Preview: NU, UST in crucial tiff

Levi Verora
NU takes on UST in what is expected to be a tough battle in UAAP Season 76.

SKYING HIGH. Parks and the Bulldogs can go just half-a-game behind FEU. Photo by Rappler/Josh Albelda.

MANILA, Philippines —  

First round meeting: NU (71) – (67) UST

Ray Parks/Jean Mbe – 37 points

READ: Parks, Mbe push NU past UST

Why NU will win: Red-hot NU has won 3 straight and Jean Mbe has been at the forefront of the Bulldogs’ attack, averaging 16.8 points and 11.6 rebounds. Parks will continue spreading the floor and create opportunities for his teammates while Gelo Alolino is slowly elevating himself as one of the league’s best point guards.

Why UST will win: Espana’s big three of Aljon Mariano, Karim Abdul, and Kevin Ferrer have sufficed for the absence Jeric Teng, piling up almost +15 points (30.34 PPG in first 3 games to 45 PPG in the last 5 games) while their key star was sidelined. Also, the Tigers have not lost 3 straight since Season 74.

Key Match-up:

Jean Mbe (16.8 PPG, 11.6 RPG) vs Karim Abdul (14.75 PPG, 11.5 RPG)

Two of the most dominant big men hit the center stage and both are expected to battle in a nip-and-tuck affair. Mbe has been the more effective import in this season so far, although Abdul has been a monster since Teng’s departure. The Growling Tiger normed 17.8 PPG and 13.4 RPG in the 5 games Teng sat out due to a shoulder injury. Whoever mans the middle more efficiently gives his team a better chance at winning.

X-Factors:

NU: Gelo Alolino

Against Adamson, Alolino flashed an all-around game consisting of 6 points, 8 rebounds, and 9 assists. He leads the league in assists and if he continues to be that effective at the point, UST will have a hard time dealing with NU. 

UST: Clark Bautista

If there is one man on that UST roster who can light it up from downtown, it has to be Bautista. He leads the Tigers in 3-point conversions and if he connects well from rainbow territory, he’s going be a thorn for NU’s side.

What this game means: For NU, a win pushes them to solo second and just half-a-game behind the league-leading (but struggling) FEU Tamaraws. Winning will further make them a powerhouse contender to deal with. For UST, the jockeying for position continues. They are currently tied with Ateneo for 5th to 6th spots with a 4-4 slate and a win keeps them very much in contention for the Final Four berth. – Rappler.com