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  1. Homestretch, and a Fearless Finals Forecast

    "I fucking hate you," said I.

    Mr Libog didn't even stop stuffing his gob with the excellently charred brick oven pizza with prosciutto and arugula as he asked, "What the fuck is your problem now?"

    "We didn't make the spread on the last game goddam it!" I exclaimed exasperatedly.

    "Its sports betting, you know, legal gambling but still gambling, by definition that is never a sure thing. If you want a sure thing, try stocks and futures," and he took a swig of his Diet Coke.

    The Ateneo won by eight points over Lasalle over the weekend, and our inveterate book makers gave us a spread of... a little more than that. As we were both inclined to think the Ateneo would walk all over Lasalle, much like their first round encounter, we put money on the Blue Eagles.

    "Its that so-called genius coach of yours, you know, that Tab Baldwin, he doesn't post (Angelo) Kouame up much, preferring that ridiculous pasa-pasa, ikot-bola bullshit. If he had actually trained Kouame the way (former Ateneo head coach Norman) Black trained Rabeh (Al-Hussaini) I swear to you Kouame would eat every frontline in the UAAP alive, every goddam frontline. But your guy doesn't want to do it that way, he thinks basketball is a team game where the, what was it he said? The 16th guy is just as important as the starting 5? God... what utter and absolute bullshit." And this time he was having at the very flavorful pasta tartuffo with vodka cream sauce.

    "What the hell is it with you and Tab anyway? Did he used to date your sister? Hindi si (Lawrence) Chongson 'yan ha," I protested.

    "I never said he was. And I would even go so far as to say he absolutely knows his stuff, certainly I might even say he's a good coach. Pero alam mo naman ang tingin ko sa coaches 'di ba? No such thing as a genius coach. Tab is not a genius coach, even Norman is not a genius coach," he said.

    We've had this conversation many times before of course, and I was wondering how this turned up in a discussion over the last Ateneo-Lasalle game.

    "If he was a real genius should he not go to his best player, all the time? Si Phil Jackson nga, kahit si Pat Riley, or si Greg Popovich, they always give credit and mention their superstars like Shaq (O'Neal), Kobe (Bryant), Tim Duncan, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan. How come Tab, when he has an interview, barely mentions any of his guys. If I had Kouame on my team, I would never bullshit the media: I'd tell them straight that 99% of the reason we're winning is because of Kouame. Hindi nga tayo halos maka-shoot pag nakaupo si Kouame eh, wala din tayo taga-gulo sa loob para hindi maka-shoot mga kalaban pag wala si Kouame. So ano pa silbi nung hocky assist at nung playing the right way na parati niyang binibida? Isaac (Go) was what, 15% from three-point range before the UP game? I thought Tab turned him into the finest stretch 5 in the league? 15%? We're near the bottom in terms of offense, where are all the baskets that are supposed to come from the 'Tab System' that everyone raves about? Don't tell me it only works on defense, because the reason we're at the top on defense is because our import blocks more shots than entire teams, and changes even more shots than he blocks just by being on the floor. I doubt that has anything to do with any system." As he once again went through his litany.

    I was waiting for him to get to the point.

    "So if he had trained Kouame and gone to him, the way Phil went to Shaq, Kouame would probably be averaging an easy 25 and 15 to go with his 4 blocks. He would've gotten an easy 30 and 20 against Lasalle, for sure. He's 7-feet, maybe 260 pounds, and he's gotten stronger and faster. Ano gagawin ng Lasalle para pigilan siya, ubusin mga fouls nina (Justin) Baltazar, (Brandon) Bates, kahit nung bulok na (James) Laput? (Jamie) Malonzo nga fouled out eh. You wanna know why we lost that bet? Because your coach is not a genius, worse, he's stubborn, and probably a little ego-driven, meaning Ateneo has to win because of Tab and Tab's System, not because of Angelo Kouame," he emphasized.

    "That's not a fair accusation. You can't argue with success, right?" said I.

    "Of course, 10-0, sinong gago magsasabing mali si Tab? Pero you were asking why we didn't win the bet. The answer is simple: Tab has to win HIS way." he responded.

