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Green Archers’ Title Defense Starts With FEU

Yes folks, here we are once again.  New season, well, probably, a different expectation from last season but still, everyone in the De La Salle community is looking positive entering UAAP Season 77 men’s basketball wars.  It is the time of the year once again where La Sallians’ world stops in a heartbeat wherever they are just to be updated with how the team performed in almost every single game.

Last season, the journey to the promised land started in España.  This season, the road going to the top starts a few blocks away from España, Morayta.  The Green Archers will be tested once again in their UAAP men’s basketball opener just like last year.  Make no mistake about it, I still believe that this FEU roster for Season 77 will definitely compete and this is not a walk in the park as most of you will think knowing that their two potent scorers from last season have now brought their talents to the pro ranks.

Keys to the Game:

Without further adieu, here is what I think would be the keys to the game on Saturday for La Salle’s UAAP Season 77 men’s basketball opener against FEU:

  • Take care of the basketball – In the Green Archers’ lone pre-season encounter against the Tamaraws (2014 FilOil Flying V Quarterfinals), DLSU committed 12 turnovers resulting to 19 FEU points off turnovers.  FEU will definitely use their quickness and athleticism on defense to force turnovers and run that basketball for easy baskets so the Green Archers should be alert in taking care of the basketball and avoid careless turnovers.  In case a turnover happens, La Salle’s transition defense has to be very quick going back on defense just to stop FEU’s fastbreak attack.
  • Pick and roll defense – I will not be surprised if FEU will run a lot of high pick and rolls this season especially for Mike Tolomia.  Teams normally have rules when it comes to pick and roll defense.  It is either you show hard on the ball handler, go open up so that the switch advantage will be negated, or the last one which is to switch assignments on defense.  If the Green Archers will play terrific pick and roll defense, that basically gives them one foot inside the winning column since I do not see a low post threat for FEU this season enough to challenge La Salle’s bigs.
  • Get the inside game going – For me, La Salle’s strength is still putting the ball inside the paint and challenging the opponent’s big men to defend.  Everything starts here.  If the inside game works early for DLSU, FEU will definitely adjust but it will give more room for the perimeter guys to work on their game.  La Salle should be ready as well as FEU made take away DLSU’s inside game from the start and defend the paint hard.
  • Make FEU pick their poison – This is a continuation of point #3.  If FEU starts the game protecting the paint hard, La Salle’s perimeter game should take care of the offense first.  This may sound like a chicken and egg situation but it depends on how FEU’s defense will show up on Saturday.  This is basically because La Salle has enough personnel to play both areas and contribute on offense.
  • Match the energy of FEU’s scrappy bigs – Belo, Cruz, Pogoy, Escoto, and Hargrove are not your tallest big guys that you can find out there but one thing is for sure, those guys will be giving their 200% hustle and effort every time on the floor, in almost every play.  If La Salle’s bigs will not match their energy, chances are these FEU guys will help the Tamaraws get easy baskets on putbacks of give FEU additional offensive possessions which is not a good thing to do against an FEU team, which is a very disciplined team.

What to Expect on FEU:

  • Spread the floor out – FEU’s personnel are all very good, perimeter wise on offense that is why I expect them to spread the floor on offense and use high pick and roll sets for their guards to start their offense.  Mac Belo, Carl Cruz, Roger Pogoy, and the comebacking Russel Escoto can all make baskets from the perimeter as well as finish strong inside the paint should each of those guys set the screen and roll hard to the basket.  That is why from this point of view, it will be imperative for La Salle to play very good pick and roll defense to disrupt FEU’s offense and make their offense come from individual plays.  If FEU can take out the La Salle bigs from inside for rebounding position, it will be better for them.   I can only see Tolomia as the player who can break down his man individually so if FEU goes into that route, La Salle has to be attentive in man rotation, not being left behind for easy baskets, either inside or from the perimeter.
  • Disrupt the passing lanes – With FEU’s athleticism, they will make sure that La Salle will not have an easy passing lane on offense.  This is where FEU can be most dangerous, especially if they can intercept easy passes for easy baskets.  FEU’s length and activity cannot be overlooked on the defensive end as they can be scrappy enough to change the tempo of the game at any point.  With the change of tempo comes the change of momentum and it any team will have an opportunity to win a close ball game if it comes to that on Saturday.
  • Shifting defensive alignments – I think FEU will start with a man to man defense but eventually if they will be having difficulty managing La Salle’s inside game, they will eventually shift to a 2-3 zone defense and will dare the Green Archers to beat them from the perimeter.  I will not be surprised also if FEU will give different looks on man to man defense once La Salle’s bigs get that ball down low just to delay La Salle’s offense.  As much as possible, I think FEU will try their very best to play man to man before shifting to the zone if worse comes to worst.
  • Hard show on pick and rolls – This has been FEU’s staple on La Salle as always whenever the Green Archers decide to play pick and roll on either any of the guards or on Jeron.  FEU always shows hard on the ball handler, pushing him all the way far out before settling back to their original man assignments.  The Green Archers have done a good job solving this last season starting from the second round until the Final Four encounter but I will not discount this as a surprise strategy for Coach Nash Racela.  I still think that he will use this strategy from time to time.  La Salle has just to be alert knowing where their release pass will be to move the ball quickly and take advantage of an additional man on offense.

To sum it up, it will be a very good first test for the Green Archers to open their title defense season.  Most have been predicting the Tamaraws to be a Final Four team this season despite missing RR Garcia and Terrence Romeo so this will be a good game to watch to open the UAAP Season 77 festivities.

To La Sallians, let us all enjoy the ride this Season 77.  It will definitely be not a smooth and safe climb going back to the top but in the end, let us all hope and pray that everything will be all worth it.