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.

Friday, September 8, 2017

UAAP Season 80 Preview: National University Bulldogs

UAAP Season 80 Preview: National University Bulldogs
by rick olivares

The trick for any basketball program is to arrest any decline before the cycle comes around.

It’s like this… program is down in the dumps, coach comes in to revitalize program, add talent over the years, challenge, go to the finals, try to stay atop, if not, rebuild quickly. We’ve seen many good teams take a stab at that but are unable to scale the summit.

The National University Bulldogs know from experience they can do it because they did a few years ago. They were unable to sustain their run because they lost way too many players in a couple of batches leaving them with youth and a lack of experience. The thinking that was players like Reggie Morido or Niko Abatayo will step in and take the place of Glenn Khobuntin. But the learning curve was too short. Khobuntin didn’t become the player he was until his final year. Hence, the cycle coming around.

Now they’ve reloaded with new coach Jamike Jarin who brings with him a reputation for building programs. And winning. Let’s emphasize the latter.

Can this team compete?

They are going from a halfcourt defensive team to a full-court pressing one and an all-action one on the offensive end. If they can get that down pat – the relentlessness (just look at the model that Jarin built at San Beda -- and speed the game up they will compete.

If their young players can be the fount of consistency and provide that glimmer of hope they will compete. They have three players who have championship experience – JJ Alejandro and Dave Yu who won with NU and Matt Salem who won with DLSU before transferring. All three need to be consistent. While Salem has developed a more well-rounded game as opposed to his being a three-point specialist for his former squad, NU needs guys like Reggie Morido, Niko Abatayo, and Chino Mosqueda to be able to slash inside to score or assist in scoring.

There’s talent up and down the line. Tzaddy Rangel got a lot of meaningful minutes in the pre-season. If he along with Matt Aquino, Jonas Tibayan, and Issa Gaye provide a semblance of control inside the lane, that helps everyone. It allows the shooters to get their looks and opens up space for their slashers.

If Rev Diputado can finally adjust with this pedal-to-the-metal system of Jarin, if Enzo Joson can contribute off the bat, if Jordan Bartlett can be solid, they will compete.

More to the system, having followed Jarin from his days in Ateneo all the way to San Beda, what is crucial is the speed of thought to match the pace that he wants. There will be mistakes, but if this young team of his can read the game in a split second, they will surprise a lot of folks.

Those are a lot of ifs.

That means because this is a young team. Management should be a little more patient. Are they looking at a Final Four slot?

That isn’t going to be easy. Six of the eight teams will compete for that. And you cannot discount the other two low seeds who will fly under the radar.

This is a rebuilding season but that doesn’t mean they will roll over and die. The idea is to establish the work ethic Jarin wants. Just take it one game at a time and see where they go. Who knows? Maybe they can nick a win or two here from the top seeds, that might be enough to propel them and somewhat fast track the championship plans.

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