Sentcheu sometimes at the center with Al Ramos moving to the four. Nothing new there since in year’s past, they also had interchangeable and multiple-position players.

Sanga was a specialist like La Salle’s Samuel Marata. You may keep him on the bench for long stretches but put him in the fourth period with a basket badly needed, he could bury it.

The first round Season 73 Tams saw three players in double digits: Garcia (17.7), Cervantes (11.9), and Ramos (10.3) leading the way. The next in scoring – Noundou, Terrence Romeo, and Carl Cruz. That means that four of the top six FEU scorers were inside players.

This Season 74, it has been Garcia and Ramos only in double digits with 15.1 and 10.4 respectively. After that – it’s a wingman and a couple of guards – JR Cawaling, Mike Tolomia, and Terrence Romeo.

So IMHO, what’s wrong can be summarized in two things: one, the shift from a team that pounded the ball inside to a three-guard offense of Ping Exciminiano, RR Garcia and choose who you want to pair with them here – Romeo, Tolomia and the displaced Jens Knuttel; and two, there you have it, the three-guard offense.

FEU’s interior defense was better last season. Do I think that Noundou would have supplied that D?

No. Nope. You have got to be kidding me.

Does that mean a three-guard rotation/offense cannot work? Not necessarily. But for now it largely hasn’t. Tolomia, Garcia, and Romeo need the ball to be effective. Exciminiano -- who doesn’t like this scrappy player -- can feed off the scraps. How do you share one ball with a bunch of guys who need the ball?

The three bigs worked well against NU so might there be a shift here in their next games.

Oh, I forgot. If those guards cannot share the ball, you certainly cannot share the head coaching job among four people. 

1 comment:

  1. Haha love that last remark! It's actually 5 people, nakikisawsaw din si Montinola!