Game Day Preview: Green Archers get an early date with the Birds

The long wait is finally over. UAAP basketball is back and in a big way as La Salle goes up against Ateneo this afternoon.

Under the standard scheduling formula, we should be facing NU in our season opener but who cares really. With a revamped roster and coaching staff, the Green Archers are determined to bounce back from a disappointing finish last year and what better way to test their mettle than to have an early match-up against the defending champions.

On paper, the team is the overwhelming underdogs in this contest and that is understandable. Up to know, nobody has a clear idea on how they play especially with the late roster additions made.

Despite having no import and more than half of the team is new, the Green Archers line-up features explosive talent with a good mix of speed and size. It really boils down as to how the coaches can blend all the pieces effectively to compete at a high level.

Things to watch out for:

Some Surprises. Though Ateneo is heavily favored to win, the element of surprise is on our side. From the semi-pro tournaments up to their first game last Wednesday, we have seen a lot of the Blue Eagles already especially with the core that they have now. It will be interesting to find out who will the Green Archers start in this game because it is critical to jump out early.

Against a well-coached opponent, La Salle needs to play near-perfect basketball to compete. The margin for error is very small. Ateneo is that kind of team that when they go a huge scoring blitz and build a sizable lead, it will be extremely difficult to catch up.

But since this will be the Archers’ first game and with so many new guys onboard, Ateneo will likely be guessing at this point. The Blue Eagles rely heavily on good scouting and they are good in reading their opponent’s tendencies on the floor.

Frontline Matchup. While Ateneo’s recent success can be attributed to their well-oiled system, what really sets them above is their center Angelo Koame. Expect Brandon Bates and James Laput to take turns guarding him. Make him work for his points and adopt a rebound by committee approach to control the paint. La Salle should not be intimidated and continuously attack inside.

Dynamic Backcourt. Coach Jermaine Byrd, in several interviews, said that he thinks La Salle has the best guard line-up in the league. Well we can certainly agree with that. This will be be our biggest advantage not only against Ateneo but the entire playing field as well. Expect the team to run a lot, score on the break and shoot a lot of threes.

Jamie Orme. Among the three “one-and-done” recruits, he is the only one who still remains a mystery to us all. He was not around when the team played in Davao. We’ve seen his clips on Youtube – highly athletic and explosive. Will he turn out to be the game-changer this team needs to make a serious run at the title?

Today is just the first of at the very least 14 games for the Green Archers so it’s probably best to have reasonable expectations. Even if things don’t go our way here, it’s okay. For the new guys, it’s no way easy to play your first game in front of a full-packed coliseum and against the team to beat at that.

If we lose, then learn, regroup and move on to the next.

If we win, then hell yeah! That’s a big statement right there.