The UAAP Finals: Reign vs RedemptionBy Mark C. Giongco
At the tailend of another gruelling season of the UAAP men’s basketball tournament, two of the toughest teams remain – one eager to extend its reign for a fourth straight year, the other seeking redemption from last year’s meltdown. They meet again for the second straight year, but just how different are the two teams now?
Ateneo: The Blue Eagles are great at protecting the ball and the lead. Defense is Ateneo’s lethal weapon. It’s the reason why they are three-time champions and the number one seed.
FEU: Great on the open court with a slew of explosive guards. FEU has that ability to force its opponents to play a fast-paced game that has been the key in the Tams encounter with Adamson in the final four.
Ateneo: It’s really hard to find any weakness in Ateneo, which finished the two-round eliminations at 13-1. But one thing that the Blue Eagles might want to avoid is overconfidence. Ateneo will be facing a more experienced FEU squad compared to last year.
FEU: FEU, at times, relies too much on its outside shot. With guys like RR Garcia and Terrence Romeo both needing the ball to be mostly effective, they tend to force their own shots rather than get their teammates involved.
Players who will surely dominate in the series
Ateneo: Greg Slaughter. With Slaughter’s towering height and imposing size, he is head and shoulders above everyone else. FEU’s big men have the length but lack the size and strength to contain Slaughter down low.
FEU: RR Garcia. He isn’t a one-time MVP for nothing. Garcia has shown he is still the best guard in the league. Even with Kirk Long, Tonino Gonzaga, and Bacon Austria rotating in defense, Garcia is simply too much to handle for the Eagles. Garcia, unlike his peers, has that killer instinct that has made him one of the most dangerous players in college basketball.
Ateneo: The title can either go to Kiefer Ravena or Kirk Long. But since the Eagles’ prized rookie is expected to soar in the Finals, it is Long, with three years of championship experience tucked under his wings, whom Coach Norman Black will most likely depend on to inflict the most damage on the Tams’ dynamic duo of Garcia and Romeo, with his ability to lock down on his man and shoot the big baskets down the stretch.
FEU: It’s a toss-up between spitfire Romeo and Russel Escoto. Both will be important in the Finals but Escoto could be the Tams’ x-factor as he could be the one to neutralize Slaughter.
The loss of Pippo Noundou due to an ACL injury may have been a blessing in disguise for FEU as Escoto ably filled in for the injured center. Just how good has he been? FEU coach Bert Flores has been comparing him to King Tamaraw Arwind Santos with his length and ability. Sky’s the limit for Escoto as the Finals is his stage to show the real player that he is.
While Ateneo is heavily favored to take home No. 4, FEU’s momentum going into the Finals may just be what it needs to spring a surprise and snatch the crown from the Eagles – in three.
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- The UAAP Finals: Reign vs Redemption
Tirang Alahoy is an Inquirer sports blog edited by By Mark C. Giongco.The views stated here do not reflect those of the Philippine Daily Inquirer