One For The Team: Plot Twists
Just two weeks into the college basketball season, it didn’t take long for us to see major upsets.
For those who lost track, San Beda College and Ateneo de Manila University – defending champions of the NCAA and UAAP, respectively – suffered shock losses in the past week alone within the first week of competitions.
In just their second game this season, a back-to-back since their opening day scare against Benilde, the Red Lions got an anchor weighed on their backs by an upset-minded Lyceum. A 17-6 second quarter run allowed LPU to control the game, despite San Beda making a late-game run that was nearly completed, had Baser Amer made the wide-open trey from the top of the key that unfortunately rimmed out.
The Pirates, youngest among the 10 teams currently competing NCAA schools, previously had never won against their Mendiola counterparts since joining the league in 2011.
On the other hand, the Blue Eagles saw their 10-game winning streak against National University snapped on the latter’s “home court” at the Mall of Asia Arena on Sunday. Kiefer Ravena, who was nursing a sprained right ankle and saw action in just nine minutes in the first half, was supposedly slated to not play but forced himself in the lineup and in the process was ineffective for the blue and white shirts.
Despite Ravena making a Willis Reed-type cameo appearance on a bum foot, the Bulldogs ferociously gnawed through the injury-riddled five-time defending champions who had a good majority of their players either on the sick bay or playing through an assortment of injuries. Worse, Nico Elorde caught an inadverted flying arm from Jeoffrey Javillonar in the third period that broke his nose.
By the midway point of the fourth period, NU’s lead ballooned to its largest at 24, which could easily have been the Katipunan-based dribblers’ worst loss in their five-year title run since Game 2 of their Season 72 series against University of the East.
However, the fighting spirit of Ateneo shined brightest from a former Green Archer in Elorde, who returned to the ballgame and put up eight of his 10 markers in a spirited 13-2 surge that only fell short by five minutes.
Despite both teams entering this season as reigning titlists, they got surprised by the much improved competition. Save for Ateneo’s injury woes, both teams are still in unfamiliar territory with their new head coaches – Boyet Fernandez for San Beda, and Bo Perasol for Ateneo – despite going through rigorous summer training that included trips to the United States for both teams.
Should both teams not be able to address the key problems encountered in their last meetings, expect that their stiff competition would be able to exploit their weaknesses and suffer back-to-back losses, one that has never occured in either team’s current title reigns.
Almazan is first NCAA Season 89 Player of the Week
As part of a team in transition after losing key players in Jam Cortes and Kevin Alas, there is much reason to rejoice in the red and blue camp of Letran College after a 2-0 start within the first week of the new season.
The efforts of their long, tall, and lanky Raymond Almazan have not gone unnoticed, as the NCAA Press Corps has awarded him the first-ever Accel 3XVI Player of the Week citation this season, presented by Gatorade.
The 6-foot-7 slotman, who nabbed the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award in the last two seasons, has been a force in the paint by posting an average of 15.0 points and 18.5 rebounds in their victories against San Sebastian and Emilio Aguinaldo College.
FCF Staff Picks: Wide open race in UAAP Season 76
As part of this recently revived column, I asked my fellow FCF staffers on who are they picking to win this year’s UAAP men’s basketball tournament. Four staffers stepped up to the plate and here’s what they had to say:
(Note: The following opinions expressed are those of the staffers and do not reflect those of FullCourtFresh.)
Jerome Ibañez, Writer:
“DLSU. A lot of people would say that UST is going to be more aggressive and determined to be crowned this season, but I think they’ll be too eager to regain the championship that they’ll lose not only focus but also the trophy to DLSU again.”
Andrew Pamorada, Photographer:
“Biggest contender is NU and (all coaches) all agree with it, the fact they have good recruits and coaching staff. UST for sure, pag-dating ng season, mag ala-tigre na naman si Coach Pido, and meron silang binabalak. Magkakaalaman talaga sa first half ng season kung sino talaga papasok.”
Merck Maguddayao, Writer:
“The team with the biggest corporate benefactor.”
Nikki Viola, Writer:
“ADMU! I sense a lot of players will definitely step up this season.”
Do you agree with their picks? Let us know through Twitter (@FCFph).
Follow the columnist on Twitter: @fcf_diego