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.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

UAAP Season 80 Preview: Ateneo Blue Eagles

UAAP Season 80 Preview: Ateneo Blue Eagles
by rick olivares

How do the Ateneo Blue Eagles follow up last year’s finals appearance?

By returning and winning it all. Except that is easier said than done. But they can do it.

The young team soaked in lots of experience last season. They came out for most as a surprise finalist but not us. We’d like to remind everyone that we were the only one to point out that they would make the finals and that was following the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup.

The cat is out of the bag. The Blue Eagles won’t be springing any surprises this year. People know what they are all about. Or do they? Hold that thought for a moment.

So what’s the prognosis this year? Before they take that next step, there are three questions they need to answer.

One, can they handle Adamson which is one of the seeded contenders to La Salle’s throne? Sure they did in the pre-season. But the months since the end of the summer tourneys have given all teams a chance to improve. If they can handle Adamson, that’s one less hurdle.

Two, how do they stack up against La Salle? One pre-season win doesn’t mean anything. It’s the pre-season. However, Ateneo knows they can hang with La Salle.

And that leads us to the third question which is crucial in answering that second question – can Chibueze Ikeh play better and bottle up Ben Mbala? Mbala is La Salle’s key. Neutralize him and there’s a chance. But that is not discounting their talented team.

If Ikeh can play like he did two years ago, Ateneo has a chance of wresting that crown away. I have never seen a player so weak mentally that rooting for him is feeling the emotions of the opposite side of the spectrum. You want to cheer him on and give him all the encouragement he needs but at the same time, you cry out in anguish at his howlers. Of late though (at least in the weeks preceding the UAAP opening, he has played better). And that augurs well for Tab Baldwin and the Ateneo faithful.

And Ateneo will need him no matter how good Isaac Go has gotten. No doubt about that. If Ikeh stand tall, watch out.

Let’s pursue that thought that we held earlier.

Last year, we saw the team play that awful walk it up offense (that we pointed out too while suggesting we quicken the pace). Only when they ran did they start to win and that propelled them to the finals.

This year. At least from the post-summer league matches that I saw, the team mostly got the system of Tab Baldwin down pat. I won’t say what that is here you’ll just have to watch that yourself. I think that is the difference.

They also added some key pieces to help them in the addition of Tyler Tio, Gian provides steadiness and a big shot. Mamuyac’s potential is exciting. Personally, I am not seeing Mamuyac play well at the point guard slot because he isn’t a natural. That’s like asking Jolo Mendoza to play that slot. But because lines have blurred between all positions, it can work too. We’ll see how that progresses. And for the manna from heaven in Troy Mallillin -- he adds mobility, aggressiveness, and quality at the four-spot. Now, the question is – Ateneo, can you help him survive the school’s academic rigors?

The coaching staff likes to say that they win as a team and without superstars. I agree. However, they need some guys to play well. If Thirdy Ravena can be consistent and if Aaron Black can find his place on the team, they will be a juggernaut.

Unlike Mike Nieto and Raffy Verano who do not need plays called for them (as they can score off putbacks and hustle points), Ravena, Black, Anton Asistio, and Jolo Mendoza need to get going.

But if it’s any indication, their opportunistic system will get them those points. 

The Ateneo Blue Eagles are flush with talent and confidence. If they win early, their confidence will soar. And if that happens, watch out.


  1. Agreed on all points. The import for Ateneo is their weak link and no match for Imbala. Issac Go will step up....he has proven his strength mentally and physically. Go Ateneo!

  2. Good analysis for admu and the other schools as well. I may have missed it but i'm also interested to read your preview for dlsu. Thanks