Last August 4, 2016, the De La Salle University Green Archers and the reigning and defending UAAP men’s basketball champions, the Far Eastern University Tamaraws held a “friendly” match with the purpose of possibly sweating it out and testing both teams’ capabilities. Unfortunately, the game was not finished. The game was stopped with the Green Archers on top, 92-75. Both coaches had their own words the next day to express their feelings on the outcome of the tune-up match.
Tomorrow, at the very least, there will be an ending and there will be an official winner and a loser. I can fully understand the competitive level on both sides which actually may have prompted the tune-up match not ending the way it was supposed to end, which is by playing full four quarters of basketball. Both coaches Aldin Ayo and Nash Racela were the two champion coaches of the top two collegiate basketball leagues in the country last year and now both will fight it out for the men’s collegiate basketball supremacy on the same league.
Personally, Coach Nash Racela still feels like they are the top dogs of the UAAP. If you want to be the best, you have to take away the crown from them, they will not give the UAAP men’s basketball championship in a silver platter to anyone. Coach Aldin Ayo, on the other hand, with his mayhem mentality, will always go and will settle only for the best no matter what it takes. These two attitudes and outlooks are the perfect recipe for a slam-bang affair on the opening week of the UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball tournament’s elimination round.
The Green Archers are coming from an undefeated run in the 2016 FilOil Pre-Season Cup which hailed them as the champions. Everyone already thought that they have seen what this team can do after watching the Green Archers romp over every opposition on that summer tournament. But that team that won the FilOil Pre-Season title will be different one when they parade in the UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball tournament.
Gone will be Jboy Gob, who suffered an ACL injury which will rule him out of the UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball tournament season. The additions are familiar faces in Jason Perkins and Julian Sargent, whom both did not play on the 2016 FilOil tournament. Another addition will be rookie Justine Baltazar will also be coming to beef up the Green Archers’ front line in Gob’s absence. Perkins, as we all know, will be there also to help out probably in the small forward and power forward positions while Julian Sargent will be out there to help out possibly playing in the off-guard and small forward positions.
The reigning and defending UAAP men’s basketball champions will be out to prepare addressing DLSU’s full court pressure schemes. Not only that, expect also the Morayta-based squad to play physical on the Green Archers, out to probably cause DLSU to lose focus on playing basketball, which is always a dangerous thing to happen since this will allow DLSU’s opponents to creep in and take the game away from the green and white squad.
I personally feel that this FEU squad for Season 79 is still a formidable one. Their backcourt is composed of the following: Monbert Arong, Ron Dennison, Achi Iñigo, and Joe Trinidad. Iñigo and Trinidad are capable of playing the natural point guard position who can set up the table for their teammates and score from the perimeter off the pick and roll, extending to the three-point region. Arong and Dennison, on the other hand are slashers and very physical players that can take the game away from you if you lose your focus because of their pesky defense.
Raymar Jose and Prince Orizu will have their hands full on manning the paint to stop Ben Mbala. I consider Raymar Jose as one of the best-skilled big man in the league and his hustle and court sense as a big man is something that can cause problems later on for the Green Archers if they do not focus well on their game plan.
Barkley Ebona is another body that the Tamaraws can use to probably give Ben Mbala a few bumps here and there inside the paint. Richard Escoto is still there also to help out on the front line chores for the Tamaraws but he is not your typical back to the basket big man. Escoto’s offense will come from facing-up his defender.
The question mark for this FEU team this Season 79 is if there will be enough production from the wing positions. Last year, Pogoy and Belo are tall and athletic guys that can play alternately both forward positions and get a very high offensive output from those positions. Right now, this task may fall on former FEU-FERN standout Wendel Comboy. Rookie Ken Tuffin may also be there to help out squeeze production from the wing position for the Tamaraws this season.
I do not think coach Nash Racela will deviate from his dribble-drive offense. I still expect FEU to run this system and it will be seen how this offense will be executed against a very, very aggressive De La Salle defense. I have to be honest, I expect the Green Archers to get most of their scoring on forcing turnovers with very less half court sets. Every miss, the Green Archers will run so I am personally interested to see how DLSU will defense coach Nash’s patented dribble-drive offense on this relatively new-look FEU line-up off to defend their championship.
I just hope that the Green Archers will avoid getting into foul trouble early because of the way they play defense. I know that every player on that De La Salle bench is for sure, ready to show up and play but of course, foul trouble is something that can be controlled and it helps out manage the rotation of the coaches. Coach Aldin’s system, as what we have seen, is a very demanding system which needs a lot of people that can be rotated to play so still for me, foul trouble is a crucial thing for the Green Archers in every game this season.
On offense, I expect DLSU to go inside the paint and maximize Ben Mbala’s strength and talent. What is good (and what I like) about this DLSU offense is that you seldom see big guys dribbling while backing down their defenders. Big guys either normally dribble facing up attacking the basket or they catch the ball deep inside the paint for easy baskets. We can always talk about perimeter shooting but personally, perimeter shooting can be hot or cold every game so I would still prefer getting wins from playing good defense and running the break for easy baskets. This easily frustrates and demoralizes your opponent because it is difficult to always play catch up on the break.
I would also like to request the DLSU community to take this season in a one game at a time approach. Do not expect that after sweeping their way to the title in the 2016 FilOil Pre-Season Cup, it will be the same as well in the UAAP. The UAAP is a way different animal to treat. Everyone seems to be playing at a high level come UAAP time and not just that, everybody seems to play differently when they face De La Salle. Each team treats their match-up with the Green Archers like a championship game so do not expect that DLSU will steam roll every school in every match.
Nevertheless, the support will always be there. It has been an up and down ride for the men’s basketball team for several years now. The new coaching staff for sure is working extra hard to make UAAP Season 79 a memorable one not just for them in the team but also for the whole De La Salle community. The ride starts tomorrow and I am hoping that everyone will be there from Game 1 until which game this 2016 team will take us. See you all in the games and Animo La Salle!