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.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Looking at the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup quarterfinals match-ups

Looking at the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup quarterfinals match-ups
by rick olivares

After 37 days of gruelling competition, eight teams survived the cut to make it to the win-or-home rounds of the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup.

Five UAAP and three NCAA squads are left standing out of the 18-team pool that started out the annual summer competition and they will duke it out in the quarterfinals that tips off on Tuesday, June 7, at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.

Match 1: University of Perpetual Help Altas (5-2) vs. Ateneo Blue Eagles (4-3) at 11:15am
The Altas look just fine without former league MVP Scottie Thompson who is now with Ginebra in the PBA. Under first year coach and former player Nosa Omorogbe and is assisted by the returning Jimwell Gican, this team will be a contender in the upcoming NCAA Season 92 because there seems to be better balance, better ball movement, and help from up and down the roster. In the Filoil tourney, they were impressive especially in their take down of a very good Arellano Chiefs side. Perpetual Help raced to a 4-0 record until Bright Akhuetie had to finish his commitments to the PCBL while Prince Eze came down with an illness. The Altas dropped two straight and reversed the tide with Akhuetie’s return in their final elimination round match versus the College of Saint Benilde.

Gab Daganon (15.3 points and 5.3 rebounds) has become one of the team’s two go-to players along with Bright Akhuetie (13.0 points and 9.3 rebounds) a game. Back-up center Prinze Eze, despite playing fewer minutes than Akhuetie, has also churned out impressive number (10.0 points and 6.0 rebounds). The Altas also boast of some steady and solid players in AJ Coronel, John Ylagan, and Daryl Singontiko. Point guards Jon Yuhico has been quietly efficient while Flash Sadiwa, and Keith Pido have had their moments but are inconsistent. Forward Kervin Lucente has been serviceable. For their NCAA season, Omorogbe should ensure that Gerald Dizon and Ric Gallardo find their games because their all-around games are similar to that of Coronel and Daganon especially since they too can play multiple positions.

The Altas will run if they have to but on the half court set, they like to find Akhuetie down the post, have Daganon break down the defense, or whip the ball around until their shooters are open.

The Blue Eagles are clearly groping for form especially in the wake of losing seven players due to academics. They have a lot of players who can score but the concern is scoring consistently. Thirdy Ravena is the only one to average in double digits. While on one hand it is good because the defense doesn’t know who will score on any given day, it is also cause for concern when the shot clock is ticking away because you have no sure ball threat. However, you have to like their willingness to share the ball and move it around to find the open man.

You have to consider that they also beat some good teams — Mapua and Lyceum — although they took them down when their chances of advancing to the next round were all but over. Nevertheless, that says something about this young team. Yet when faced with teams that play with a lot of hustle, heart, and power, that youth, inexperience, and lack of maturity has seen this team wilt. 

Their defense is work in progress. They are tied for fifth in the league with 44.4 boards per outing (alongside EAC and Benilde). A note about the rebounding, Ateneo was killed on the glass by UE in the game’s last 10 minutes. In the loses to La Salle and San Beda, they were outrebounded and killed by second chance points. They outrebounded Lyceum yet were also hurt by those second chance points.

Ravena is the only one consistent in getting points inside. Aaron Black, as I predicted last year, will have the makings of Ateneo’s next big time scorer. And he’s on that road this year. The two of them will be the fount of points for Ateneo but that isn’t enough. This team needs some dependable scoring inside. Chibueze Ikeh can be frustrating to watch for his softness inside. And I feel that GBoy Babilonia and Kris Porter, despite being undersized at the slot, are better. I like their willingness to battle, make the pass and to hit the outside shot. They will have their hands full against Akhuetie although I figure Ateneo to double team his just as well as they did to Mapua’s Allwell Oraeme. 

Mike Nieto will most likely be unavailable due to an ankle sprain and that’s a shame because he brings in a lot of hustle and smarts. When he enters the game alongside brother, Matt, and throw in Aaron Black, Adrian Wong, or even Thirdy Ravena, they push their game to another gear.

