UAAP Season 74 Finals Preview: Ateneo vs. FEU
If you think the return trip for these two teams to the finals is already dramatic, you ain’t seen anything yet.
The Ateneo De Manila University Blue Eagles and the Far Eastern University Tamaraws are back in the loftiest stage of UAAP basketball for a rematch of last year’s finals. The Blue Eagles are out to chase history with a four-peat, while the Tamaraws are aiming to end the championship drought and give Bert Flores his second championship belt since he last mentored an FEU roster that boasted Arwind Santos.
This scenario would have been a totally different story just a week ago, when the Blue Eagles tasted their first defeat in their last game against the Adamson Falcons. Already being groomed to be the deserving team to oppose Ateneo, the Falcons needed to win just one over the number three Tamaraws to punch in the Battle of the Birds. But the Tamaraws proved they will not be denied, and proved a case against Adamson that they’re the team Ateneo should beat in the Finals.
And thus, we have the last two teams standing.
Before everyone rushes to the conclusion that Ateneo will win this one, let’s look at one simple logic here:
Adamson beat Ateneo.
FEU beat Adamson. Thrice.
Ergo: Ateneo can’t be sure with this one.
And, lest we forget, FEU did give Ateneo the first scare when round two opened, and Ateneo was the one playing catch-up before they forced an overtime win over the Morayta Squad.
But this is the Finals we’re talking about. Definitely a lot has changed.
And with word out that JR Cawaling and Christian Sentchu given the green light, things will not be getting easier for Ateneo.
Nonetheless, FEU will have to take it away from Ateneo before they can brag of anything yet.
I’m thinking this will go the distance. Ateneo will surely come out with guns blazing to win the first game. If there’s anything that Bert Flores knows as much as Norman Black, it would be on what it would take to win the title. In fact, one of the reasons why Flores was brought back was to put his winning stamp on a program that has long endured criticism and heartbreaking losses since he last led the Tamaraws to winning the crown. That the Tamaraws edged a twice-to-beat Adamson squad only proves they’re serious contenders.
But Ateneo is still the reigning champs, and there’s hardly any reason no to think they will still be after their square-off against FEU. If there’s anything that Norman Black has an edge over Flores, one would be the fact that Black has never lost back to back since losing to UST during their Finals match in 2006 (a correction I made from an earlier fact that was corrected by one of our readers, Dani. Thanks). He has built a system that can transform from one playing style to another. They’re lethal in fast breaks, just as much as lethal in set plays, and they’ve got two of the most sensational tandem of guard and center, a formula that has been the cornerstone of almost every successful program. The Blue Eagles are also fast learners from their past mistakes. Surely, with Adamson already vanquished, they will put to good use whatever lessons they’ve learned when the Falcons inflicted a loss upon them. And unfortunately, FEU will have to be the team to face that.
So far, three teams have tried to beat Ateneo in as many seasons, and Ateneo went away with the trophy all three times.
Will there be a fourth crown for Ateneo?
Or will the celebrations shift to Morayta?