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The Short Corner: Who among overseas-trained UP, Ateneo, La Salle will take the throne?

De La Salle University

Season 84 Recap

UAAP-84-Mens-Basketball-DLSU-vs-UP-Evan-Nelle-2-scaled The Short Corner: Who among overseas-trained UP, Ateneo, La Salle will take the throne? ADMU Bandwagon Wire Basketball DLSU UAAP UP  - philippine sports news

The Green Archers were eliminated in the Final Four following a miraculous comeback from the Fighting Maroons. With 4:31 left in the fourth quarter, La Salle found themselves up by 14 only to end up losing by four points in the end. Their season was an up-and-down affair that saw them end up with a 9-5 record and a twice-to-win disadvantage in the Final Four.

Their defense was one of the staunchest in the league. With Justine Baltazar, Mike Phillips, and Bright Nwankwo providing a ton of length inside and Kurt Lojera, Deschon Winston, and Evan Nelle adding strong point-of-attack defense, it was a tremendous challenge to find a way to score on the Archers consistently. They finished with an 89.0 defensive rating that was only slightly behind their rivals in Katipunan.

The offense was a different story. They were a below average offensive team that shot the ball poorly (26.7% from deep) and relied on second chances provided by the offensive rebounding stylings of Phillips, Baltazar, and Nwankwo to even muster a halfway decent offense. Only Lojera and CJ Austria scored at an above average efficiency among their regular rotation.

They were the worst team in terms of finishing at the rim and took the least corner triples while taking the second most midrange jumpers. These are offensive red flags in modern basketball.

Season Outlook and Preseason Review

2022-Filoil-Ecooil-Preseason-Cup-FEU-vs-DLSU-Mark-Nonoy-JC-Macalalag-Raven-Cortez-Mike-Phillips-scaled The Short Corner: Who among overseas-trained UP, Ateneo, La Salle will take the throne? ADMU Bandwagon Wire Basketball DLSU UAAP UP  - philippine sports news

The DLSU roster has just as much talent as any other team in the UAAP. On paper, they should rival UP and Ateneo as favorites. They have the size and skill to win it all. The biggest issue is finding offensive coherence and being able to muster good looks. La Salle’s games were a slugfest due to their elite defense, but their offense ended up letting them down during the big moments. If they can maximize their talent and find a way to harmonize their roster, they will be nigh unstoppable.

The good news for the Green Archers is that they were amazing in the preseason. They went 8-1 in the FilOil Preseason Cup where they bowed out in the semifinals against FEU in a very close affair. They also won the PBA D-League Aspirant’s Cup where they defeated a Marinerong Pilipino team led by Juan Gomez de Liano.

Kevin Quiambao has looked like a terrific replacement for Baltazar while Michael Phillips has been dominant. Even Bright Nwankwo has looked much improved especially in terms of his finishing. as he made 66.7 percent of his shots from the field – up from 47.4 percent in Season 84.

The bad news is that their shooting remains to be an issue, and there doesn’t seem to be a major shift in their offensive game. They shot 115/461 from the deep, which converts to a poor 24.9% mark. This poor shooting resulted in a poor record in games decided by 10 points or less. In their 22 preseason games, eight of their games were close, and they ended up losing three of them.

That’s not exactly a convincing record for when they’ll have to play other elite UAAP teams. In these games, they shot 24.1 percent from deep and showed signs of how their offense could fail them when they needed shots to fall.

Players to Watch

2022-PBA-D-League-Aspirants-Cup-Finals-La-Salle-vs-Marinerong-Pilipino-Kevin-Quiambao The Short Corner: Who among overseas-trained UP, Ateneo, La Salle will take the throne? ADMU Bandwagon Wire Basketball DLSU UAAP UP  - philippine sports news

(C) PBA Images

Quiambao will be must-see TV in Season 85. He has an incredibly unique skill set and is already the best passing big in the country before he’s even played an actual game in the UAAP. In just 22.5 minutes per game in the preseason, he averaged 11.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 4.3 assists while providing 1.7 stocks (steals plus blocks). He’s going to be a stat sheet stuffer supreme for the Green Archers.

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Honestly, this section could very well just be their big man rotation – Phillips, Nwankwo, and Raven Cortez would all be difference makers on any other team.

Phillips looks to build on his Mythical Five-winning performance last season; in 21.9 minutes, he tallied 10.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 1.7 blocks per game. His combination of length, energy, and athleticism is a huge part of what La Salle does on both ends.

The biggest room for improvement is his touch up close. He only made 42.5 percent of his shots in Season 84, including just 43.2 percent of his shots at the rim. His preseason performance is a good sign, as he made 50.3 percent of his shot attempts.

