The race is for the fourth slot | Inquirer Sports
One Game At A Time

The race is for the fourth slot

/ 04:47 AM August 01, 2014

You can do all the preseason speculation and forecasts but they usually always change when the first set of games kick in.  And with the current UAAP basketball tournament, it’s clear that not one team is dominant or can dictate how the final four cast will look like.

National University, Ateneo and Far Eastern University have set the early pace with three wins each in four starts. Defending champion De La Salle and University of the East are squared up at 2-2, starting off from two different directions.  UE won its first two games against Adamson and University of the Philippines, two teams that are really struggling to compete against the elite teams of the league.

Defending champion La Salle won two straight after losing the first two outings.  Despite a bumpy start, La Salle should still be very much a contender given that its championship roster is still very much around.  Coach Juno Sauler is not rushing his team and allowing the season to come to them.  There’s confidence in their system and that will be something they will turn to when the pressure of winning more games comes around.

This happened in the end game against UE and that experience carried the Green Archers to a win despite a horrendous 36 turnovers. UE just couldn’t finish the job in the fourth quarter and ran out of offensive options in the clutch.

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The Blue Eagles were riding on a three-game winning run capped by a morale-boosting win against archrival La Salle. In their first of two scheduled yearly duels (there could be more depending on how each one performs down the road), the Eagles hit the crucial shots when the game mattered.

But against the NU Bulldogs, the Loyola side could not hit pay dirt while Eric Altamirano’s crew delivered.  Pao Javelona, Rev Diputado and Troy Rosario could be the core of the post-Bobby Ray Parks era.  NU could shock most of the schools when they’re not taking the Bulldogs too seriously.

FEU is also a contender and adapting quite well to the post-Terrence Romeo phase.  Coach Nash Racela is one of the most astute tacticians of the game and that’s why he has always had a coaching job.

The most thrilling race should be the fourth and final spot for the post season. The usual target is to win at least eight games to have a chance but that is easier said than done because of the strength of the other teams.  With this in mind, the teams with relatively new programs and coaches like UE and the University of Santo Tomas have to pull the rug from underneath the top schools to be able to get a chance at the Final Four.

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Adamson and University of the Philippines need to start winning soon to be able to have even the slimmest chance of making the postseason.  UP clearly needs a star player or two while Adamson needs to stabilize its game.  Dribbling the ball too much has hurt the Falcons and it is most likely that new mentor Kenneth Duremdes has asked his young crew to trust each other and share the basketball.

In a relatively short tournament that has relative parity, communities of the UAAP schools should expect a few bumps along the way.  However, the teams that get a good five- or six-game winning run in the next couple of weeks should have the best chances of making it to the postseason.  Expect most of the games though to be close even if there was a 37-point blowout loss that Adamson would rather erase from its memory.

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TAGS: Adamson, La Salle, tournament, UE

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