Into the UAAP homestretch

Posted at 09/16/2012 2:15 PM | Updated as of 09/16/2012 2:16 PM

As the regular season of the men’s basketball tournament of the 75th UAAP season winds down, some notable storylines have defined each team’s campaign thus far.

1. Ateneo, while aiming for a fifth straight UAAP championship, can be beaten on any given day.

The Blue Eagles are not the dominant monster that they were in 2011 and their bench isn’t as deep, but Coach Norman Black remains the best tactician in the collegiate ranks and that’s still enough to hand the four-time defending champions an 11-2 record. An early loss to University of Santo Tomas (UST) and a last second shot by University of the East (UE) slotman Chris Javier have tempered expectations in Katipunan, but few expect the Eagles to fall any lower than second place once the playoffs arrive and the “Drive for Five” remains strong.

2. The Growling Tigers are indeed back.

It’s been six years since the UST last held the UAAP championship and it’s taken them this long to seemingly regain their footing among the top teams in the league. With Karim Abdul dominating the shaded lane, the tag team of Tata Bautista and Jeric Fortuna manning the point, and the returning Aljon Mariano showing both a slashing game and a consistent outside shot, Coach Pido Jarencio is living up to the pre-season hype surrounding his intact squad.

3. Roughhouse tactics and replays have hounded Far Eastern University (FEU).

RR Garcia and Terrence Romeo remain the engines driving the Tamaraw train, but adding rugged Arvie Bringas and athletic Anthony Hargrove gave FEU some unexpected athleticism. Unfortunately for them, everyone brings their A-game when playing the Tams and this has resulted in an uneven effort. Coach Bert Flores has been dealing with Bringas’ spitting at the Ateneo bench, and now faces a replay of their second round game versus National University due to inconclusive video evidence to indicate that Garcia’s buzzer-beating lay-up really did beat the buzzer. There’s still a chance for the twice-to-beat advantage but a No. 1 slot seems highly unlikely.

4. National University (NU) is not yet a title contender.

With reigning MVP Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. and a better bench, Coach Eric Altamirano’s Bulldogs were supposed to challenge Ateneo for the top of the standings as they hosted this year’s tournament. Instead, uneven play has made the Bulldogs a middling team, struggling to get into the Final Four and tied with La Salle for the fourth spot. Parks has been his usual explosive self with a few 30-point games, but Ateneo seems to have his number, limiting the son of Parks to only 11 points in a 70-56 blowout.

5. New coach and prized rookie don’t mean instant championships in Taft Avenue.

With alumnus Gee Abanilla newly installed as coach and with heavily recruited Jeron Teng in tow, La Salle was set to reclaim the title they last hoisted in 2007. But an ankle injury to LA Revilla, lack of overall chemistry and a seeming over-reliance on Teng to bail them out has left the Green Archers precariously close to falling out of the Final Four once again. All the talk of La Salle’s free throw shooting woes is valid, but so is the lack of suffocating defense or explosive offense that was a DLSU trademark in their glory days.

6. A change at the top can be a good thing.

With only Roi Sumang viewed as their “star,” the UE Red Warriors weren’t supposed to win many games under Coach Jerry Codiñera. But when Codiñera was suddenly removed as coach and his teammate and former UE Coach Boysie Zamar was placed back in charge, few thought any seismic shifts would occur. Instead, Zamar has seized his team’s hearts and instilled a fighting spirit that the Red Tribe desperately needed. Chris Javier, Gene Belleza and the rest of the squad have been revitalized by Zamar’s coaching. Javier, in particular, dropped two consecutive game winners, one against UP followed by the upset of the year over Ateneo. Though they’re out of contention at 3-9, expect big things from the Warriors in Season 76.

7. The hits just kept coming for the Adamson Falcons.

Their season pretty much ended the moment Alex Nuyles suffered a season-ending shoulder injury as Nuyles was expected to carry the load for a team that was devastated by the graduation of so many key contributors to last year’s Final Four team. With him gone, the Soaring Falcons were forced to look to Eric Camson and rookie Jericho Cruz for scoring, and it has only resulted in a 2-10 record. Ryan Monteclaro, Rodney Brondial, Roider Cabrera, Jansen Rios and a relatively young squad were pushed to the forefront but will have to be content to end this season as mere spoilers.

8. Same old Maroons.

For the University of the Philippines (UP), it’s been another disappointing season yet again. So much was made of this year’s Fighting Maroons, with the addition of Fil-American Chris Ball to 2011 Rookie of the Year Jett Manuel, the high-scoring Mike Silungan, and the returning high energy from Mark Lopez. Coach Ricky Dandan’s squad could have easily been wielding a 6-7 win-loss record after 13 games, but due to so many factors, they languish at the bottom of the standings at 1-12 instead. None of the breaks of the game have gone UP’s way, whether it be bad decision-making, lack of killer instinct, or simply someone from the opposing team making plays when UP couldn’t. The State University’s season will once again be a bitter disappointment to the residents of Diliman, and who can blame them? Eight players are graduating after this season, ensuring another rebuilding year in 2013, seemingly a never-ending process for UP.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.