The UP Fighting Maroons will be going up against the FEU Tamaraws tomorrow afternoon, their second straight game where they will be fighting for separation in the standings, and against the team touted as the “heavily favored team” during the beginning of the standings.
This FEU squad is the same squad who won double-digit victories over ADMU and DLSU. And before we forget, this team has the next least rookies in the league, as well as the next most holdovers from last season, where they were runners up to the NU Bulldogs.
Guess which team they are second to in terms of least rookies and most holdovers?
Yes, to UP.
But what does that mean?
None so much really.
Because when these two teams take on each other tomorrow afternoon, the only thing that will matter is that by the end of the game, one team will be 3-1 (tied at first with Ateneo and UST), and the other will be 2-2.
As of this writing, the only team sporting a winless record is Adamson University. The NU Bulldogs finally earned a victory, and in convincing fashion as they defeated the previously unblemished Growling Tigers. Just a couple of days ago, the standings were quite unfamiliar to many who are not used to seeing teams like Ateneo, NU at the bottom, and UP at the top.
Now, things seem to be back to normal.
Unless… the Maroons have a different agenda.
A win by UP tomorrow will bring them a more secure spot on the top half of the rankings, together with UST and Ateneo. After the Tamaraws, the Maroons will be tackling Adamson, NU and Ateneo. UP will only need one win out of those three for the Maroons to end the first half with a winning record of 4-3. The last time the Maroons had such a record ending the first half was… Anybody old enough to remember when?
But before we get ahead of ourselves with the possibilities, first things first.
It’s not really a question of whether the Maroons can or cannot defeat the Tams. They showed in their last three games that they can. Beating a UE team that is now 2-1 also in the standings and riding on the heroics of rookie Edson Batiller, a Jeron-Teng led DLSU squad that boasts of landing prospective ROY Andrei Caracut, and giving the league-leading Tigers a scare during their previous tiff, the Maroons are capable of upsetting the heavily favored Tams.
The question is… How?
Head coach Rensy Bajar gave his boys 24 hours after their loss to lament their defeat to UST.
That was a week ago.
For sure, the Maroons’ lead tactician have already laid out his game plan to his ballers. They must have burned hours of practice time to simulate all the possible scenarios when they take the Morayta squad on the floor tomorrow. Each of the guys who will suit up for battle tomorrow have all their work cut out already by tomorrow. They must have done a checklist of sorts on what to do with who, on such and such a moment of the game.
But the sketches on the drawing board and the stench of your opponent on the open court are two different things. When the Diliman squad steps on the battle field tomorrow afternoon, they will have to set aside thoughts about the other three games ahead of them. They will have to ignore the possibility of getting into that press conference after sealing a victory. They will have to stop imagining how the headlines will be on Monday in all the sports columns of the broadsheets and tabloids. And they will have to tear into pieces anything “on paper” about the FEU’s team.
When the play ball tomorrow, what they have in front of them is an opponent that must be defeated.
But if there’s one thing the UP Fighting Maroons can put their minds into when they take on the FEU Tamaraws, it is this…
…this game is a chance at legitimacy for them.
That’s simply all there is to it.
We continue with part two of part two of our series on the best of the UAAP Schools as far as their contribution to Philippine basketball is concerned.
Former UE Red Warriors Allan Caidic took over Rino Salazar as playing coach for Barangay Ginebra until he eventually took over as the head coach. While his career as coach wasn’t as colorful as his career as a player, Caidic was able to keep the respect he has earned during his early years as a basketball player by involving himself with charity games, as well as playing games together with the retired players from the league. He had a chance of leading Barangay Ginebra to the Finals in 2001.
Incidentally, he coached a team that has been long coached by a fellow UE Red Warrior, the living legend and former senator Robert Jaworski. Jaworski won four championships as a coach, and was part of the National Team that won two golds, a silver and a bronze in the FIBA games from 1967 to 1973. His prolific career as one of PBA’s most lasting image makes him also the oldest active player ever in professional basketball, as he was still playing at age 50. Aside from Caidic and Jaworski, another reknowned PBA coach hailing from UE was Jaime “Jimmy” Mariano, who led the now-defunct Presto team to its 1990 All-Filipino Championship Title.
The Adamson Falcons is the proud alma mater of coach Kenneth Duremdes, who called the shots for the Coca-Cola Tigers in 2008, the team he also played for the last time as a pro-cager. He was preceded by another UAAP product, Binky Favis, a former UST Growling Tiger, and succeeded by a fellow UAAP player he had a chance of playing against during their college days, coach Bo Perasol of the UP Fighting Maroons.
