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, June 21, 2016

Questions about NCAA Season 92 Part 1: Letran and San Beda

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Questions about NCAA Season 92 Part 1
by rick olivares

For our NCAA Season 92 preview, we will answer the most pertinent questions that anyone will ask before tip-off.

Can the Letran Knights defend their men’s basketball title?
The Knights are a very deceptive team. Before NCAA Season 91, they had a sub-par pre-season. Come the regular season tip-off, they went out guns blazing.

This year, they could do the same… but that remains to be seen. I thought that last season the line-up of Jom Sollano at center, Kevin Racal at the four, Rey Nambatac at the three then McJour Luib and JP Calvo in the backcourt with Mark Cruz coming off the bench was a masterstroke. Nambatac is actually a very good rebounder with Racal and Sollano, that allowed Letran to get out on the fastbreak.

This season, Racal, Cruz, and center Rey Publico are done with their playing years. New head coach Jeff Napa has gone to this line up of Christian Balagasay at center, Felix Apreku at the four, Jerrick Balanza at the three while Nambatac has returned to the two-spot alongside JP Calvo. Luib is back in his sixth man role with Bong Quinto and Sollano also coming off the bench. I figure that’s to provide firepower off the bench and to allow Balanza to grow and develop into the role of that slashing creative forward ala Racal.

The problem with that starting lineup is Balagasay and Apreku aren’t expected to score and Balanza is inconsistent. That places more pressure on Nambatac and Calvo of which opposing teams keyed their defenses.

Furthermore, we aren’t seeing that fullcourt trapping defense that was installed by Louie Alas and turned into an art form by Aldin Ayo. Maybe Napa refuses to reveal his hand and that’s good.

But based on what we’ve seen, Letran will have a hard time fighting for that Final Four slot. They will challenge  - Balagasay and Balanza will have to grow up in a hurry if they want to be of great help. And by no means are we aren’t crossing them out for our list of contenders. It’s just that there are a host of challengers with loaded line-ups — San Beda, Arellano, Perpetual Help, Mapua if they can get their act together — who have deep, veteran squads who are hungry for a crown.

Is San Beda ready to re-take the crown?
This is probably the deepest and most athletic team in the NCAA. This despite featuring a lot of new faces. And thus, they are definitely motivated to win back that crown. Can they get it done? Most definitely. But it won’t be easy.

However because of their unparalleled success in the past decade, there is pressure on head coach Jamike Jarin to get this done especially with alumni breathing down his neck for his unorthodox lineups and strategies. 

But this team has all the hallmarks of Jarin’s past champion teams from Ateneo to Talk ’N Text where they have the athletes to harass you all match long. These Red Lions will press the most and wreak havoc on teams that play a halfcourt set and don’t have very good press-breaking guards. The Red Lions will push the pace this year and could even be averaging a hundred points if not stopped at all. They love to whip that ball around and look for mismatches and will attack at every opportunity. 

So the key to beating this team will be TO OUTWORK THEM. Not an easy task but it can be done because of the relative youth of this squad. That also means you need a rim protector to deal with the hardworking Donald Tankoua in the slot then make sure their bevy of shooters are covered. AC Soberano is the Man with the Golden Hands He shot 64% from three-point range in the pre-season! Who the heck shoots like that? Javee Mocon’s emergence will mean they’ve got a legit scoring threat. Dan Sara is this team’s leader and will drive their engine by example. Robert Bolick Jr. is a huge pick-up and has shown an arsenal that he didn’t get to show with La Salle. Davon Potts is another high energy player who will help. Calvin Optana when he gets his confidence will help inside — and you have to check that wingspan of his. But of the newcomers, I like the heady Joe Presbitero and William Navarro. 

This is a talented San Beda team that will contend for years to come. But if no one can outwork them, they will win it all this year.  
Next: Can Jiovani Jalalon lead Arellano to a championship? Is Bright Akhuetie the best African in the NCAA?

What other teams will challenge for the championship?

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