Except for the loss to La Salle, Ateneo has managed to keep all its games close. It is in the final minutes where they crumble and that’s due to inexperience, being a work in progress, and the lack of players to close it out. 

Match #2: National University (6-1) vs. Adamson Falcons (4-3) at 1:30pm
The young Bulldogs have only four players left from their UAAP champion team from two years ago and only Alfred Aroga and Rev Diputado got meaningful playing time. What head coach Eric Altamirano has built here is a young team that is well-trainied and disciplined. They are young, talented, and will grow and become solid contenders. In fact, they were very impressive in their win over a veteran-laded Arellano Chiefs team in the last day of the elimination round that saw them vault to the top of their group standings. 

What makes the Bulldogs’ feat even more stunning is that no player on the roster averaged in double figures. Even Aroga failed to do so! Yet, this is an even better team than last year’s squad was with Gelo Alolino and Kyle Neypes. The Bulldogs’ biggest players have all been newcomers - Matt Salem who leads the team in scoring with 8.4 a game. hino Mosqueda has been a revelation for them. I thought that he might be too small for the college game playing the three. But no, he’s been solid. He can play defense, shoot, finish the break, and make great passes. And if JJ Alejandro can’t get going then JV Gallego will be a big scorer for this team. 

Salem is a huge pick up. Against Arellano, he kept NU close. When the Chiefs assigned a player to shadow him wherever he went it was up to the others to step up their game. And step up they did. Matt Aquino has been massive. he can hit from the outside, play defense, and rebound. His putback against Arellano was what stole the ball game.

Dave Yu is like another Mosqueda except the latter has better court vision. Yu though has a better outside shot.

However, if NU wants to go deep in both the Filoil and UAAP tourneys, they will need Aroga, Alejandro, and Rev Diputado to put up good numbers.

The Adamson Falcons have been a revelation. They started the tournament rather slow but turned it around as the players began to get a grasp of what new head coach Franz Pumaren wanted. They don’t have the press down pat yet. But they have been excellent in the half court set. But that is because they too are a young team. Like Ateneo and NU, save for Dawn Ochea no player has been on this team for more than a year. So they will get better and contend for years.

In their early victories, the duo of Papi Sarr (17.1 points, 12.1 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks) and Dawn Ochea (.3 points and 4.1 rebounds) carried the team. The point guard Rob Manalang began to play more consistently and became a reliable player for Pumaren. Along with Jerrick Ahanmisi, Harold Ng, and Terence Mustre, they form NU’s Bomb Squad. JD Tungcab when he figures things out, will be this team’s version of do-it-all forwards Alex Nuyles and Jericho Cruz. Sean Maganti occasionally looks lost in the offense but he has great upside. Nothing like more seasoning to help this lad with an impressive wingspan.  

Even at this early stage of this Falcons’ squad, they have a more dynamic attack than NU. They play at a pace that Franz likes — frenetic and with lots of energy. I said at the end of the last UAAP season that Adamson would be very dangerous in UAAP Season 79. They changed almost the entire squad but their growth is even more impressive. 

But if Adamson wants to advance to the next round of the Premier Cup or even play really well in the UAAP, their fate is aligned with Sarr’s ability to stay on the court. He had a penchant for picking up a lot of quick and early fouls. That hurt Adamson last year and in their first two matches of this tournament. Pumaren has tried to get Khristian Bernardo and Cristian Garcia ready and they will be serviceable but not game changers the way Sarr is. If Adamson does go to that small lineup then Ochea, Tungcab, and Maganti must hold the fort for them to have a chance.

Can NU stop Adamson’s Bomb Squad? We’ll find out.

Match #3 San Beda Red Lions (6-1) vs. Arellano Chiefs (5-2) at 3pm
Both teams boast of some of the most explosive guards in the tournament. San Beda features Dan Sara and deadeye shooter AC Soberano who is hitting 64% of his triples (29-48) while the Chiefs have the Kent Salado and the exciting Jiovani Jalalon who despite missing two games due to national team duty posted the sixth best overall individual statistics in the tournament. 