The UP Fighting Maroons, though not much known for winning traditions in UAAP Basketball, has been the breeding ground for most of PBA’s best coaches. Aside from Lipa, Altamirano and Perasol, coaches Ryan Gregorio and Yeng Guiao are the other two PBA coaches who were proud products of UP. Gregorio recently moved over to the Meralco Bolts as the new head coach, while Guiao is head tactician for the Burger King Titans.
Coach Derrick Pumaren, the older of three other known Pumaren coaches (Franz and Dindo), is the third UE Red Warrior among the roster of PBA’s coaches. After serving as Norman Black’s assistant during San Miguel’s Grandslam Season, he went on to coach for five other PBA Teams.
Former UST Growling Tiger Siot Tanquincen coached the Barangay Ginebra Kings in 2004 and led them to winning the PBA Fiesta Cup championship. He would win back-to-back for the next conference, the Philippine Cup. With 3 championships under his belt, Tanquincen is currently the assistant to former La Salle Green Archer Jong Uichico who coached the San Miguel Beermen for seven years starting 1999, leading the team to 6 championships.
While he is mostly known to have steered an NCAA team, the San Sebastian Stags, to five straight titles, coach Arturo “Turo” Valenzona is a full-blooded UAAP product, hailing from Far Eastern University‘s basketball program. he actually coached FEU for 19 years, one of the longest tenures in collegiate coaching, and won seven championships, giving the Tamaraws the most number of championship harvests in its college history under one coach, and making FEU as the school with the most UAAP basketball championships.
All in all, 16 of the 40 enlisted and documented coaches, past and present, of the PBA were products of UAAP schools.
(P.S. Apologies for the other coaches that are not in this list due to limited availability of resources. These details were gathered from Wikipedia).
5. NU Bulldogs
New leadership proved very effective for the NU Bulldogs, as their new coach Eric Gonzales steered the former whipping boys of the league to a decent 50% output this season–seven wins and seven losses. That’s fair enough from last season’s 3-11 card. They will keep most of their players for next year, and by then, the Bulldogs might just make it to Final Four. Of course, we’ve said this kind of forecast already for another team, which ended up zit, and so everything is still up for grabs for NU and the other three teams. But, overall, the Bulldogs have finally exorcised their demons of past defeats, and have finally emerged as a solid club. One more notch higher in their level of playing and they’re looking at a Final Four entry by next year.
6. UE Red Warriors
When the season began, the UE Red Warriors were suddenly bit by the post-finals appearance slump bug, which earned them a dismal 1-6 standing win-loss stat in the first round. Coach Lawrence Tiongson bluntly gave his prognosis about why his team is all of a sudden plunged from second to the highest, to second to the lowest. It was after that confession and repentance that the UE Red Warriors suddenly became the UE Red Warriors again. They were able to win all but one game in the second round to improve to slot number 6, which, while is still a far cry from their standing last season, is already a big indication that they can elevate their playing level at any given square-off. While rebuilding their host of players will be quite different next season, the Warriors, particularly coach Tiongson, are in a better position now to crank up their rally for season 74. They might be back in the final four as well.
7. UST Growling Tigers
The Espana-based cagers were depleted of their veterans from season 72, and wasn’t expected to be that much of a powerhouse team coming into this season. Nevertheless, managing 4 wins has earned the Growling Tigers more experience points which will make them ready and raring for next season. By then, this team’s line-up will have matured, especially their point guards. These days, it seems like efficient point guards make a difference in a team. And UST has some potential in Jeric Teng and Clark Bautista. Their maturity, and the addition of a couple of big men into the center position, is a big must for UST to climb its way back to its winning form.
8. UP Fighting Maroons
This is the part where I experience the writer’s mental block. Partly because I don’t know where to start, and partly because I don’t know how to start. Giving your take for your team isn’t as easy as giving one for the other team, especially if your team is this year’s cellar-dweller…again. And what makes it even worse is that there’s not much winning to talk about–after all, UP didn’t even win a single game. What’s even aggravating is that, before I started writing this blog, I was reading two blog posts–one was the perfect season of the San Beda Red Lions, the NCAA champs for this season, and an article about UP’s Basketball Program now in disarray. One minute I was in envy mode, the other, in frustration. And the article was as gloomy as a bad weather on a funeral service. The article talks about why UP’s season went south, and how as early as now, the good prospects of UP for next season are exiting from the program one by one, after seeing perhaps one of the saddest collapse in college basketball history. You may want to read the article and see it for yourself.