    "So what about Lasalle, what happens to them now? They have five games to go, three against teams that beat them in Round 1," I asked.

    "Kaya na nila mga 'yon. Kaya nila mawalis mga huling laro nila. Sana lang hindi atakihin ng katangahan coach nila, or sapian na naman ng espirito ng bwakaw at bayani basketball 'yun dalawang maliit nila (Andrei Caracut and Aljun Melecio). Huwag na nila pahirapan sarili nila, pahawak bola kay (Jordan) Bartlett, gawin lang catch-shoot sina Melecio at Caracut. ...
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  2. Round One. And Done. Part Deux.

    And now we come to one's-and-done. Or three's-and-done.

    Jamie Orme (now Malonzo) has proven to be the best of the lot of the three Filipino-Americans that the Green Archers brought in as single-season players for Season 82. At 6-feet-6-inches, long, and athletic, with a pretty good bead from three-point range, Malonzo is looking more and more like a future teammate of Paras's on the Gilas national squad. Ateneo was actually hot after him coming out of Prep School some five years ago, but he chose to play college ball in the US, and is making his Philippine debut in the UAAP.

    Meeker and Laput have so far proven to be busts. Meeker, a 5-foot-10 guard, can't seem to get anything going, in spite of being a double-digit scorer in his American college, while Laput, at 6-feet-8-inches, hasn't done anything more than resident big man Brandon Bates has done. So basically Lasalle recruited three guys to play only one season while getting production from only one of them.

    Veterans Aljun Melecio, Andrei Caracut, and especially Justin Baltazar, are all carrying the cudgels for the Green and White thus far. Baltazar is having an MVP season, although he's had problems against imports. Melecio and Caracut are still very good shooters who can come through in the clutch for Lasalle. Jordan Bartlett, Kurt Lojera, Encho Serrano, even Wacky Manuel are all bringing solid games.

    Their lack of an import however might be more telling than they are letting on. Although Lasalle has the most quality size across the board among all the teams, they still do not have that one super elite player who can go toe to toe against say Kouame, or even FEU's Pat Tchouente, the two tallest imports in the field.

    One other one-and-done getting plenty of buzz is Valandre Chauca, the 5-foot-9-inch point guard of the Adamson Falcons. Chauca, who has Peruvian and Filipino blood but was born and raised in the United States, is originally from UC Berkeley, and also had a pitstop at Enderun College. He's proven to be an explosive scorer and shifty penetrator and creator, very good with the ball in his hands and coming off screens firing.

    Chauca and Lenda Douanga, their 6-foot-7-inch import, are the anchors for Head Coach Franz Pumaren. Douanga doesn't make eyes pop out with his play, unlike Chauca, but his strength and size inside and his ability to hit that quarter-turning hook shot are proving invaluable for the Falcons.

    If Simon Camacho, Jerom Lastimosa, Vince Magbuhos, and Adrian Manlapaz can provide additional support on a game in-game out basis, especially on the scoring end, Adamson should be able to turn things around in the second round.

    UE and NU can thank their lucky stars they have Rey Suerte and Dave Ildefonso, respectively, otherwise they's both be winless.

    UE also has underrated import Alex Diakhite, a widebodied 6-feet-9-inches with unheralded skills and a veteran's mentality.

    --------------------

    So who will win it all?

    There is still Round 2 to go, but the Ateneo is looking very much as if a stepladder is going to happen, not unless any of the three schools behind them in the standings can pull off an upset in Round 2.

    Tab Baldwin has seen them all now, and trying to catch the veteran mentor by surprise is no longer possible, which makes the task of beating the Blue Eagles even harder.

    Round 2 should see a surge form both Lasalle and Adamson. UST might spin its wheels, unless Chabiyo can suddenly become a super import averaging a 30-20 in Round 2. Nonoy, Abando, Subido, Paraiso, Cansino are proving to be more down than up as they try to be good caddies to Chabiyo. That is a trend that might continue, or worse, even decline.

    Chauca now knows what he is up against, and Pumaren may finally give him more free rein, much like he did with Mike Cortez back in Lasalle.

