The collegiate basketball wars have gotten underway, with the first few days producing mixed results. Saturday saw a pair of blowouts, while Sunday's games had tighter competition.
Winners relish the hot start; losers are left seeking answers. But more importantly, the initial matches gave us a strong idea of how each team will fare in the 80th season of the UAAP men's basketball tournament.
(NU 86-69 UE)
Red Warriors who?
Remember when this lineup had a slew of familiar names? Other than Alvin Pasaol (14 pts, 3 blk), the rest of its current members are quite forgettable—just like their collective performance. A couple of Marks (Maloles and Acuno) did have 10 markers each. If anything, one reason to watch these likely cellar dwellers is coach Derrick Pumaren’s full-court press.
Bulldogs have more bite than bark
NU seems to have their star-less system down pat (five players with at least 9 pts). Still, new coach Jamike Jarin wouldn’t be celebrating his UAAP debut without Dave Yu taking over (14 pts, 8 reb, 2 ast, 2 stl), Issa Gaye coming up big (11 pts, 9 reb, 3 blk), and J-Jay Alejandro leading the way (11 pts, 5 reb, 7 ast, 5 stl).
(ADMU 85-65 AdU)
Soaring Falcons = overhyped?
There’s just no other way to put it: Papi Sarr needs to return ASAP. The overwhelming rebounding disadvantage (60-35) gives emphasis to that statement. It didn’t help that designated scorers Jerrick Ahanmisi, Robbie Manalang, and Jerie Pingoy could only muster up 20 points between them. This isn’t how contenders are supposed to look like.
The Blue Eagles have yet to play their best basketball
It would be unfair to credit Sarr’s absence for Chibueze Ikeh’s brilliance (18 pts, 17 reb, 2 ast). The 20-point drubbing of this year’s Final Four favorites is a clear indication that last season’s runner-up means business. As dominant as Thirdy Ravena (20 pts, 10 reb) was, Ateneo still needs Aaron Black (2 pts) and the Nieto brothers (combined 5 pts) to show up.
(UP 74-73 UST)
Growling Tigers aren’t that weak after all
Despite everyone betting against them in this campaign, the Growling Tigers had a couple of positive takeaways from the near win. They have a legitimate scorer in Marvin Lee (game-high 20 pts), while touted rookie Steve Akomo (15 pts, 14 reb, 4 blk) is the real deal and can fill the hole left by three-time Mythical Five import Karim Abdul.
Fighting Maroons are better than this
No other shot was heard around the world over the weekend than Paul Desiderio’s (17 pts) game-winning three-pointer. Although a close call versus the perennial doormat isn’t exactly encouraging, especially for a squad that is poised for a breakout. Good thing fans are used to small victories that this was enough reason to build a bonfire.
(DLSU 95-90 FEU)
Tamaraws must start strong
It’s not a good sign when a team’s defensive ace (Ron Dennison) winds up as its offensive anchor (21 pts, 10-14 fg, 7 reb, 4 ast). The Tams can’t expect to rally every game—down by 23 at one point—that’s why they will need more from highly regarded transferees Arvin Tolentino and Hubert Cani (only 7 pts each).
Green Archers can afford to get too comfortable
Count on the three-headed monster in their backcourt—Aljun Melecio (29 pts, 9-22 fg), Andrei Caracut (16 pts), and Kib Montalbo (12 pts, 4-9 3pt)—when the defending champions are lulled into complacency. This would’ve been a cause of concern if it wasn’t La Salle that we’re talking about. We almost forgot: reigning MVP Ben Mbala didn’t suit up.