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.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

UAAP Season 74 Final Four Preview: Ateneo vs UST

This appears in

Round 3
Ateneo and UST will clash for the third time in five years in the Final Four.
by rick olivares

Two teams that compiled the longest win streaks of the season fell on their final elimination rounds games in similar fashion.

And these two, one a pre-season favorite, Ateneo (13-1), the other a long long shot to make it, UST (8-6), will match up in the Final Four of UAAP Season 74. Both will look to rebound from their losses.

It will be the third time the two teams will meet in the Final Four (not counting the Finals).

The first time was during Season 70 when the University of the East Red Warriors swept their elimination round games and go straight to the finals. Ateneo, still smarting from their Season 69 Finals loss, got a measure of revenge when they eliminated the Growling Tigers 69-64 in the one-game playoff for the right to play La Salle in the semifinals.

Then there was Season 72 where en route to a second consecutive title, Ateneo beat fourth seed UST 81-64 to arrange a finals meet with UE.

And there’s this year where it seems that the two meet in the Final Four every two years. And each time, UST came in as the fourth seed.

But UST head coach Pido Jarencio doesn’t see it that way. This season, he says, reminds him of 2006 where his team didn’t seem like much in the first round before they gathered steam and piped the Blue Eagles in three for the crown.

As this year’s Tigers began to put on a win streak in the second round, Jarencio likened his team to climbing up a tree knocking down contenders and pretenders to the crown. “Sa taas nandoon yung agila – yan sila Slaughter at sila Ravena,” he smiled. “Sila yung hinahabol namin.”

When his team crushed the Adamson Falcons, the former UST Glowing Goldie let the cat, er, tiger, out of the bag. “Matakot na sila,” he said referring to no team in particular.” The form of the team was unreal. The Tigers raised their game several notches higher. “Naayos namin yung mga problema namin sa team. Ngayon, okay na.”

Now Jarencio might not have the deep team that he had in 2006 but he has his entire team believing and playing 110%. Just the way he did and just the way he likes.

Had Ateneo not lost to Adamson, he would have forcefully protested the suspension of center Karim Abdul. Jarencio looked forward to winning the final game because he knew he had that huge chance to nail the number two slot and the corresponding twice-to-beat advantage. But Ateneo came crashing down spectacularly against the Adamson Falcons.

Two streaks ended that day – a 14-year losing streak by the Falcons and a 13-game season win streak (17 if you want to count the previous season’s playoff surge). And now there was a Final Four.

If you ask some quarters, they will say that Ateneo’s game has gone down (somehow they didn’t recall the thorough butt kicking they inflicted on the National University Bulldogs a game earlier and the big hurt it put on La Salle).

Some observed that the team was “gigil” when playing Adamson. Said Falcons head coach Leo Austria, “They kept dunking during the round robin.”

Some pointed to nerves and the pressure of two streaks – even if they didn’t want to verbalize it -- heading into the match up with Adamson.

Norman Black sees it very simply: “They outplayed us right from the beginning.”

True and the last time the Blue Eagles get their butts kicked big time was against UE in Game 2 of the Season 72 Finals, 88-68.

Added Black after the game, “We’re going to see what kind of team we have on Thursday.”

The last time Ateneo lost back-to-back games was in Season 70 when it was disastrously waylaid by NU 96-88 (that ultimately saw them face La Salle for a one-game playoff for the second seed) on September 15, 2007 and September 18, 2007 when the Green Archers nicked them 70-69.

In the elimination round series with UST, the Tigers were on the business end of a pair of double-digit blowouts – 66-53 in the first round and 82-57 in the second round.

The Tigers have a very good starting unit that can match up well with any in the league. But when they go to their bench, more so that Melo Afuang won’t be in uniform, there isn’t much. But that doesn’t mean they will not give it the old college try. And they have pounded Ateneo on the boards.

In fact, UST has done a very good job of taking Slaughter out of the game with Abdul, Afuang, Paolo Pe, and Chris Camus double teaming him every time he gets the ball down low.

Slaughter scored 6 points, pulled down 7 rebounds and had 4 blocks in their first round clash. Come the second round, he posted similar numbers with 6-9-3.

While UST has slowed down Slaughter, they have not been able to contain the rest of Ateneo’s team that just wears down opponents when they are on. Take a look at the fastbreak points. The disparity is incredible when UST controls the boards.

The answer there is that the Tigers have not shot the ball well and have even taken poor shots. In two matches, they averaged 27.8% from the field. They grab an average of 20.5 offensive rebounds that they have been able to translate into a measly 9.5 points.

But the one lesson Ateneo has to learn from the loss to Adamson is to bring it every single game. That and to pass the ball. They have done that with great success but in that game, the ball got stuck with some players at times who forced matters.

It would be interesting to see how Ateneo rebounds from that loss and how to fully get Slaughter in the flow against UST. At times during the season, they looked bored and seemed like they were waiting for the Final Four.

It’s here and now. Thursday’s 12-noon clash should be mighty interesting. 


UAAP Season 74 Final Four Preview Adamson vs FEU tomorrow!

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