University of the Philippines

Season 84 Recap

UAAP-84-Mens-Basketball-Ateneo-vs-UP-Malick-DIouf-3-scaled The Short Corner: Who among overseas-trained UP, Ateneo, La Salle will take the throne? ADMU Bandwagon Wire Basketball DLSU UAAP UP  - philippine sports news

The Fighting Maroons beat the odds on multiple occasions to find themselves named as the champions at the end of Season 84. Whether it was the late game comeback to beat La Salle in the Final Four or the damn near miraculous shots CJ Cansino and JD Cagulangan made in the Finals against Ateneo, UP managed to find a way to make the results favorable to them.

But they didn’t win it all just because they had a knack for the big moments. They may have been the best team in the last two minutes, but they were a fantastic team for all 40 minutes of each game.

UP was one of two teams to finish in the top three in terms of offensive and defensive efficiency. They were an elite team on both ends of the floor. On offense, they had weapons on weapons on weapons. Cagulangan was the best table-setter in the UAAP, Zavier Lucero was the best finisher, Carl Tamayo was the most dynamic offensive weapon, and Ricci Rivero was one of the best tough shot makers.

On defense, James Spencer was able to slow down anyone he was assigned to. Malick Diouf was as disruptive and impactful as anyone, and the whole team executed and helped each other well to put a dent on opposing offenses.

Their offense emphasized pace (they played the fastest by a large margin) and ball movement (they had the largest proportion of assisted shots). The biggest issue they faced offensively was the lack of shooting. They only made 25.4 percent of their triples (worse than DLSU, but they took it more frequently). Outside of Tamayo, Spencer, Cansino, and Harold Alarcon, their shooters were inconsistent and relatively inefficient.

Season Outlook and Preseason Review

UAAP-84-Mens-Basketball-DLSU-vs-UP-Carl-Tamayo-2-scaled The Short Corner: Who among overseas-trained UP, Ateneo, La Salle will take the throne? ADMU Bandwagon Wire Basketball DLSU UAAP UP  - philippine sports news

In the eyes of many, the defending champions are the ones to beat and it’s hard to completely disagree. For this UP team, the goal is to defend their title and bring another one home to Diliman. For the first time in what feels like an eternity, a championship for the Fighting Maroons feels like a reasonable and attainable goal.

However, we shouldn’t pretend like it will be a walk in the park or that they’re the overwhelming favorites in the same way that the Kouame-led Blue Eagles have been in recent memory.

There are a few issues that need to be addressed. First, the departure of Rivero and the injury to Cansino leave a huge void in terms of shot creation in the perimeter. Second, their preseason was marked with inconsistency (which is understandable and expected).

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They looked dominant for stretches only to falter against UAAP rivals, Adamson, NU, and FEU, in the FilOil Preseason Cup. In a short tournament like the UAAP, any inconsistency can lead to a loss that would put them at a twice-to-win disadvantage in the Final Four.

UP might have the shortest title defense in UAAP history, but they might also win the most titles in a single calendar year. The standards are high and the field is as strong as it’s ever been. The path to another one will be difficult, but the core of this team has already proven that they can make the impossible happen.

Players to Watch

UAAP-84-MBB-ADMU-vs.-UP-Finals-G3-Carl-Tamayo-4121 The Short Corner: Who among overseas-trained UP, Ateneo, La Salle will take the throne? ADMU Bandwagon Wire Basketball DLSU UAAP UP  - philippine sports news

Anyone interested in Philippine basketball should watch Carl Tamayo at any opportunity they can. Enjoy him as much as you can for now, because he’s probably not going to be playing on Philippine soil in the future.

Tamayo leveled up in the preseason. He was one of Gilas Pilipinas’ best players in the FIBA Asia Cup, where he averaged 12.0 points in 21.4 minutes per game while making 38.9 PERCENT of his triples. He also strutted much improved passing in his preseason games with UP.

Never known to be much of a passer, he started to show the ability to consistently punish post doubles and make advanced reads in the short roll. Being able to create for others only serves to make him more dangerous as a scorer, as he can now punish help when it comes.

In the preseason, he averaged 13.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.4 assists on 53.4 percent true shooting in 21.3 minutes per game. This comes up to 19.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per 30 minutes. The talent is undeniable.

In a stacked team, there are tons of players to keep an eye on. However, one of UP’s pressing needs is scoring from the perimeter. In this department, Terrence Fortea and RC Calimag were the ones who stepped up in the build-up to the UAAP. Fortea averaged 8.6 points while adding 2.6 assists in less than 20 minutes per contest, passing the ball well and shooting the ball with confidence.

