With UAAP Season 80 eliminations over, the FHM crew looks at the survivors moving on to the Final Four, along with the best and worst case scenarios for each team.
ADAMSON SOARING FALCONS (3) VS. DE LA SALLE GREEN ARCHERS (2)
RANKINGS (IN 13 GAMES)
#2 POINTS ALLOWED
#3 POINTS OFF TURNOVERS
Adamson’s system is essentially what you get when you try to install Franz Pumaren’s manic full court press into a roster not as dynamic and talented as his former Mike Cortez-led DLSU team. Coach Franz may not have the same caliber of scoring talent he once did, but he does have a slew of promising role players who may just peak just in time for the Final Four.
BEST CASE: A TALE OF TWO POINT GUARDS
Adamson has benefited from alternating their point guards: Rob Manalang provides more firepower and range at a blistering pace while Jerie Pingoy opens up the floor with dynamic ball movement at a more patient flow. After earning the trust of his teammates with hustle and team-first mentality, Pingoy (2nd in player assists, 1st in steals) has contributed a more unselfish dimension to an offense that previously relied too much on fastbreaks off turnovers.
Putting the ball in Pingoy’s hands can carve up more time for Manalang and Jonathan Espeleta to shoot at will, while leaving enough space for star scorer Jerrick Ahanmisi to operate on isolation plays and drives off screens. His passing can also help Papi Sarr become more active on offense, instead of just aimlessly wandering under the basket for rebounds.
WORST CASE: TRIGGER-HAPPY TRAUMA
One thing is clear: once Ahanmisi and Manalang start jacking up contested shots, they begin to lose games. Pingoy needs to control the pace and rein in the otherwise trigger-happy guard rotation of Pumaren to succeed.
Adamson will have to rely on their big men to hold down La Salle’s Ben Mbala, however daunting. Mbala will get his shots no matter what; but Papi Sarr, Tyrus Hill, and lanky Sean Manganti should instead strive to rebound consistently to keep up with DLSU’s ferocious pace and take advantage of La Salle’s volume shooting. Adamson cannot possibly survive a shootout with La Salle; keeping it halfcourt might be the best option, unless they want to risk entering a losing and unnecessarily exhausting marathon against the Archers.
DE LA SALLE GREEN ARCHERS
RANKINGS (IN 13 GAMES)
#1 IN POINTS AND FG%
#1 IN POINTS IN THE PAINT
#1 IN PACE; #1 IN STARTER POINTS
Most people attribute their two unlikely losses to complacency and player injuries, and perhaps they’re right. La Salle, still the favorite to repeat as champs, is still an extremely talented core of players led by arguably the most dominant player in UAAP history.
BEST CASE: CONTROLLED CHAOS
The Archers have an incredibly easy formula to win its games: outshoot its opponents quickly, and overwhelm them from the interior. The Green Archers generate a ton of steals and points off its handsy and overaggressive “Mayhem” possessions particularly off Kib Montalbo and Andrei Caracut, while UAAP leading scorer Ben Mbala provides unmatched domination in the paint.
But at times Big Ben has tried to do too much too often, particularly in their two losses, where he bullied his way out of a double team instead of passing out to an open shooter. Jollo Go (2nd in 3PT%), Aljun Melecio, and Caracut can all do damage from the outside, while the uber-athletic Ricci Rivero (5th in PTS) can play above the rim effortlessly. But they can only do so properly if Mbala controls his impulses and plays an intelligent game. If he finally embraces a do-it-all mindset, DLSU can craft the perfect offense: efficient and unbothered shooting from inside and out.
WORST CASE: TOO MUCH MAYHEM
UP guards, led by Paul Desiderio, shot so well that it exposed DLSU’s weaknesses defending set plays from the halfcourt. UP’s high rate of conversion also watered down DLSU’s run-and-gun game. As the game’s pace goes down, DLSU’s Mayhem becomes less effective.
In their nailbiter game against the Blue Eagles, Ateneo ran a consistent, methodical defense that neutralized Mbala and the Mayhem offense long enough to gain the win. Mayhem also worked against the Archers: the lack of discipline and controlled playmaking enabled Ateneo to capitalize on key turnovers and one massive shooting foul committed by the herky-jerky Montalbo.
DLSU will need to know when to execute on set plays and when to rely on Mayhem to have better control of the pace; otherwise the team may just run out of gas, even if Mbala plays his heart out.
