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Hoop Nut: Eight bold predictions for UAAP 85 Men’s Basketball


Barely five months since winning their first UAAP men’s basketball tournament championship in 36 years, University of the Philippines will plunge into action this weekend to open their title defense in UAAP Season 85.

The Maroons are largely intact from Season 84, and it’s no shock they’re entering the new season as runaway title favorites.

Hot on their heels are bitter rivals De La Salle University and Ateneo de Manila — both hoping for different degrees of payback on the Maroons. Keep in mind that the Green Archers pushed UP to a rubber match in the Season 84 Final Four, while the Blue Eagles all but won the Season 84 title already had it not been for some legendary JD Cagulangan heroics in overtime.

The other five UAAP Men’s Basketball squads have retooled in varying respects as well, with most upgrading their depth while others (here’s looking at UST) unexpectedly got gutted.

Looking ahead to opening weekend, here are some bold predictions for the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament.

Xyrus Torres leads the league in 3pt KPIs

UAAP-84-Mens-Basketball-NU-vs-FEU-Xyrus-Dane-Torres-scaled Hoop Nut: Eight bold predictions for UAAP 85 Men's Basketball ADMU AdU Bandwagon Wire Basketball DLSU FEU NU UAAP UE UP UST  - philippine sports newsFar Eastern University sniper Xyrus Torres finished Season 84 second in both total three-pointers made and three-point percentage (minimum 15 made triples). Teammates RJ Abarrientos (37 triples made) and JB Sajonia (42.9%) finished atop the 3pt league tables.

That won’t be the case in S85. Abarrientos is obviously no longer around, so the lane is open for Torres to rightfully take the top spot in terms of threes made (3rd placer Sherwin Concepcion also won’t play anymore, so Torres’s top competitors are out of the picture). Count on Sajonia to keep on shooting more threes, too, which may dip his percentages compared to S84. Torres was born to be the UAAP’s three-point king, and he’ll be on the throne this season.

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Jerom Lastimosa leads all players in scoring

UAAP-84-MBB-ADU-vs.-UP-Jerom-Lastimosa-3116 Hoop Nut: Eight bold predictions for UAAP 85 Men's Basketball ADMU AdU Bandwagon Wire Basketball DLSU FEU NU UAAP UE UP UST  - philippine sports newsLastimosa finished S84 averaging 14.7 points per game. That’s not an eye-popping number, but it was enough to be the top-scoring average from last season. He will repeat that feat in S85.

Yes, sure, maybe that’s not exactly as “bold” as some may think, but remember that other top scorers like Harvey Pagsanjan, Schonny Winston, Ange Kouame, Zavier Lucero, and Nicael Cabañero are still around. Pagsanjan and Cabañero, in particular, are probably the most dangerous in terms of pilfering the top spot from Lastimosa, if only because they don’t have much competition on their own teams when it comes to scoring in bunches.

Kevin Quiambao wins ROYFiloil-2022-DLSU-vs.-SBU-Kevin-Quiambao-9594 Hoop Nut: Eight bold predictions for UAAP 85 Men's Basketball ADMU AdU Bandwagon Wire Basketball DLSU FEU NU UAAP UE UP UST  - philippine sports news

Former NU Bullpup Kevin Quiambao is going to take S85 by storm. His uncanny court sense and off-the-post playmaking will be the stuff of multiple YouTube highlights and Instagram reels. He is the biggest reason why even with the exit of Justine Baltazar, the DLSU Green Archers remain among the league’s elite squads.

As good as the Phillips brothers, Winston, Evan Nelle, Joaqui Manuel, and Mark Nonoy were last season, they’ll be even better now because Quiambao is going to open up so many opportunities. I don’t see him averaging a double-double mainly because of Michael Phillips gobbling up so many rebounds, but Quiambao should do enough to merit winning ROY honors by season’s end.

Zavier Lucero wins Season MVP

UAAP-84-MBB-ADMU-vs.-UP-Finals-G1-Zavier-Lucero-2204 Hoop Nut: Eight bold predictions for UAAP 85 Men's Basketball ADMU AdU Bandwagon Wire Basketball DLSU FEU NU UAAP UE UP UST  - philippine sports newsAnge Kouame, Michael Phillips, and Zavier Lucero are my preseason pick to be the top three MVP candidates for Season 85. Kouame, however, will likely be hampered by lingering pains from his knee injury, while Phillips’s ability to score continues to be limited. Lucero, then, is in the prime position to win MVP.

