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.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Red Warriors down

Red Warriors down

by rick olivares

It seems almost inconceivable that the University of the East Red Warriors are languishing at the cellar of the UAAP Men’s Basketball standings with a 0-5 record. They suffered their fifth straight defeat, 84-69, at the hands of the Ateneo Blue Eagles last Saturday, September 24. And this early, the season seems to have slipped away because it looks like the agony will not yet end as unbeaten and favored La Salle on deck with the much-improved and second running Adamson Falcons closing out their first round campaign. The Red Warriors are potentially staring at a 0-7 record to close out the first round of the eliminations. 

Entering this campaign, they were a team with so many questions. 

Will the veterans Paul Varilla, Renz Palma, Edgar Charcos, and RR De Leon will raise the level of their game?
Can Edson Batiller be almost automatic like Jeron Teng from medium range?
Will anyone replace Chris Javier’s points and presence in the post?
After two seasons of imbibing Derrick Pumaren’s pressure defense, will they finally press foes into oblivion?

The answer to all is… no. 

When you dissect UE, the first thing you look at is their defense.

In season 78, they went 6-8 and surrendered 72.2 points per game; good for sixth. No ideal but had their last two minutes ended up differently in a couple of games, they could have competed for a Final Four slot.

This Season 79, UE is conceding 77.2 points. That’s five more points.

Rebounding is likewise down from 44.2 to 41.6. To compound matters, their opponents haul down 49.o boards against them. Luckily for them, they haven’t been hurt by second chance points.

With regard to turnovers, UE gives up the fewest turnovers with 17.4 a match. In all their losses, they do not concede many turnovers especially in the fourth period. 

What has really killed them is their poor shooting. Yes, they can defend even with no legit center but they cannot hit a basket even if their life depended on it.

The Red Warriors have jacked up the most number of shots in the league with 381; that’s five more than La Salle and 67 more than Ateneo. They have knocked down only 122 of those attempts for a league worst 32%. And here is where it gets worse, from the 15-foot line, UE has attempted the most number of free throws with 141. They have scored on only 85 of them for a 60.3% accuracy rate. Yes, you guessed it — it’s the worst in the league.

While defense wins championships, the game is all about putting the ball inside the basket. And UE cannot simply buy a basket. Their haphazard offense is murder on themselves. What they need to do it take better shots and in the flow of the game instead of jacking them up like there is no tomorrow. If you had a Ben Mbala or a Papi Sarr to rebound for you then it’s fine. But you don’t. You’re mostly undersized and have to play better team ball and take better care of that rock. And they have to play a whole lotsmarter than what they are currently showing. 

We have harped on the veterans not playing their part and are vastly underperforming. They might want to look at giving a few more shot attempts to Mark Olayon and Ralph Penuela who have shot the ball best for their team. Especially, Olayon who seems to be playing the best ball for them. In contrast, Batiller, whether because he is a marked man or not, has shot only 29%. 

Olayon, has started three of UE’s five matches and is second in the team in scoring (10.2 points) and second in rebounding (4.2 boards). If Varilla and Palma, who seem to have more hops and speed than Olayon cannot get going maybe it’s time to hand the ball to the returning Red Warrior who is hitting over 54% of his two-point attempts. He is second to - gasp - Clark Derige in three point shooting. Better than their supposed snipers Batiller, Charcos, and Philip Manalang. Yet, he is only fourth in minutes if I am not mistaken.

Maybe and just maybe, Penuela needs more minutes.

The Warriors are incredibly tops in the league in assists with 17.4 a match; two assists better than second place Adamson. The bulk of that comes from their fastbreaks. 

The line-up is filled with a bunch of hard-working stretch players. I was a little surprised that they didn’t bring in any center. Rugged forward Alvin Pasaol is a big addition but it only disenfranchised Derige who was last year’s revelation along with Batiller. 

There was so much optimism for this team in the past four years. Of course, they have seen a lot of players graduate or removed since that time. Instead of moving forward, they have taken a step back. Two steps back even.

There might be time left to revive the season. They could pull off the mother of all upsets against La Salle and Adamson and turn the season around. After all, La Salle is the only one pulling away with everyone else in the middle of the pack. A coupel of wins and they could be back in it. They could summon enough pride to end the season strong. 

If they don’t…. they’ll find out that this early, the sun too, sets in the east.

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