MANILA, Philippines – The UAAP men’s basketball elimination round is nearing its 11th hour.
The result of each game this weekend involves potentially major repercussions. There are two teams already in the Final Four picture, while 4 more remain in the hunt for the remaining spots.
There’s also the matter of which schools will have the pair of twice-to-beat advantage seeds, with Ateneo and Adamson currently having the inside track.
1. Can UE or NU play the role of spoiler?
It’s not uncommon for one of the lower-ranked teams in the collegiate league to pull of surprise victories against a Final Four hopeful late in the season, ruining their chances of making the playoffs or goal of getting a top seed in the process. In 2018, the UE Red Warriors (1-11) and NU Bulldogs (3-9) will aim to take that honor.
The Red Warriors and Bulldogs play each other to end their respective seasons, but before that concurs, UE will face Adamson on Saturday while NU will battle against FEU the following day.
The Falcons bounced back from their demoralizing defeat to Ateneo by displaying an offensive clinic against the UST Growling Tigers 3 days later. Now at 9-3 and in control of their own destiny for a twice-to-beat advantage, a victory for coach Franz Pumaren’s boys – which is expected against this Red Warriors team – would have them near the finish line of attaining that.
But if by some way UE completes the upset – remember, crazier things have happened in the UAAP – that would open the door for La Salle (8-4) to steal a twice-to-beat seed from Adamson or force a tie that would create a virtual best-of-three series between both teams in the Final Four round.
A lot of Green Archer fans are going to be Red Warrior fans on Saturday, likely hoping Alvin Pasaol has another one of those 49-point outbursts which, ironically, he did against DLSU last year.
Adamson, however, obliterated UE in their first-round encounter.
NU’s current wins in Season 81 have come against UST (twice) and UE, so it’s clear the Bulldogs will want to add another team to that list. Fortunately for them, FEU (6-6) has been the team in Season 81 most susceptible to upsets against lower-ranked opponents. After all, the Red Warriors’ lone win was against the Tamaraws.
The Bulldogs are already out of the Final Four picture, so the purpose of a win would be to boost the morale of a young team on the rise and, of course, to dampen FEU’s aspirations of a Final Four return.
A Tamaraws victory would keep them leveled with UP with the 4th seed up for grabs, assuming the Maroons (6-6) take care of business against the Growling Tigers (more on that later). If UST defeats UP and FEU takes care of business against NU, that would give coach Olsen Racela and his boys control of their fate – even more so if La Salle is unable to win its last two games, which is a possibility.
2. Can DLSU send a shocking message?
La Salle is the team most in the thick of the Final Four race. Taking all possibilities into account, the Green Archers can end up No. 1 or miss the Final Four altogether. Needless to say, their last two games are going to be monumental.
Unfortunately for DLSU, the end to their schedule is challenging.
On Sunday, another chapter will be added to the Ateneo-La Salle rivalry. At 10-2 and firmly in control of the No. 1 spot in the league standings, a Blue Eagles win would assure them of being the top seed for the Final Four. Add that to the fact that Tab Baldwin coaches this team, and you’re going to see an ADMU squad prepared for battle.
A La Salle win would, first and most importantly, send a message to the entire league – especially the defending champions – that DLSU expects to be in the championship picture and has the ability to back that up with their performance.
It would also give the Archers the chance to steal a twice-to-beat advantage not only from Adamson, but also the Blue Eagles, who would fall to 10-3 in this hypothetical while La Salle moves up to 9-4. If Adamson somehow loses to UE the day before and drops to 9-4, that would put both teams in a tie and absolutely raise the stakes in their final games.
It’s unconfirmed yet if Kiwi big man Taane Samuel will make his return from a Jones Fracture on his right foot against Ateneo. He would certainly be helpful given how dominant Angelo Kouame looked against the Archers when Ateneo blew them out in the first round. The status of Kib Montalbo, who missed DLSU’s win against NU this week with a groin issue, has yet to be determined.
3. Can UST keep its Final Four hopes alive?
For the now 5-7 Growling Tigers, it’s simple: win against UP, and their chances for a Final Four appearance in the first year of the Aldin Ayo era stays alive; lose to the Maroons, and it’s over.
No pressure, right?
When both teams faced off in the first round, UST completed one of the league’s shockers by dominating UP from start to finish thanks to the heroics of CJ Cansino and Renzo Subido. Getting another win against MVP leader Bright Akhuetie and company won’t be as easy, but the Tigers do match up well against the Maroons.
A Sto. Tomas win ties them with UP in the standings at 6-7, with both teams having remaining games against Ateneo and La Salle, respectively, to end their elimination rounds.
A Tigers win and an FEU victory would also be massive for the Tamaraws, who in this situation would be 7-6 and in control of their Final Four aspirations.
4. Can UP finally get that big win?
UP has been the most fun team to watch in the UAAP this season, for a multitude of reasons. Being a fan of the Maroons, however, may not be as entertaining given the inconsistencies the team has faced in Season 81. For stretches, they can look as good as any team in the league, but there are also times when their struggles are mind-boggling.
The Maroons still need that “highlight” victory. Their first-round triumph over La Salle wasn’t so high stakes, and beating FEU in the second round isn’t the same since the Tamaraws didn’t have big man Prince Orizu.
Beating UST would provide them that, given the stakes involved in the contest. UP hasn’t made the UAAP Final Four since 1997. A victory over the Growling Tigers would have them one step closer to breaking that slump and, at the same time, end the aspirations of another team hoping to make the Final Four themselves.
The pressure is going to be on, and how UP answers will say a lot about the team. Given that the Maroons face the peaking Green Archers after, momentum and confidence from defeating UST would put them in a better position to take down DLSU – and maybe even finish better than 4th place in the league standings. – Rappler.com