Why not his UP teammate Carl Tamayo? I feel like Tamayo will undergo significant load management from UP. Just like in S84, Tamayo will have big games, but he will also have games where he won’t need to play as much, limiting his MVP projections. I expect Lucero will have season averages of around 14 points, eight rebounds, two assists, one steal, and a block per game while shooting 52-percent from the floor.

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UE and UST combine for fewer than five wins

UAAP-84-Mens-Basketball-UST-vs-UE-Nicael-Cabanero-2-scaled Hoop Nut: Eight bold predictions for UAAP 85 Men's Basketball ADMU AdU Bandwagon Wire Basketball DLSU FEU NU UAAP UE UP UST  - philippine sports newsLife is not going to be easy for both UE and UST in Season85.

The Red Warriors should be a bit better with the addition of Gani Stevens and Luis Salgado, but based on what we’ve seen so far, they probably won’t be difference-makers just yet.

Over in España, the team that Stevens spurned will be so much worse for wear.

The Growling Tigers will likely enter Season 85 with more of a purr than a roar as they lost so much depth and size. Aside from losing Stevens, they also lost explosive guard Kean Baclaann to NU and bigs Sherwin Concepcion and Bryan Santos.

Truthfully, there’s just so much separation in terms of depth between these two teams and the rest of the league. I don’t expect the Red Warriors and Growling Tigers to combine for more than four wins in Season 85.

NU makes it to the Final Four

2022-Filoil-Ecooil-Preseason-Cup-NU-vs-Adamson-John-Lloyd-Clemente Hoop Nut: Eight bold predictions for UAAP 85 Men's Basketball ADMU AdU Bandwagon Wire Basketball DLSU FEU NU UAAP UE UP UST  - philippine sports newsI may be reading a bit too much into the Bulldogs’ unbeaten conquest of the 2022 FilOil EcoOil Preseason Cup, but I have so much belief in what coach Jeff Napa is brewing in Sampaloc.

I believe John Lloyd Clemente will challenge Lastimosa for top-scoring honors, while the frontline combo of Omar John, Germy Mahinay, and Michael Malonzo should be solid as heck. Don’t sleep on former Juniors MVP Jake Figueroa as well. New faces Nat Tulabut and the aforementioned Baclaan should provide immediate impact, too. Adamson and FEU may have bigger names, but I feel like NU is out to turn a lot of heads in S85.

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UP will NOT sweep the elimination round

UAAP-84-Mens-Basketball-DLSU-vs-UP-Carl-Tamayo-3-1-scaled Hoop Nut: Eight bold predictions for UAAP 85 Men's Basketball ADMU AdU Bandwagon Wire Basketball DLSU FEU NU UAAP UE UP UST  - philippine sports newsAs great as the Fighting Maroons are, I believe they won’t sweep their 14-game elims assignments. Put them down for a loss to both Ateneo de Manila and De La Salle in the elims. That should still put UP atop the standings with a probable 12-2 slate, but it will prevent an outright Finals berth.

This roster is obviously good enough to sweep it all up, of course, but the rejigged Blue Eagles and Green Archers will have some tricks up their sleeves and chips on their shoulders to ensure a couple of upsets in the elimination round.

However, when the smoke clears at the end of the season…

UP will repeat as champions

UAAP-84-MBB-ADMU-vs.-UP-Finals-G3-3984 Hoop Nut: Eight bold predictions for UAAP 85 Men's Basketball ADMU AdU Bandwagon Wire Basketball DLSU FEU NU UAAP UE UP UST  - philippine sports newsCoach Goldwin Monteverde’s wards may not sweep the elims, but they will win back-to-back titles. That’s something that even UP legends Benjie Paras and Ronnie Magsanoc weren’t able to do back in the late 80s.

I expect Carl Tamayo to once again be his amazing self when it counts the most, and the entire Fighting Maroons roster should remain steady no matter what their rivals throw at them in the Final Four and Finals. I also expect Ateneo and La Salle to duke it out in the 2 vs 3 Final Four pairing, leaving one less potential usurper for UP to dispose of in the Finals.

I mean, from the players to the coaching staff, this UP team was built to be a dynasty, not a one-off champion. We’re in the midst of that dynasty, folks… well, at least until Tamayo is still in Diliman. Wink wink.

Written By

Enzo Flojo is a columnist for FIBA and an assistant coach for the Ateneo Blue Eaglets. His motto in life is to never be afraid to lose.


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