Raw Predictions for UAAP Season 73
The 73rd season of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines kicks off with the men’s senior basketball competitions on July 10. Host school De La Salle University Green Archers will square it off with the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons in the first game, while the University of the East Red Warriors will go up against the University of Sto. Tomas Growling Tigers in the second game. The other four teams will face each other on Sunday, with the National University Bulldogs against the Adamson University Soaring Falcons, and the defending champions Ateneo De Manila University against the Far Eastern University Tamaraws.
Before tip-off on Saturday, allow me to give you my own raw prediction on how the standings will be like after the regular season.
We will give our predictions starting with last year’s top team, all the way down to the cellar dweller.
Ateneo De Manila Blue Eagles
With 11 solid hold-over players, the most senior of UAAP coaches in Norman Black, and of course the championship title, the Eagles are looking for a three-peat championship this season. The prospect is not a far-fetched one, especially if you’re starting five this season were the accomplished bench troops you had in the previous one. The edge that the Eagles enjoy lies in the fact that Black is not afraid to release up to ten of his reserves into the floor for playing time. The confidence he has with the practice sessions he has subjected his troops into is a testament to his coaching skills.
The adjustment, however, for the team is for the newbies to step up and fill the shoes that were left by Rabeh Al-Hussaini, Nonoy Baclao and Jai Reyes. While Eric Salamat gets promoted as team captain, he will be needing all the help from the others. Someone with the hot hands will have to fill up the vacancy left by Jai, while the presence under the net that used to be the Baclao-Hussaini turf is wanting as well.
Prediction: Ateneo is an easy shoo-in for the Final Four. Reaching the Finals, however, is a blur for the moment. If not for a strong line-up that FEU flaunts this season, we can go ahead and reserve the top spot for Ateneo. But the Tamaraws are geared up to make a serious run for the title. The Eagles will have their hands full against the Morayta-based ballers if ever they face off in the Finals.
Far Eastern University Tamaraws
The Tamaraws are predicted to be the strongest team this season. There is, however, only one thing wrong with this prediction: this has been the same, foiled prediction since 2007.
For four straight seasons now, the Tamaraws have failed to capture the crown, despite all the prognosis for them as having one of the most talented pool. Adding insult to injury, the Tamaraws were the most controversial teams last season. Had it not been for Mark Barroca’s suspension, the Tamaraws would have denied UE its Finals appearance last year. And surely enough, the subtraction of Barroca from the roster cost them the chance to face the eventual champs, Ateneo.
The Tamaraws, on paper, has the strongest core of players, perhaps even stronger and more experienced that Ateneo’s. JR Cawaling, Aldrech Ramos, RR Garcia and Reil Cervantes are the four toughest Tamaraws on the floor. At any given game, these guys can shut the lights out of their opponents. The chemistry is there, as well as the defensive guts. But they’re also known for meltdowns at the stretch. If they get to avoid last minute implosions, then wins will be safely tucked for them every outing.
Prediction: FEU cannot afford another controversy to rock their club and cost them again a shot at the championship title. Coach Glen Capacio, now on his fourth season, is the first man under fire if the only good thing they can manage is a Final Four appearance, which is expected already. Nothing less than a championship can satisfy FEU’s hunger, which will either drive them to win, or slow them down until they run out of gas. In fairness, FEU is the only team that poses a threat to Ateneo. If all goes well, they’ll either end up on top or the second seed.
University of the East Red Warriors
Kobe Bryant puts it that second place means you’re the first loser. If such were true, the UE must be hurting. And as if it couldn’t get worse, the loss happened at a time when they had a strong line-up, most of which have finsihed their eligibilities. This season, UE will join the fray minus Elmer Espiritu, Pari Llagas, Rudy Lingganay and Val Acuna. The four players combine for 40 points per game, figures that Coach Lawrence Tiongson is still figuring out where to get. Paul Lee and James Martinez are the only two veteran players that were regular rotations for the Red Warriors. Lucas Tagarda and Paul Zamar have just been hurled into the regular starters slot, as well as Raffy Reyes. The bad part is that the adjustment will have to take place right in the middle of the season. But UE has nothing to fret. They’ve had their share of bad opening games, and then composed themselves into a strong force in the middle of the first round, and then aced all previous games. Next to Ateneo, UE had the longest winning streak of eight games last season, propelling them to a Finals appearance.
Prediction: With a serious depletion of strong starters, UE might just lose their chance at a Final Four appearance if Adamson and UP, the two dark horse teams coming into the season, step up in their game. At best, they can kick UP out of the top half of the standings. At worst, they’ll be number five.