Calimag, meanwhile, averaged 7.2 points per game in 16.8 minutes while making 36.4 percent of his triples. UP will need his shooting to open up the floor for the rest of the team.

Ateneo de Manila University

Season 84 Recap

UAAP-84-Mens-Basketball-Ateneo-vs-UP-Ateneo-4-scaled The Short Corner: Who among overseas-trained UP, Ateneo, La Salle will take the throne? ADMU Bandwagon Wire Basketball DLSU UAAP UP  - philippine sports news

At this point, everyone knows what happened to the Blue Eagles in Season 84. Their championship streak was snapped by the Fighting Maroons in a three-game series that saw a ton of heroics from both sides.

Despite the loss, Ateneo still ended up as the best offensive and defensive team in the UAAP and by far the most dominant team in terms of point differential. Their net rating of 18.1 points (point differential per 100 possessions) still blew the rest of the field out of the water and more than doubled UP’s 6.5 Net Rating.

Their Season 84 campaign was led by the reigning MVP Ange Kouame, who put up 12.9 points, 11.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.0 steal, and 2.7 blocks while shooting at an efficiency that’s 8.6 percent better than league average. Kouame also anchored their league-best defense, where they only allowed opponents to shoot 37.5 percent at the rim. This meant that when Kouame was at the rim, layups were pretty much inefficient shots.

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On offense, they were the best shooting team in the league and they made 32.5 percent of their long balls led by holdovers Dave Ildefonso and BJ Andrade as well as departing guards, Tyler Tio and Gian Mamuyac.

Season Outlook and Preseason Review

2022-WUBS-Ateneo-Blue-Eagles The Short Corner: Who among overseas-trained UP, Ateneo, La Salle will take the throne? ADMU Bandwagon Wire Basketball DLSU UAAP UP  - philippine sports news

The Blue Eagles may not be the overwhelming favorite to win it all, but they’re definitely not a team to be discounted. The departures of Tio, Mamuyac, Jolo Mendoza, and Raffy Verano hurt the team’s depth, but the loss of SJ Belangel might be the biggest hole that they need to fill.

Belangel acted as the conductor of their offense, and his impact was best illustrated by his performance in his final UAAP game. There, he scored 27 points and scored or assisted on 61 percent of their made shots. His ability to take over games while acting as a floor general will be sorely missed.

All is not lost for Ateneo, as its preseason performance was just as stellar as any of its competitors.

The Blue Eagles faced strong competition in the World University Basketball Series, where they ended up becoming the inaugural champs. Newcomer Kainoa Ballungay was named MVP of the competition, and he serves as the team’s answer to the big man arms race in the UAAP. The 6-foot-7 forward showcased the ability to score on multiple levels alongside mobility that will be tough to match at this level of play.

They also beat the Changwon LG Sakers of the KBL and AS Ramat HaSharon of the Israeli National League while losing in competitive affairs to the Bay Area Dragons of the East Asia Super League and Israel team Elitzur Eito.

To be able to compete and even beat high-level professional teams is an incredibly difficult thing to pull off for a team of college-aged amateurs, and Ateneo being able to play at that level consistently bodes extremely well for the future. It shouldn’t be a surprise if they find themselves winning it all this season.

Players to Watch

UAAP-84-MBB-ADMU-vs.-ADU-Forthsky-Padrigao-5927 The Short Corner: Who among overseas-trained UP, Ateneo, La Salle will take the throne? ADMU Bandwagon Wire Basketball DLSU UAAP UP  - philippine sports news

For better or worse, the Atenean faithful should have their eyes on Forthsky Padrigao, who looks to inherit Belangel’s role on the team.

Padrigao is a talented guard with elite court vision, but his jumper has been historically shaky and he has a penchant for flair that often acts as a double-edged sword for his team. The good news is that he’s been fantastic in the preseason build up and he has been one of the more consistent scorers for Ateneo.

He scored in double figures in all of their games against pro teams and averaged 11.7 points per game. His jumper has shown remarkable improvement and his form has looked more consistent even on difficult attempts. His further growth will be an interesting development to watch.

In addition, Ildefonso, Ballungay, and Kouame look to be Ateneo’s most productive players in the coming season. Another name to keep in mind is Joshua Lazaro, an impactful defensive player in Season 84 who has shown remarkable improvement in his offensive game in their preseason showings.

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Written By

Does hoops math and watches too much game film. Talks a lot on Twitter (@_alba__)

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