There’s so much excitement and anticipation surrounding this match that it’s saddening.
The last time the Falcons were involved in a match with this much hoopla was in Season 74 when they stood in the way of Ateneo’s elimination round sweep. Now it’s a battle for occupancy of the cellar and whether it has a new tenant. I expected the Falcons’ season to be rough and shaky, but I didn’t think it would be this bad. (Then again, maybe I should have.)
Both teams in this game have been winless. Barring a catastrophe that will render the game a tie somehow, that winless streak will change and the cellar will have its occupant. In stark contrast to one another, the UP Fighting Maroons have been able to put up fights, but much like their previous seasons, simply ran out of gas at the end resulting in heart break upon heart break. The Falcons, on the other hand, have not been concerned with even trying to win. When you have a fan base and coaching staff that already gave up before the season started and a constant excuse of a rookie lineup, there’s no point in even trying to get a win. For both teams, this is their best chance to break into the win column, and it looks like UP is the more determined of the two.
Keys to the Game
Yes, I advised the Falcons to zone against other team, those other teams being really good and efficient scoring teams. UP is not one of them. UP is with Adamson at the bottom of the league in field goal percentage. Simply put, they have a really hard time making their shots. The Maroons are, however, one of the top three-point shooting teams averaging 5.5 makes per game. Showing a zone and daring them to shoot from outside would be unwise, because the Maroons have been able to knock it down from there. Dave Moralde, JR Gallarza and even Moriah Gingerich are not afraid to let if fly and have been hitting it from outside at more than 30% a game.
Playing man-to-man would negate their three-point shooting and give them problems inside. Of course it’s worth noting that UP runs a rather pesky half court set, so the Falcons should expect to do a lot of switching. Keep in mind that the Falcons aren’t the biggest of teams this year and they no longer have a hulking center to clog up the paint like Sewa used to.
Right now, UP’s top offensive weapons are Henry Asilum, Kyles Lao and Mikee Reyes. All three of them are known for their ability to get to the paint and put up attempts. Fortunately for the Falcons, none of them are particularly dangerous yet. The goal for the Falcons will be to defend UP’s drives with single coverage, making sure to close out on shooters. There’s no reason yet to throw double teams or to over defend on them, just bother them enough to force the miss.
Based on previous games, the bigger threat is actually their shooters at the wings and corners who have been hitting at a decent rate, but of course an easy layup is still unacceptable. If Lao and Reyes get free cuts to the basket or are able to kick out to their shooter, the Falcons will have to start shopping for curtains to go with their new cellar.
The Falcons have been notoriously bad in ball handling this season. They are the only team in the league to have a below league average pace yet turn the ball over more than 20 times a game. Yes, this is a young team, I get it, but they could at least not commit unforced turnovers. I can understand losing the ball on the full court press to UE, but bad passes have to be limited against UP if they want to stay away from the bottom.
Right now, UP is next to Ateneo at the top of the league for teams which turn the ball over the least. Adamson is near the bottom. This will start to factor in when we take into consideration that both teams have poor shooting efficiency, but each turnover is a shot not attempted, therefore the battle might come down to who can attempt more shots. In that battle, UP already has the upper hand.
I don’t think UP ever scored only 25 in a game or lost by 38 points. That the Falcons coach is still confident about their game against UP is frightening. Even without Coach Rey Madrid, Adamson still has a deficit albeit a smaller one when it comes to coaching ability.
Despite all the stats and analysis, it will definitely come down to execution. Should everything go as planned, Adamson will have their first reason to celebrate this season. If for some reason Lao’s layups and the Maroons’ shot start filling in the gaps of their poor percentage, it’s going to be a long night in the cellar for the Falcons.
Featured image courtesy of Mark Cristino, Pinoy Exchange