University of Sto. Tomas Growling Tigers
The Tigers made it to the Final Four last year by the skin of their teeth. And at that time, they had league MVP Dylan Ababou, Khazim Mirza leading them. Now, with them gone, the prospect of a making it to the top half of the standings is a fading one. Making it to the Final Four last year was courtesy of La Salle bowing out with a loss to UP, and Adamson losing to UE. In other words, UST was propelled to the Final Four by the defeat of others, not by their own doing.
If UST wants to barge into the playoffs, they will be looking to players like Jeric Teng, Chris Camus and Clark Bautista to play like veterans and lead the way. By far, the other players are nondescript, and so the burden of salvaging this season is up to the three veteran starters.
Prediction: UST can either end up as the sixth or seventh team by the end of the season. If things go their way at best, they might just inch their way close enough to be the fifth team.
Adamson University Soaring Falcons
The Falcons had a strong run at a Final Four appearance last season, had it not been for their dilemma of closing out games. The Falcons usually start strong, but end up imploding in the final minutes. They had two double overtime games against UE and La Salle, and both times they lost. They lost to FEU by merely 3 points, and to UST by a mere point. If things went the other way, they would have been the team on the Final Four and not UST.
This season, there’s no more excuse for the Falcons to be on the Final Four this season. With the fourth most intact roster, and by far their most successful tactician in Leo Austria, the Falcons are set to enter the Final Four. Lester Alvarez has emerged as one of the top guards in the league. Alex Nuyles, Jan Colina, Michael Galinato, Jeric Canada and Eric Camson, when put on the floor all at the same time, is the most experienced five on the court, perhaps next to UP or FEU. They cannot be denied this year.
Prediction: Adamson will definitely be in the Final Four this season, whether in the third or fourth spot. At best, they might give FEU a run for their money if they meet in the semis.
De La Salle University Green Archers
The team is right now in transition, with the departure of Coach Franz Pumaren. But since Dindo Pumaren is the one taking Franz place, the Archers are still in good hands. But a new coach means a new system, and the adjustment phase will have to be right on the court, against hungry teams like them. But with no one go-to guy that can salvage them in crunch time, and the departure of a would-have-been marquee player in Arvie Bringas, La Salle might miss the playoffs again for the second straight season. But the new coach isn’t new to such situations. Now with the team direction all to his own, Dindo Pumaren now has the free hand to draw out the team’s system. Dindo Pumaren is known for being a believer of defense, as he himself was s defensive threat during his PBA days. Translating the philosophy to his players, however, isn’t as easy as blowing the whistle.
Prediction: La Salle, at best, can be at the number five or seven spot by the end of 14 games.
National University Bulldogs
They had a splendid first game victory last season versus UP, and they closed out with a win over La Salle. The dismal part is that in between these two games, NU only managed to win one game. If it were not for winning margin percentage, it would have been NU at the cellar, instead of UP.
Now, NU is under the tutelage of a new coach, Eric Gonzales. The transition, obviously, must take place right in the middle of the season. If there is any relief for NU, it would be that they only lost one starter in Michael Luy. Kokoy Hermosisima, Mervin Baloran, Jerome Tungcul and veteran Jewel Ponferrada have played solid minutes together for years, and they are expected to bring out the best of their chemistry when the season begins.
The only problem is that this same line-up failed to improve their standings in the UAAP. The hope is that the new acquisitions will soon adjust to the system and provide more power for an ailing team like them.
Prediction: NU will hardly make it to the Final Four, but a spot at number six is not a long shot.
University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons
I already gave a previous prognosis about the Maroons for this season. But it was an article by Sid Ventura that gave me both a smile in my face and a joy in my heart–UP might just make it to the Final Four this year.
Ventura cites the same factors that I cited that might give UP its first ever trip to the Final Four since Paolo Mendoza played as a Maroon: they have the most intact starter and second stringers with eleven hold-overs, they have a star rookie in Mike Silungan, who is being hyped up as an MVP candidate, and the newbies that were brought in to fill up gaps that Arvin Braganza and Mike Gamboa left. They just finished a good run at the FilOil Flying V Tournament, almost making it to the semis, if it weren’t for a loss to FEU. Since they’re at the bottom, there’s no other way for UP but up.
Prediction: I’ll take Sid’s prediction: UP will go up four notches from number eight this season. They might, for the first time after more than a decade, make it to the Final Four.
Here is how the UAAP Standings will look like this season:
6. La Salle
FEU will defeat UP, and ADMU will defeat AdU in the semis, and eventually, FEU wins the title this season.
And the ultimate disclaimer: all this has yet to be seen.