by rick olivares pic by brosi gonzales
Right before the end of the first round of the UAAP Men’s Basketball Season, I wondered how the unprecedented two-week break would affect all eight teams.
For FEU, undefeated at 7-0 after the first round, there was the fear of cooling off. They had the momentum going for them. I thought of the 2007 UE Red Warriors who swept the two rounds before losing in the finals against La Salle. That UE team had a two-week break as teams went through the stepladder format.
Honestly, I was surprised by FEU’s strong start. During the pre-season, they looked awful as they struggled to embrace the system put in place by Nash Racela. Since that terrific front line of their graduated several years ago, they went from being a balanced half court squad to a more guard-oriented offense. The system suits them given their weapons at their disposal but the dribble drive offense requires players to make good reads on the defense. Including the bigs.
Anthony Hargrove and Christian Sentcheu struggled with the offense, as did their other ‘bigs’ like Mark Belo and small forwards who have to double as power forwards like Carl Cruz.
There was the benching of Terrence Romeo during the summer and the brief misunderstanding about two of their players suiting up for other D-League squads.
Discussing FEU’s strong start with other colleagues, I expressed my reservations citing their tendencies for strong starts, peaking too early, lucky wins, and sudden power outages. Of course, I hope I am wrong. This FEU team has been through a lot. It would be nice for RR Garcia to go out with a championship.
Some might point out to Romeo’s ball hogging again especially against NU where Garcia got hot but the former cleared him away on a crucial play where he missed the jumper. I’d say that his penchant for shot making also won then some games.
I also think teams generally adjust better in the second half of play. The break allowed some teams to tweak their offenses and their defenses. National University came out and played great team defense on FEU especially Romeo. To make up for his shots, he’s been forcing the issue and taking some wild shots.
But this kid can score. With a little more guidance, if he can really turn this thing around for the Tamaraws.
It’s tough for Coach Nash to get that system in place when many of the players had their own way on the offense for years. Their next game is a very important one because they have to arrest that skid before things spiral out of control. Towards the end of the first round, some teams felt that they were now fighting for second, third, and fourth spot in the standings. The two consecutive losses now means it is still up for grabs.
Unfortunately for FEU, they are up against a suddenly hot UE Red Warriors.
If there is a win that validates National University’s status as a real contender it is that win against FEU. That exposed some chinks in the armor of FEU while giving the team of Eric Altamirano lots of confidence as they are in solo second place with a 6-3 record.
The loss of Alfred Aroga still hurts because it showed the lack of depth NU has in the center position. That makes Jean Mbe all the more important to NU (they must really regret red shirting Henry Betayene; please don’t say he was injured because he wasn’t. It was a gamble and you guys failed).
One guy the Bulldogs have been missing is Troy Rosario. He was a monster in the pre-season but has mostly disappeared. I feel that Glenn Khobuntin has gained some confidence not seen since his frosh year. He’d rather drive than stick that outside shot that Jeff Javillionar has fallen in love with.
The guard corps of Gelo Alolino, Robin Roño, Ray Parks, and Mark Porter have done a great job as well.
Climbing up the standings is UE; winners of four straight (5-3). I believe that except for their win against Ateneo, they came away winners in their other games due to pure grit.
This team is exactly like FEU (minus the super three-guard combo) where they love to be unconscionable in their jacking up all these shots good and bad.
I am sure they’d love to dump the ball all the time to Charles Mammie but he does a whole lot better playing clean up. This team has two terrific players who can put up a bunch of points – Roi Sumang and Ralf Olivares. They’d be more effective if they made better decisions on what shots to make.
It is a good thing that Lord Casajeros came back because they need tough defense and more scoring options because Jay-R Sumido has been in a five-month funk. Not the way you’d want him to end his college career.
JM Noble has to really make better decisions. His two late turnovers against UST nearly killed his team.
La Salle (5-4) has picked up some huge wins that will spur them on. On the heels of that controversial win against Adamson, the lost to NU to close the first round before taking another W at the expense of the Falcons who imploded in the endgame.
If La Salle was shaky they sure weren’t against FEU. They were flat out impressive as they took a huge lead, lost it before they got the job done and closed it out
DLSU is rounding out into fine and frightening form. They are difficult to guard because they have so many scoring options. A year ago, it could have been arguably stated that UST’s starters were the five best in the league. Right now, La Salle could argue that point.