    Lasalle for its part might finally be coming together, in spite of the chemistry and coaching issues that hounded them throughout Round 1. They cannot afford any more losses with four already racked against them.

    It looks like the annual bonfire at Loyola Heights will still include a trophy parade.
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  3. Round One. And Done.

    So many exciting things happened in Round 1 of the UAAP Season 82 Men's Basketball Tournament that we are a little glad it is finally over, since we indeed need to catch our breath and look over some things.

    Let us begin by taking a look at the official team standings:

    1. Ateneo (7-0)
    2. UP (5-2)
    3. UST (4-3)
    4. Lasalle (3-4)
    5. FEU (3-4)
    6. Adamson (3-4)
    7. UE (2-5)
    8. NU (1-7)

    First things first, so we can get this out of the way already: Ateneo De Manila has swept the first round, and save for their one-point escape over UST, all of their games have been blow-outs, their biggest one of course coming over the weekend at the expense of the UP Fighting Maroons, 89-63.

    How the heck a team that is near the bottom in terms of offense - both in terms of points scored as a team, and team field goal percentage - has been this dominant can be summed up in one word. "Defense. We can always count on our defense," exclaimed Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin in one interview. "Whether we can put the ball into the hoop might be a matter of luck going game to game no matter how well we prepare, but we know consistently what our defense can give us," he added.

    That defense begins and ends with Ateneo import Angelo Kouame, all 6-feet-11-inches of him, has blocked more shots than entire TEAMS. In fact only the Adamson Falcons - as a TEAM - have more blocks than Kouame. And even this might have already changed since the Ivorian big man chocked up another seven rejections against UP over the weekend. With the giant Ivorian patrolling the paint, teams simply cannot get their usual incursions or even second chances at the basket. Kouame also has a 7-foot-6-inch wingspan, great quickness, agility, and natural instincts going after the ball. His teammates can thus gamble more freely going after steals or even doubling and helping everywhere else while he stays home in the lane that is shaded. "It is just insane how much he can cover," rued Shaun Ildefonso in one interview, the NU forward whose team got blasted by the Ateneo by 21 points.

    Everytime Kouame is on the floor his team either builds up a big lead, or they quickly turn a deficit around, and when he has to sit, the Ateneo game starts to falter like a military line in the age of muskets and grape shot. "Alam mo, huwag na kasing lokohin ni Tab ang mga tao, nadadale siya tuwi na lang inuupo niya ng pagkatagal-tagal si Kouame," remarked the ever-sage Mr. Libog. "Andami-dami niya nalalaman na hockey assist at play the right way, pero pag nakaupo si Kouame mga malalaking lamang natin, nagiging five, nagiging nine, muntikan pa tayo sa UST, kailangan mo ba ng hockey assist at play the right way para maka-putback 'yung giant import mo?" he added.

    Even the advanced metrics guys back that up, with Kouame currently a Plus 18 whenever he is on the floor, and a Minus 17 when he sits down.

    Speaking of sitting down...

    UP is still solidly in second place, but uneasy, ironically, must the Maroons sit at present. They've had a couple of one-point escapes, including their last one against Lasalle's Green Archers, thanks to a win-or-die buzzer-beating three-pointer from swingman Juan Gomez De Liano. They can also thank one-and-done Filipino-American forward Jamie Malonzo for muffing a flurry of freethrows in the last minute or so of their game, allowing the Maroons to turn a four-point deficit into a nail-biter of a win.

    These Maroons could just as easily be at 3-4 with their escape acts, but sometimes the good are also the lucky. "We're lucky we have great one-on-one talents on our team," admitted UP head coach Bo Perasol in one interview. "If things break down, as a coach i do not have to worry how to save a possession, because I have easily four or five players who can create and make things happen on their own," he added.

    Kobe Paras, the balikbayan forward, may be the primus inter pares among Perasol's talented one-on-one players with his size, length, athletic prowess, and ability to take the ball strong to the rack, aside from pulling up and also making the occasional trey. His emergence however may have cost Juan Gomez De Liano some possession time with the ball, a role he relished en route to his Mythical 5 Selection last season. Now Juan has taken a backseat to Paras, and even to his older brother Javier, averaging maybe a third of what he put up last season when he helped lead UP to the Season 81 Finals.