The Red Lions are locked and loaded for bear. They’ve got a ton of scorers up and down the bench. They’ve got height. They can hurt you in so many ways. And this tournament, they have played on a fifth gear with a stifling press and a pace that punishes opponents with poor ball carriers. Aside from their speed and pace, what makes them dangerous is their work ethic. They are constantly in your face. 

Plus, they like to attack inside leaving the perimeter open for snipers like Soberano, Sara, Ranbil Tongco, Joe Presbitero, Robert Bolick Jr., JV Mocon, or even forward William Navarro. 

Against La Salle, they dictated the pace for the first 26 minutes of the game before the Green Archers overtook them and held off those last ditch rallies. 

If the Arellano Chiefs want to take down San Beda much less compete in the NCAA against this perennial power, they must out-work the Red Lions. And that is saying a lot. Now Arellano U owns the slickest backcourt in the country today with Jiovani Jalalon, Kent Michael Salado, and Donald Gumaru. They lead the Chiefs in scoring in that order as well. But that too reveals their weakness. 

The Chiefs have a deep and talented roster but there’s an imbalance in the production. Their lack of production in the frontline hurts them especially when battling the likes of San Beda and Perpetual Help. 

I always thought that Dioncee Holts is only the center by default because of his height. He is actually a small forward or shooting guard forced to play big. Allen Enriquez is a three playing the four. Their best inside threat is Lervin Flores who is their best two way player. Julius Cadavis and Adam Gupilan can help but need to provide better quality minutes to earn the trust of their coach.

That weakness inside was their undoing versus NU.

Brian Meca and Kraniel Villoria can pick up the slack coming off the bench. Between the two it is Meca who can operate inside as he knows how to position himself for a putback or being the recipient of a drop pass. 

If the Chiefs are as good defensively as they are offensively, they will go far not only in the Premier Cup but also the NCAAs.

Match 4: De La Salle Green Archers (7-0) vs. Far Eastern University Tamaraws (4-3) at 5pm.
The Green Archers have been unbeaten in any league in the past three months. They know they are good and that is dangerous. 

DLSU boasts of the best one-two punch in the league with behind statistical leader Jeron Teng who is dropping 22.7 points per game and the bull-strong Ben Mbala at the slot who turns in 21.3 points and a league-best 15.4 rebounds a game. But it is Mbala who makes this team go. He is their X-factor. And he’ll finish this tournament as its Most Valuable Player for what he brings to the table.

Mbala's teammates can take shots from the outside knowing that he can haul down the offensive board (DLSU is the best rebounding team in the league with 48.1 a match — three more boards than the next best squad that is San Beda). Their man can slip by them but they know they have a rim protector in the lane. Opponents get worried about Mbala that it allows Abu Tratter and Jayboy Gob to get putbacks and freebies. And Prince Rivero has yet to get untracked. You also have to pick your poison — double team Mbala or get bombed from the perimeter by Jolo Go, Kib Montalbo, Andrei Caracut, or Aljun Melecio?

Are the Green Archers unbeatable? The Tamaraws would do well to watch the first half of La Salle’s match with Mapua and Letran. Against Mapua, Mbala had a very tough time against Cardinals center Allwell Oraeme. Only when Oraeme got injured and thrown out did La Salle gain a hold on the game. The Knights’ smallball worked for one hald before they crumbled in the second half.

FEU has been led by Monbert Arong, Steve Holmqvist, and Richard Escoto. And that’s telling because they’ll need Prince Orizu (5.6 points and 9.6 rebounds), Kevin Eboña, and Ken Holmqvist to hold their own inside the paint against Mbala. If they play all Filipino, FEU can match up well. So right now the question is stopping Mbala. 

Tickets to the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup quarterfinals, semifinals (June 10), and finals (June 12) are available at the gate of the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan and also through Ticketnet.

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