Season 75 of the UAAP men’s basketball tournament is in fever pitch with the upcoming best-of-three finals between Ateneo de Manila University and the University of Santo Tomas (UST). Game 1 will be on Saturday, October 6, and while both squads are thinking of ways to one-up each other, we’ll also give you 10 points to blabber about before the much-awaited skirmish. After all, everyone’s an armchair analyst these days.
1. Repeat vs. Revenge
After six years, Ateneo and UST are facing off anew in the Last Dance. This is only the second time both schools are in the finals since the Final Four format was used in 1994. The Blue Eagles look to avenge their loss in 2006, which went the full distance. They took Game 1 thanks to a game-winner by a pre-mohawk Doug Kramer. The Growling Tigers then evened things up in Game 2 with an 87-71 victory led by then-rookie Dylan Ababou’s 22 points. In Game 3, the Growling Tigers completed their Cinderella run as they escaped in overtime, spearheaded by Finals MVP Jojo Duncil.
2. Will it be a fitting farewell for Mr. 100%?
It’s the league’s worst-kept secret: this is the final year of Norman Black as Ateneo head coach. Arguably the best tactician in the amateurs today, Black hopes to bid the UAAP sayonara atop another, albeit always awkward, victory ride. The multi-titled mentor said he’s not thinking about his exit, but with only three games left at most, it should be at the back of his brilliant mind. He has led the Blue Eagles to four straight crowns and it won’t hurt to take home a fifth one. Also, he has the chance to exact revenge on Pido Jarencio, the only coach to beat him in the UAAP Finals.
3. Close Encounters of the Finals Kind
Ateneo and UST fought tooth and nail—and hair and (insert other body part here)—during their two encounters in the elimination round. (Here's a more comprehensive look we did on the Season 75 Ateneo-UST encounters, which also includes a match-up analysis.) The average winning margin of those pair of games? A whopping 1.5 points—the closest among all the match-ups this season. The Growling Tigers drew first blood, pulling off a 71-70 nail-biter, their first win versus the Blue Eagles since 2007. The Kings of Katipunan returned the favor in the second round, escaping with a controversial 68-66 victory, which UST protested but was denied eventually. Will the finals be as airtight? We sure hope so.
4. Déjà vu for the Men in Blue
Ateneo is right smack in the middle of an eerie coincidence. In 2006, Ateneo finished the eliminations with a 10-2 record (De La Salle was suspended that year). The two losses were dealt by UST and the University of the East, which also happens to also be the only two team to beat the Blue Eagles this season. Also in 2006, Far Eastern University narrowly missed the Final Four. Yes, it's the same exact scenario this season. Now, the double Whopper-sized question is: Will it be also a case of deja vu for the Blue Eagles in the finals this year? They say history repeats itself, but we’re pretty sure Ateneo doesn’t agree.
NEXT: Will the real Greg Slaughter please stand up!
PHOTOS COURTESY OF WWW.INBOUNDPASS.COM AND JUAN BENJAMIN DANEO