Who has been their best player -- Almond Vosotros, Jason Perkins, or Arnold Van Opstal?
Tough to choose.
The UST Growling Tigers are in a funk. They’ve lost three straight – to FEU, Ateneo and UE.
When looking at the Growling Tigers, some quarters say that the loss of Jeric Fortuna, or not having a top-notch point guard hurts them. They were 6-1 after the first round of play in Season 74. This year, the Tigers were 4-2, one game off last’s pace and one game to spare before the close of business for the FIBA Asia break.
But they lost to Ateneo to drop them to 4-3.
I’d say that they were fine without Fortuna as they played point guard by committee which is something they did during the pre-season. Since the injury to Teng, they’ve been 2-4.
Their captain’s return will help this team that is still very much capable of winning the league title despite their inconsistency. One game Kevin Ferrer does really well then his game drops off the next. Ditto for Aljon Mariano. For sure both have battled nagging injuries.
The new break brought about the habagat will help them.
If the break helps UST, it sure also does to Ateneo. They were fine until the pre-tip off injury to Kiefer Ravena that hurt the Blue Eagles (4-4). I thought with a healthy Ravena they could have gone 3-0 or 2-1 in that first week of play.
They scraped two wins to close out the first round including a huge one against UST. The FIBA break helped the team get healthier and gave them time to work out their kinks on offense. They got back for the second round to send UP spiraling downward once more then there’s the break from the habagat that postpones their rematch against UST to a later date.
What this will give them is the reeling Adamson Falcons team that is at 3-6. After their last loss to NU by a whopping 32 points, word is Coach Leo Austria left the locker room and the team has been eating in groups and not as a team. There’s discord in San Marcelino.
Ateneo picked up their first win of the season against Adamson in a game that showed their championship pride. Another win or two and they're back in the hunt for a Final Four slot. The morale of the Blue Eagles is now up while Adamson’s down.
The Adamson Falcons do not exactly have a deep team. They have their bit of role players and a few studs here and there. But they have been hurt by inconsistency and a lot of turnovers.
Some might point to the lack of depth in their point guard position as the culprit. Look Jeric Cañada and Lester Alvarez have not suited up for two years now. That’s like saying Ateneo misses Kirk Long. For sure Ryan Monteclaro, Al-Arouf Julkipli and Axel Iñigo haven’t approximated the contributions of their previous backcourt scoring-wise. I don’t think they ever will. What they can do is play floor general. As it is, too much is being asked of Jericho Cruz, their force of nature who does it not only on the offensive end but also the defensive end.
Cruz has tried to get his teammates involved and he over-compensates at times that leads to his turnovers.
My thoughts on this team is, let Rodney Brondial get his touches on offense then let Ingrid Sewa play like Charles Mammie does – get his points on clean up. Sewa asking for the ball can be ugly. He puts the ball down the floor (and loses it to the opposing guards) or spends too much time in the paint for a violation. If they lob to him it’s more of a quick strike rather than a post-up play.
Adamson has tried to get him into the flow of things early in the game and that bogs down their offense. They still have enough weapons – Cruz, Brondial, Roider Cabrera, and – gasp – Don Trollano – to get the job done.
Now if they bench will contribute more.
Jansen Rios was the starters for the first round but the Falcons got nothing from him. He’s continued that funk off the bench (much like Jay-R Sumido). Harry Petilos is showing more as does Michael Agustin.
They are better than their record is. They have beaten some good teams – UE and NU. They just really need to put it together.
Lastly, there’s UP. They are 3-33 in the last three years (featuring the core of this current team). They've also had four head coaches in the last seven years.
You cannot say that they do not have the material. They have some pretty good ball players from Raul Soyud, Chris Ball, Samuel Marata, Henry Asilum, and Kyles Lao.
One of their problems is that the lack of continuity for their team year after year (read more of thoughts about UP here). It’s either some players are out because of grades or injury then the seniors graduate leaving behind an untested team.
I’m just shocked that as early as their second and third game of the season, the needed to be called out by their coach. It’s been that culture of losing that has sapped their confidence this season. They have not been competitive since Season 67 when they finished 7-7.
The pre-season looked good for them but that hasn’t translated onto any court success this year as they are 0-8 with La Salle their next opponent (it was supposed to be UE but that match has been postponed due to the habagat).
The directive for this team was to get out of eighth place this year. They have six games to salvage that.