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, May 6, 2014

Analyzing the 1st week of Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup senior hoops

JRU's amazing Jaycee Asuncion drives past a pick set by teammate Marco Balagtas.
This appears on the ABS-CBN website.

Analyzing the 1st week of seniors hoops
by rick olivares photo by jan dizon

Why do the provincial teams perform so poorly?
What’s up with the poor showing of the University of San Carlos and the University of Visayas? They are at 1-2 and 0-3? Is provincial hoops really that bad?

It’s both yes and no.

Yes, because first off, the Manila teams are technically superior, better trained, and mentally tougher because of the level of coaching and the competition they are exposed to.

One of the things that USC head coach Junthy Valenzuela pointed out is that although they have taller players, the Perpetual Help squad they faced was not only stronger but also more athletic. I believe that this is because of a better strength and conditioning program that is all the rage for Manila schools.

While Valenzuela’s statement is true, I think it has always been a hallmark especially for NCAA teams where the pace of the game is faster as opposed to the more walk it up offense in the UAAP. Perpetual Help was built with speed and athleticism in mind.

No, because there are many Manila teams with provincial players – FEU is loaded with them. NU has a few of them. Many of the best provincial players move to Manila where they have access to better coaching and training.

Nevertheless, there are still a lot of talented players to play their college ball in the provinces like Dondon Hontiveros, Junthy Valenzuela, PJ Simon, JR Quinahan, and JuneMar Fajardo to name a few.

The provincial teams got outworked and generally looked bad against the Manila teams.

There are two other factors that contribute to the poor performances of the provincial teams.

You could say that there’s also the road trip factor where they are in an unfamiliar setting and taken out of their routines.

And there’s the – to borrow Valenzuela’s words – “the star struck” factor where they are playing squads who regularly make the national headlines and television and become de facto heroes for them back in their provinces.

So why do Manila teams play better when in the provinces? That’s because of their mental edge that is also a part of their training.

Why are teams like Perpetual Help, CEU, Lyceum, and JRU playing well?
Three things:

One, they have yet to play the top dogs in their respective groups.

Perpetual Help just knocked off UE that is reeling in every manner. Along with JRU, they have yet to play idle La Salle.

Lyceum has yet to tangle with San Beda and FEU and those will determine how far they have come.

CEU has yet to play NU that isn’t the team it was once was. Their bracket seems to be wide open.

Two, these teams have veteran players who are now more mature in the manner they play the game.

In the case of CEU, they have veterans who have not only won in their league, NAASCU, but have also benefited from a stint in the PBA D-League. The Scorpions have players who saw action with different teams before moving to CEU – there’s Carlo Casiño who came from Arellano University and Michael Batiño who played behind JuneMar Fajardo at the University of Cebu.

They also have a pair of talented African players in Rodrigue Ebondo and Aristote Mutombo.

JRU… this is a team that I covered extensively several years ago when Ariel Vanguardia was their head coach. Michael Mabulac is this team’s leader and he’s just playing so much better. It’s just basketball without the extraneous stuff. When I saw Philip Paniamogan play several years ago, he looked clueless. Chalk that up to rookie jitters. Since the past season, he’s been lights out from the three-point arc. He’s got better awareness although Coach Vergel Meneses constantly chides him for his defense (I think he’s an underrated defensive player). The Heavy Bombers do not have any superstar. And this works well for them. They play as a team. Last year, they were carried by Paolo Pontejos who has since left for parts unknown. This year, there’s a better team effort. And watch out for Jaycee Asuncion to provide the fireworks from the outside along with Paniamogan.

Are the Perpetual Help Altas for real at 3-0?
Hey, it’s the pre-season. Do not get overly giddy. No one hangs championship banners for pre-season titles. Or do they?

Nevertheless, these guys are FUN to watch.

This team will live and die with their Fab Four of Juneric Baloria, Justine Alano, Earl Thompson, and Harold Arboleda. Save for Earl, the other three are on their last playing year.

I haven’t covered the NCAA in the past two years (due to a heavy workload) but this is another team that I not only keenly followed but defended when they ran afoul of the cruel NCAA board that crippled them when they disallowed Paul Niulan and Marlon Gomez to suit up citing all sorts of eligibility rules broken that are plain hogwash. If there is one team that has endured so much it’s the Altas and I do hope there’s a silver lining for them when it would have been so easy to give up playing ball.

Let’s look at their team results and team stats.

83-61 vs. UV
71-61 vs. USC
83-78 vs. UE


Here’s how the Altas’ Fab Four has been doing:
Scoring Average
Juneric Baloria
Justine Alano
Earl Thompson
Harold Arboleda
Rest of the team

As you can see it’s just the Fab Four and no one else. If one of them has an off day or gets into foul trouble then they’re in trouble. That’s the bulk of their offense and defense.

Clearly the coaching staff has recognized that but what help is forthcoming?

There’s Gabriel Daganon and Kevin Oliviera but they’re too raw. But the coaching staff has to fast track their development and their contributions. Can you imagine if they go against the deeper San Beda Red Lions?

Next up: Looking at the UE Red Warriors, UP Fighting Maroons, and the San Beda Red Lions.

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