But I think that’s enough despair, already. Perhaps the one good thing is that the UP MBT is back to that starting point where “there’s no way but UP.” As always, year in and year out, I keep my hopes high for UP. The UP Community, while it must endure a full year in the cellar, will also have a cleaner slate this time to restart and rebuild the program. I’m tempted to say “basketball isn’t really UP’s forte,” but I don’t think that’s needed right now. I don’t believe in jinxing fortunes, so as early as now, I believe UP will have its sweet vengeance next season. I maybe wrong, but then I maybe right as well.
Everything’s a ‘wait and see’ for now.
Each of the eight current schools comprising the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) have a claim in basketball history here in the country. It’s nice to take a sweeping view of how our college ball clubs have made a significant impact in the history of the sport since it was introduced here in the early 20’s.
For this first in a series of blogs about the best of the UAAP Schools in Basketball, we’ll take a look-back at the past MVP’s of the Philippine Basketball Association who were graduates of a UAAP school.
The first ever MVP of the PBA was Bogs Adornado of the Crispa Redmanizers, and he was a proud University of Santo Tomas alumni. He also won that award thrice, the second best record in league history, next to Ramon Fernandez and Alvin Patrimonio, each with 4.
The University of the East boasts of producing the most number of distinct MVP’s coming from the same school. The “Living Legend” Robert Jaworski, triggerman Allan Caidic, and the recent awardee of the MVP award, James Yap, were all Red Warriors.
Benjie Paras, the only PBA player to have ever won both MVP and ROY awards in the same year, is a product of the UP Fighting Maroons.
Danny Ildefonso, on his way to winning back-to-back MVP honors from 2000-2001, won the Best Player of the Conference award five straight times, the most by any player in the PBA. Ildefonso was a product of the NU Bulldogs.
13 of the 35 times that the MVP Award was given went to former UAAP players. Johnny Abarrientos from the FEU Tamaraws, and Kenneth Duremdes from the Adamson Soaring Falcons complete the list of players in the PBA who have won the MVP honors, all coming from the UAAP.
In summary, the following PBA MVP Awardees were from the UAAP:
1. Bogs Adornado (UST, three times)
2. Robert Jaworski (UE)
3. Allan Caidic (UE)
4. James Yap (UE, two times)
5. Benjie Paras (UP, two times)
6. Kenneth Duremdes (AdU)
7. Johnny Abarrientos (FEU)
8. Danny Ildefonso (NU, two times)
The first round of atrocities in the UAAP have just wrapped up. Here are the standings so far after 49 games:
1. FEU (7-0)
2. AdU (5-2)
3. ADMU (5-2)
4. DLSU (4-3)
5. NU (3-4)
6. UST (3-4)
7. UE (1-6)
8. UP (0-7)
Let’s take some time out to analyze how it ended up this way for the teams:
We knew this was coming for the Tamaraws, especially when they handed the Eagles their first loss. That one would have gone forgotten–until La Salle followed suit to defeat Ateneo. That was in itself a statement that the Eagles are no longer in the lofty position they used to enjoy. The Tams have taken it from away from them, and are expected to keep it that way after round two. It won’t get any easier, though–this second round is all about seeding and survival, and so FEU will be the team to catch up. After all, there’s nothing higher than the top.
The Falcons made sure they lived up to their tag name “Soaring”, now that they’re up to the number two spot, tied with a fellow avian in ADMU. They will surely make it to the Final Four this year, and with how things are going for them, even the Finals isn’t a far reach anymore. The timely stepping up of their veterans in their games helped a lot in improving their standings. Indeed, they will not be denied this year.
The loss of their key players from last year’s champion team has unraveled the Eagles into where they are now. Still, they are as formidable as ever. They are the team that won with the largest margin in a game, against their neighbor UP. Only one of the two losses they incurred so far are inexplicable, the one that La Salle handed to them. It’s been so good so far for the Eagles when it comes to being a final four contender. As for that three-peat, Ateneo has some serious matters to tackle to make it to the Finals.
Surprise, surprise, college ballers! La Salle is on the top half of the list! Thanks to the renewed and recharged roles of their key veterans under the new leadership of Coach Dindo Pumaren, the Archers are on slot number four, a place that was being reserved for some other team than them. But since they won their opening game against UP, going on to defeat their rival Ateneo, and a couple more, La Salle ahead of the other half of the pack. The only danger is that if they slip, they might be the first to be ousted of their spot in the standings. And they shouldn’t underestimate who are the other four hungry for their share.