    Another missing link is Ricci Rivero, the other transfer student who was expected to pick up where he left off after he suddenly changed varsity address from Taft Ave to Diliman over a year ago. Rivero had a chance to strut his stuff in the first two games of the season as Paras sat out their games against FEU (close win) and UST (blown out by 16). Rivero was ...
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  4. Ateneo in UAAP 3X3

    Quote Originally Posted by BLUE HORSE View Post
    ADMU swept the tournament, beat UST for the championship 19-13. Opposition had big problems matching up with Ange which allowed Thirdy and Matt to go to town scoring. In the finals, Thirdy scored on 2 dunks while Ange over powered the shorter Chabi Yo down low and even scored a 2 pointer from beyond the arc. Season 81 is the most successful season for ADMU. Men’s basketball. Team annexed their sixth championship this season. OBF.
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  5. Lookie What We Got Here (What A Shocker)

    99-81.

    Lets just get that out of the way.

    No, it wasn't even close.

    Game 2 ended pretty much the way even the books thought it would: with an unstoppable Blue and White juggernaut running right through the Maroon and Teal.

    Now the Ateneo De Manila is once again back-to-back champions, their third such feat in the UAAP.

    The first time the Ateneo did it, the father of twins Matt and Mike Nieto, Jet, was still playing for the Blue Eagles, some 30 years ago. Jet is now a doctor, and has two other children, a daughter and another son. Jet's team was primarily homegrown, with the likes of Danny Francisco, Alex Araneta, and Jun Reyes, all coming from the Ateneo Grade School.

    The second time was during the Rabeh Al-Hussaini - Nonoy Baclao era, about a decade prior to this latest diadem. This was the time the Ateneo went into high gear with its recruitment, and began an historic 5-peat reign anchored mainly on players who came from outside Loyola Heights. Al-Hussaini, the 2008 MVP, came out of Philippine Christian University High School, while Baclao was a transfer student from West Negros University.

    This time it seemed the circle was completed, with homegrown talents leading the way along with arguably the best import to ever play in the UAAP. Thirdy Ravena and Angelo Kouame combined for 60 points in Game 2. That is not a typo. Read it again. 60. Points. Ravena had 38 points including five three-pointers, while Kouame had 22 points and 20 rebounds to make up for his lackluster showing in Game 1.

    "I'm just so proud of these guys, like I keep saying, we had a job to do and we did it," said Coach Tab Baldwin in one interview after they had completed the title run.

    It said in this space that Kouame would have a bounce-back game, and boy did he ever. By our count he had five dunks.

    Juan Gomez De Liano, MVP Bright Akhuetie, and graduating Paul Desiderio all tried to keep University of the Philippines in this fight, but clearly they were totally out-everything in Game 2.

    How many instances was an Ateneo shooter left wide open, with the closest UP defender some two meters away?

    How many times did Ateneo run that screen-hand off action at the perimeter to bamboozle the UP perimeter defense?

    How many times did a weakside cut or a pick-roll result in an open layup for a Blue Eagle?

    How many times was Akhuetie so incensed with the UP defense that he was yelling at teammates and wondering what the hell hit them?

    And then Ravena just went ballistic, scoring 17 in the first half then topping it off with 21 in the second. His fourth three-pointer made it a 21-point lead with about four minutes to go. The Ateneo was up by as much as 22 and was never really threatened throughout this game.

    "We did not want a Game 3, not against this team," Ravena said in a post-game interview. "We knew what we had to do. This is for the Ateneo Community. Hats off to the UP Community as well," he added.

    Now that the latest back-to-back title is all wrapped up, preparations for Season 82 officially begin.

    For Ravena though, that meant getting back to normal student life, including a group study session he had to skip in preparation for Game 1, the subject of much ribbing from his classmates.

    That goes for all of the other players who saw action in these Finals.

    And that perhaps should be the biggest takeaway: this was perhaps the first time ever that bona fide student athletes faced each other in the UAAP Finals.

    Updated 12-07-2018 at 01:47 PM by Sam Miguel

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