The Final Four is all set.
It’s UST vs. NU and FEU vs. ADMU.
What else can you ask for? These four teams will be featured in two separate duels for the much-coveted slots for the Finals. As history suggests, anything can happen from here on. In Season 76, we’ve seen the Growling Tigers pull off an amazing feat after they edged out Ray Parks-led NU Bulldogs despite being the fourth seed, only to suffer a heartbreaking defeat in the hands of eventual champions, the DLSU Green Archers. The following year, the Bulldogs were on the other end. After being on top of the standings during the first round, the reigning champions fell on the fourth spot and played a do-or-die game against the UE Red Warriors where they emerged victorious. They were also the second team in the Final Four history to beat the number one seed twice (against Ateneo) and enter the Finals.
After a 60-year title drought, the Sampaloc-based squad clinched the crown last year against the Tamaraws in three games. Are we going to see another Cinderella run from them as they face the very dangerous and talented UST Growling Tigers? Let’s see and break down the important factors in this matchup.
Gelo Alolino vs. Kevin Ferrer
This clash features two graduating legitimate stars in Gelo Alolino and Kevin Ferrer. They are the heart and soul of their respective teams. Now that they are playing out their final year, these two guys will surely give all out.
Looking at their impact on their teams, Ferrer seems to have the upper hand against Alolino. The former UAAP Juniors MVP donned a much efficient true-shooting percentage and offensive rating despite lower usage rate. With his much-improved post game and three-point sniping, he was able to lead his team in terms of scoring with 17.9 ppg.
Just like Ferrer, Alolino is the main catalyst of his team’s offensive attack. He did much of the playmaking chores for the Bulldogs as he sported out a team-high 29.7% assist rate in the elimination round. He’s also capable of starring as their main offensive weapon especially in the crucial stretches of the game. In their last two games, the veteran point guard averaged 23 points and drained dagger buckets down the line.
Expect Ferrer to guard Alolino in the decisive moments of the game.
Advantage: Kevin Ferrer
Alfred Aroga vs. Karim Abdul
Monstrous — the only word that can fully describe this war between two of the best behemoths in the league today. Both can carry their respective teams on their own. They move fluidly when defending in space and at the rim. These two reinforcements have phenomenal touch inside and midrange. Their attitude and the amount of hardwork that they’d put all tournament long is unquestionable.
Their duel inside will be one of the vital aspects of the game that we must all see. Aroga, who has a slight advantage in terms of defensive win shares (1.4) against Abdul (0.8), will be the main guy in the middle for the Bulldogs.
To be sure, Aroga’s rebounding appetite (13 boards per game) will give a hard time over his nemesis. The Growling Tigers need some help from other guys to box him out and have control on the boards.
Advantage: Alfred Aroga
NU: Jjay Alejandro
This guy is designated to be the offensive spark of the bench that Coach Eric Altamarino is looking for. This season, we have seen flashes of his prowess against Adamson and La Salle, where he tallied 23 and 25 markers, respectively. Let us also not forget how he torched the Blue Eagles last year in the Final Four when he registered 20 points to force the rubber match which Bulldogs won in the process.
UST: Marvin Lee
Honestly, I’m really torn between Lee and Mario Bonleon on who’s going to be the guy that will give the much-needed help for the Growling Tigers. Given the trust that Coach Bong dela Cruz puts on Lee, I suppose that this unheralded guard will play a vital role for their title run. As a rookie, he’s averaging a decent 9.4 points per game, in a virtuous 58.2 eFG%. That’s pretty impressive given the fact that UST have so many talented players at their disposal.
If the Bulldogs can somehow continue their offensive brilliance that they displayed late in the second round, the Growling Tigers will have a hard time against the defending champs. On the defensive end, it’s already given that NU would want to slow the tempo to contain the UST.
Given their experience in this situation, the Bulldogs will be armed for this uphill battle. An NU win is highly likely in this contest which will give us a rubber match on Wednesday.
|TV: LIVE ON ABS-CBN SPORTS AND ACTION|
|TIME: 4:00 PM|
|VENUE: SMART-ARANETA COLISEUM|