They definitely have graduated from being the league’s whipping boys. The new leadership of Eric Gonzales is working for the team. Emmanuel Mbe has done wonders for the team’s chemistry, and it might just be that they can catch up with the rest of the team ahead of them. It’s the “work harder” part of their game that they should really work harder on.
They’re relatively better than the other teams, considering their loss of their big time players and scorers. The rookie-laden UST has actually proved that age doesn’t matter, and neither does experience. They’ve win a couple of games, and lost the others in close calls. If there is any consolation to their performance, they can get better actually. The next seven games are crucial for them, since they’re just two games away from making it to the top half of the standings.
We knew UE would slide down, but not THIS down. Apparently, their loss of their big Warriors from last year’s roster has cost them a lot. And while Paul Lee is leading the way, it seems he’s doing it on the floor alone. Their single win came at the expense of UP, the cellar-dwelling team so far. That actually tells you how possibly weak UE has become. But seven games can still make a difference, and UE can still hope for the best.
I’m tempted to go lengthy on this one–and who wouldn’t? After being the most talked about team to finally make it this year, the UP Fighting Maroons are nowhere to be found in the winner’s radar. And their last loss to NU wasn’t exactly how they wanted to end the season–a monumental collapse that saw their 22 point edge over the Bulldogs disappear to become a 4-point defeat. And I really don’t know what to do with all the woes they are experiencing right now–the switching of of coaches in the middle of the season, the unusual sponsoring from big companies, the US trip that supposedly “gelled” the team”, the inconsistency of the veterans, the failure of the sophies to step up, and the rookies who have simmered down from their hype. The UP community is ailing and reeling over this one, and that’s one thing you can never blame them of. For now, the hope is that the Maroons won’t get swept again for the second time in four years.
Since nobody was making a fuss about them during the pre-season, the DLSU Green Archers made a noise of their own in winning fashion, beating the UP Fighting Maroons by 18 points, 80-62 on opening day of the UAAP Season 73.
Simon Atkins, the newly anointed captain of Gang Green, proved that he deserved the spot as he led all scorers with 20 points, including 3 crucial treys that sparked the hopes of the host team this season to barge back to the Final Four after missing it last year on the final season of legendary coach Franz Pumaren.
New head coach, and sibling to Franz, Dindo, got his first win as the new head tactician for the Taft ballers. Despite a change in headship, La Salle’s players picked up from the same defense trademark that the brothers were known for even during their PBA days. And true enough, the pressure defense coming from a relatively young roster of players from La Salle overpowered the experience and grit of a veteran-laden UP squad, who was actually favored to take a first game win over the host school.
UP’s players committed twice as much infractions on the ball than La Salle’s, 21 to 10, and shot with less efficiency with their field goals, 31% to La Salle’s 38%. Only veteran Woody Co and rookie Mike Silungan came up with double-digit figures each with 17. Other than the two players, all other UP ballers who stepped on the floor contributed no more than 8 points individually.
At one point, the Maroons closed the gap at the end of the half 34-31, until a Webb-Villanueva tandem created an 18-7 run that disrupted the shift of momentum from UP in the fourth quarter. The Diliman five showed little defense to stop the Archers and played catch-up, which hardly made a dent in the lead. It was around 3:20 left in the ballgame that the 74-56 lead of La Salle made it clear that they were bagging one win.
In other games, another unexpected win came from the downplayed UST Growling Tigers, winning 80-67 against last year’s runner-up, the UE Red Warriors. Jeric Teng, Clark Bautista and Chris Camus suited up for their new roles as leaders of the pack of Tigers, combining 39 of the 80 points of UST, while UE team captain Paul Lee, forecasted to be the MVP for this season, was shackled to pouring only 7 points for a team that had lost the most number of strong starters.
Sunday games featured the rise of the Adamson Falcons, winning their first ever game one outing in five years, 60-54, against a tough but error-prone NU Bulldogs. It would have went NU’s way, with their top two players Kokoy Hermosisima and Mervin Baloran combining for 37 points, and with their big men outrebounding Adamson, 37-30 boards. But their 31 turnovers converted to 21 points for Adamson, which is the dark horse team expected to be a F4 contender this year. And in the main game, FEU proved they were the team to beat this season, after handing the defending champs Ateneo Blue Eagles their first loss of the season, 72-69. Despite winning by a three point margin only, the win gave FEU an opening day boost for their bid to win it all this season. Tamaraws’ coach Glenn Capacio gave a fearless forecast that they’re geared up to take the crown away from the Eagles this season, and his ballers from Morayta followed his lead by taking a first game win.
First games are finally over. Watch out for more UAAP action on Thursday!
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.