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Success and Expectation—why are we surprised by an FEU-NU Final?

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At the final whistle of the game against FEU and DLSU, it seemed that the achievement that concerned most people was the fact that neither La Salle nor Ateneo made it to the UAAP Men’s Basketball Final this school year. Kiefer Ravena’s last ditch attempt to salvage the game was quite literally swatted away by the timing of Alfred Aroga, while the 13-point effort of Jeron Teng was short on neutralizing the court generalship of Mike Tolomia and the hot shooting of Mark Belo.

We’ve all heard either one of the two statements: (1) this is the first time that neither Ateneo or La Salle are not in the final, and (2) this is only the 2nd time that a 4th seeded team defeated the top seed of the tournament since the Final Four format was instituted.

But for all the merit of sports trivia, why does it come as a surprise to us when good teams deservingly win?

No Hail Mary

It’s one thing to shoot the ball from over the half-line in the dying minutes of the game, and quite another to expect that prayer will always save your team from losing. Just to keep a single game competitive through four quarters of play, you’ll need a solid set of players, a good coach, and all the infrastructure that goes with sports teams: physical therapists, supportive alumni, and a healthy budget (probably augmented by the generous alumni) for equipment, expenses, and the compensation of related staff. Winning in basketball is not a set of Hail Mary passes but instead a string of calculated decisions determined and executed over an extended period of time.

Much in the same manner, and as UP has learned or not learned yet, sports programs need strategy, planning, and commitment. Trying to win without a program, especially in the competitive arena of the UAAP Men’s Basketball Tournament, is but a fool’s errand. There are no shortcuts. Star players will come and go, but the strong program is at the heart of the team who can consistently produce results.

Perspective Check

While FEU last won a basketball championship in 2005, it’s made the Final Four six times thereafter in the years 2008 to 2011, 2013, and this 2014. NU, meanwhile, has made the Final Four for the third year in a row, and is gunning for its first championship finish.

Examined from a wider perspective, the successes of both FEU and NU aren’t miracles. FEU has been a contender in the past years, and it is not much of a secret that NU improved by leaps and bounds since receiving the financial backing of a powerful business tycoon.

The success now of both teams, in breaking through to the finals, is the product of years of hard work, good decisions, and sound investment.

Good for the League

Fans of the Green Archers and the Blue Eagles are probably still lamenting the results of the games, but if anything, the “surprising” results only make for a more exciting league.

The case of NU is especially interesting: what if NU really is hell bent on succeeding in other sports like it has in cheerdance, tennis, and basketball? The school has already developed solid programs for badminton and volleyball while their other programs, like taekwondo and softball, are slowly gaining traction.

Take a look at the over-all championship results of the past 5 years, and expect tighter competition in the years to come.

YearSeasonOverall Champion1st Runner-up2nd Runner-up
2014-201577???
2013-201476DLSUUSTUP
2012-201375DLSUUSTADMU
2011-201274USTDLSUFEU
2010-201173USTDLSUUP
2009-201072USTDLSUFEU
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