DLSU over ADU in 1
FEU TAMARAWS (4) VS. ATENEO BLUE EAGLES (1)
FAR EASTERN UNIVERSITY
RANKINGS (IN 13 GAMES)
#1 TOTAL PERIMETER POINTS
#2 3PT FIELD GOAL %
FEU’s freak loss to NU in the second round proved that despite losing key scorers Monbert Arong and Raymar Jose from last season, the Tams are still well-equipped to shoot from three, and are far deadlier than their win-loss record would suggest. FEU converted 18 three-pointers at a 43% clip— UAAP’s highest since 2003—which would suggest that Coach Olsen Racela’s core has embraced their strengths late into the season, and have moved on from the misleading “rebuilding” label.
THE BEST CASE: TAMS FOR THREE
Following the footsteps of former FEU specialists Paul Sanga and JR Cawaling, the Tamaraws should let Wendell Comboy, Axel Inigo, and Arvin Tolentino shoot, while Mr. Do-It-All Ron Dennison breaks down the paint with his efficient 48% scoring. Point guard revelation Jasper Parker (the league's third best playmaker) should push the pace and continue his hot streak while Prince Orizu and the lanky Ken Tuffin clean up the garbage inside.
The Tams should maintain a deliberate, defensive pace fueled by ball movement. FEU’s best case scenario sees the Tams outshoot and outmaneuver a complacent Ateneo team that periodically suffers from poor execution, along with spurts of bad shooting and turnovers by Anton Asistio and Thirdy Ravena.
THE WORST CASE: TAMS RUN WILD
Arvin Tolentino has seamlessly integrated to FEU what he had done for Ateneo the past two years: rebounding, shooting high-percentage threes (fourth in 3PT%), and fishing for fouls on rare drives. But relegating a talented 6’5” player to spot-up duty might paralyze FEU’s ball movement, rendering their strengths inert. Tolentino needs to find a way to involve himself without relying on his shot.
Same goes for former juniors MVP Hubert Cani, who at best seems streaky and inefficient from midrange, jittery off-ball, and a defensive liability. With better shooters already in play, Cani should learn how to handle the ball as a fourth or fifth option, not unlike what a young Roger Pogoy did for the Tamaraws a few years back.
If both players operate outside FEU’s trademark ball rotation, they might just literally shoot themselves out of the game.
ATENEO BLUE EAGLES
RANKINGS (IN 13 GAMES)
#1 POINTS ALLOWED (73.3 OPPG)
#1 3PT FIELD GOAL %
#2 TOTAL FG%
#1 BENCH PTS; #8 IN PACE
The Blue Eagles play like soldiers every game. They churn out wins consistently like a well-oiled machine despite not really having elite pro-caliber players other than Thirdy Ravena. Ateneo’s role players do their jobs incredibly well, and coach Tab Baldwin manages to get every ounce off them even in limited minutes, creating a pool of fresh players on virtually every possession. This translates into one of the most well-balanced and well-coached rosters in recent memory.
BEST CASE: DAMAGE FROM ALL DIRECTIONS
Coach Tab has the luxury of having a 10-man rotation capable of defending for a full 40 minutes. All players are expected to hustle every minute they are on the floor; this interchangeability without the defensive drop-off makes adapting against them quite difficult. ADMU also benefits from a defensive second unit led by Gian Mamuyac’s freakish wingspan, the 6'8” Isaac Go, and Aaron Black.
Every Blue Eagle also has the green light to shoot from outside, as supported by their league-leading 33% 3PT percentage. Even without an elite passer on the roster, Ateneo’s pass-first mindset across all positions helps maximize each possession by patiently generating open shots. Do-it-all forward Thirdy Ravena (Top 10 in player 2PT, REB, AST), Anton Asistio ,and hot-shooting Matt Nieto should handle the scoring duties, with Jolo Mendoza and Tyler Tio providing instant offense off the bench.
WORST CASE: SUPERSTAR SCARCITY
What happens when their shots just won’t go in? This was previewed in the second half of Ateneo’s tight win against La Salle in the first round, where Ateneo was dared to score in the paint at every possession. Outside of Thirdy, no one really seems to have the ability to single-handedly attack the rim—something that will prove to be a liability when crunch-time possessions turn into man-to-man.
Despite their machine-like qualities, Ateneo has the worrisome tendency of seemingly being one faulty cog away from a total breakdown. When their shooting drops and FEU and DLSU decide to go kamikaze on every possession, the Blue Eagles will need to reach deep and find players who won’t hesitate to take the winning basket.
ADMU over FEU in 2
All statistics based on 13 games of elimination play