Sizing Up the UAAP Opposition – Part 2
Aside from Adamson, the Tamaraws appear to be among the heavy favorites to win it all this year. Except for Mark Barocca, the rest of the team’s mainstays are returning, like the Smart Gilas’ players JR Cawaling and Aldrech Ramos, Reil Cervantes, Jens Knuttel, Paul Sanga and RR Garcia. Barocca’s absence won’t be entirely missed as Garcia has shown that he can already be the lead guard even in just his second year in the UAAP. They were able to recruit last year’s UAAP juniors MVP Terrence Romeo from their high school team.
The Tamaraws are well overdue for a championship. For the past three years, they have been hounded by mid-season off-court problems that disrupted their performance in the home stretch of the tournament. Barring any of these issues, FEU appears to have the best shot this season.
How do we measure up?
The Tams are fielding an almost intact lineup which has all the ingredients for a successful season, and these qualities are magnified against our Archers: experience, court savvy, great point guards, good interior players, and height. On paper, we’re overmatched against FEU. However, even with a strong lineup in the past 2 years, FEU failed to reach the finals, so their mental fortitude might be suspect. If the Archers can muster that famous La Sallian fighting spirit, they may just pull off an upset.
UE Red Warriors
A win-away from finally ending their 24-year title drought last year, UE will encounter rough sailing this season as they lost all but one of their starters. Gone are Elmer Espiritu, Val Acuna, Rudy Lingganay and Pari Llagas. This is has got to be Paul Lee’s team now. The good news for the team is that James Martinez is returning after sitting out last year with an ACL injury. Other holdovers include Paul Zamar, Raffy Reyes, Ken Acibar, Garrick Ayala and Lucas Tagarda.
The Warriors’ fate this season largely rests on the shoulders of Lee. If he can get ample support from his teammates, they can still contend.
How do we measure up?
UE will be hardpressed to replace Espiritu and Llagas, mobile big men who provided the interior presence for the Warriors. Aside from Lee, the holdovers were more of support players, and it remains to be seen if they’re ready to carry the load. However, UE might just have just been keeping their recruits hidden, so they could still parade a strong lineup. The Archers will have to guard against their failure last year to prevent good penetrators from getting close to the basket, and Lee is one of the best in the league at this. If they can turn UE into an outside shooting team by plugging holes on the perimeter defense while keeping tabs on the sharpshooting Martinez, the Green Archers might pull the rug from under UE’s feet.
Ateneo Blue Eagles
Aiming for a three-peat sans their big three seems like a tough task for the Eagles this season. But even without Rabah Al-Husseini , Jai Reyes and Nonoy Baclao, Ateneo still has enough artillery to defend their crown for the second time. Eric Salamat is now the main man for the team and will be backstopped by Ryan Buenafe, Nico Salva, Kirk Long , Bacon Austria and Emman Monfort. Ateneo stocked up heavily in the front line by adding bigmen Jumbo Escueta, JP Erram, and Art Dela Cruz.
With a solid basketball recruitment program that ensures a constant supply of battle-ready recruits, Ateneo will constantly remain competitive year in and year out. Winning a grand slam is not so far-fetched and doing so will cement their place as one of the great teams in recent UAAP history.
How do we measure up?
Even with the loss of the big 3, Ateneo still has an experienced lineup compared to our “Green” Archers. Although the Archers pulled off an upset against the out-of-shape Blue Eagles in the Fil-oil tournament, their chances of upending the well-coached Eagles are not that good this season. Ateneo’s game is premised on basic, simple patterns on offense and defense, and the lack of complexity allows them to execute well, and their press break had blunted the impact of our pressure defense in the last 2 years. Our perimeter defense will be critical in preventing the Ateneo players from penetrating the shaded area. A fast-paced game will give us more chances of winning, but if Ateneo succeeds in controlling the tempo of the game, we might have another disappointing record against our fiercest rivals. But I wouldn’t put it past our players to show their Archer pride and shoot down the high flying Blue Eagles.