The upcoming basketball season of the Universities Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP) which will open tomorrow can be best described in a paradox as very predictable yet unpredictable.
It is predictable in the sense that all pundits point to the De La Salle Green Archers as the strong favorite to win the crown this year. Parading a line up headlined by the graduating Jeron Teng and incoming big man sensation Ben Mbala and a supporting cast that can be called to the starting five at anytime and barring any injuries to its key players, the Green Archers are sure shoo-ins for the crown on paper.
It is unpredictable because the number 2 to 4 spots in the final four race is still a toss up between the defending champions Far Eastern University Tamaraws, Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles, and National University Bulldogs.
The FEU Tamaraws looks solid despite the departure of Mike Tolomia, Mac Belo and Russel Escoto. Reymar Jose leads the cast of young upstarts for the Morayta-based squad as they try to defend their title.
The Ateneo Blue Eagles will be tested because of the departure of several key players like Hubert Cani, Jerrie Pingoy and Arvin Tolentino but they will be fine with the return of Thirdy Ravena. Fans would like to see if Aaron Black will have a breakout year this season.
National University will be playing with 8 rookies and will be lead by veterans Alfred Aroga and JJ Alejandro.
The biggest surprise might come from one surname: The Pumarens. The University of the East Warriors under the elder Derek will rely on his intact core and their trademark Pumaren trapping defensive system. For the last seasons, this UE crew has been a work in progress and had several bright moments and this year could be a final four year for the Warriors.
Another surprise might come from another Pumaren, the younger Franz who is the newly minted coach of the Adamson Falcons. He together with deputies Jack Santiago, Tonichi Yturri, Ren Ren Ritualo and Don Allado would want to change to culture over at San Marcelo not only with participating but competing for the championship. They might just pull out a surprise with a Cinderella run to the final four for this year.
The young University of the Philippines Maroons and host University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers may have their moments in the spotlight but sheer effort would not be enough to carry them thru the post season as lack of ceiling and veteran players may hamper their respective campaign for this year.
The predictability and unpredictability of this basketball season adds more excitement to this year’s tournament. Will La Salle go all the way? Will we see several big time upsets? Those are the scenarios fans would love to see in the season 79 of the UAAP basketball tournament. Let the games begin.