This appears on philstar.com
Questions about NCAA Season 92 Part 3
by rick olivares
Can the Mapua Cardinals fly high?
The Mapua Cardinals were one of the better teams last year as they finished 12-6. But they lost a 91-90 heartbreaker to Letran in the semifinals that ended the collegiate careers of do-it-all forward Josan Nimes, Mark Braña who only showed up late in the season, and guards Stephen Que and John Nieles on a sour note.
This year, I’d go as far as to say that they could be the NCAA’s version of La Salle. Not program-wise but in the composition of the team — stud center surrounded by a cadre of high-scoring guards and solid forwards who can do their thing without worrying about rebounds and protecting the rim.
That center is Allwell Oraeme who won the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player Awards. While he is darn good, he isn’t like his La Salle counterpart — who he outplayed when they matched up during the summer — in the sense of playing with a chip on his shoulder. Oraeme is a cool cat who plays under control.
They’ve got a deadeye shooter in Exie Biteng. A clutch shooting guard in CJ Isit. A tough-as-nails player who can do it on both ends of the court in Andrew Estrella. Darell Menina will backstop the guards but isn’t as consistent offensively. Almel Orquina is another who can light it up (it’s just not yet his time because of the presence of the more senior players).
Oraeme who really needs to stay away from fouls if Mapua wants a chance to better their Final Four finish of last year. If Justin Serrano, JR Raflores, and Denniel Aguirre can do their part, not just hitting the outside shot but also playing inside the paint, they’ll take a load off the overworked Oraeme.
I don’t think that the Cardinals lost anything offensively as they have the guards to scorch the nets.
The concern here is to get contributions from different people from different positions on the court, not to meltdown in the stretch (their Achilles heel the past two seasons), and not to get into foul trouble.
With a de-powered Letran (that doesn’t make them less dangerous), Mapua has a good chance of seizing a slot in the Final Four. But it is up to them to realize that and take it. And to coach this team well.
Who are the dark horse contenders?
The San Sebastian Stags showed newfound defensive intensity during the pre-season even when they lost Michael Calisaan to a freak motorcycle injury that sidelined him for the rest of the summer. According to new Stags head coach (and former star) Edgar Macaraya, Calissan will be back in time for the NCAA tip-off.
This team isn’t yet anything like the squads Macaraya put together in Centro Escolar University that he turned into a NAASCU power. For one, he doesn’t have that center to make them play the uptempo and defensive game he wants.
The Stags will depend on their stretch players — who will play the two, three, four, and sometimes, five as they are under-sized — Calisaan, Jerick Fabian, Jayson David, and Alfren Gayosa. They also saw the late summer explosion from swingman Alvin Capobres.
What this team needs is to be steady in the back court. Point guard Ryan Costelo is all right; he just needs to get away from ticky tacky fouls and complaining all the time because he is an important player for the Stags. They are good but they lack height and depth.
Lyceum of the Philippines University is intriguing. If they still had Victor Nguidjol in uniform (he is now in the NBA D-League), I’d say the time is ripe for the Pirates to really compete for a Final Four slot.
They have a better lineup than San Sebastian because they have a center in Joseph Gabayni who seems to have mellowed down and stayed away from the rough stuff that merited technical fouls and ejections during the summer. If Mike Nzeusseu can develop a little more quickly, he’ll be of massive help to the Pirates. He showed flashes of talent during the summer although he was playing injured so the jury is still out on him.
They have forwards in Jebb Bulawan and Wilson Baltazar and guards Jesper Ayaay, and Shaq Alanes.
LPU has the athletes and talent, the question surrounding their chances is, how good are they defensively and will they play as a team? If they do well in both regards and if Gabayni behaves and produces, and if Nzeusseu produces, they’ll challenge for a Final Four slot.