Then there were four. They say that in the NBA the real season begins during the playoffs where the best of the best slug it out for the coveted championship. Like any basketball league, the playoffs is the battleground of the best and the brightest, the toughest teams who survived the earlier battles.
For season 80 of the Universities Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Men’s basketball tournament, the battle ground is ready for the surviving four: The Ateneo Blue Eagles, De La Salle Green Archers, The Adamson Soaring Falcons and the host for this year’s hoopstilities, The Far Eastern University Tamaraws. Let’s breakdown each match-up.
(1) Ateneo Blue Eagles (13-1) vs (4) FEU Tamaraws (7-7)
The Far Eastern University Tamaraws had to win its last two games to barely make it into the post season. Tagged “always a contender never a pretender”, the boys from Morayta under new Head Coach Olsen Racela showed grit and perseverance during that two-game stretch.
Leading the charge for the Tamaraws are Ron Dennison who averages 11.6 points per game and shoots 39.5% from beyond the arc in 24.2 minutes per game. New recruit and former Rookie of the Year Arvin Tolentino chips in 12.2 points per game. He averages 34.8% from the three point line and grabs 6.2 rebounds per game.
The Tamaraws as a team is number four in offense with 78.9 points per game while shooting 41.8% (5th in the league), 47.1% from the 2 point area (4th) and 32.1% from beyond the arc (2nd). Though it allows its opponents to score 75.1 points per game, it ranks first in total field goals allowed. Its opponents usually norms at 38.9% from the field. It also ranks first in holding the opponent’s 2 point field goals limiting the opposition to only 43.8% per game while putting a stronghold at the three point area and allowing only 27.8% from way beyond (2nd).
While it had been always a contender, the 2015 Champions will be facing a tough Ateneo De Manila Blue Eagles who had been on a rampage this season, having lost only to the defending champs De La Salle Green Archers during the last playing day of the elimination round after thirteen straight victories.
Leading the way for the Katipunan-based Squad is former juniors Most Valuable Player Thirdy Ravena who averages 14.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1 steal per game. Backstopping him are Matt Nieto and Anton Asistio are chipping in 11.4 and 7.9 points per outing. Most notable of the Ateneo Crew is the improved performance of its frontline. Chibueze Ikeh score 7.4 points and grabs a team-high 8.5 rebounds per game. Former Xavier Stallion Isaac Go norms with 6.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per outing.
The danger in going against the Blue Eagles is that they do not rely on one or two people in the team to carry them through but involves everyone in the system of former National Coach Tab Baldwin, arguably the most fundamentally sound coach in the league, if not in the country right now.
The Blue Eagles is second in the league in offense scoring an average of 86.9 per game. It ranks 2nd in total field goals made with 43.5%. They are the league leader in 3 point shooting with 33.1%. The Blue Eagles are also killing it on the defensive end allowing only 73.7 points per game (league best). Its opponents can only manage 25.4% from beyond the arc (league best) when playing against them. They also allow the fewest rebounds per game with 40.3 and the fewest assist of the opposition with 13.2 per outing.
If the young guns of Morayta would want to upset the boys from Katipunan, it must not only shut down one or two players but they must learn to disrupt the well-oiled system both offensively and defensively of Coach Tab Baldwin to be able to at least extend this series into a decider.
Bold Prediction: Ateneo in one game.