Could third time be the charm? After stumbling to back-to-back blowout defeats to open the Season 77, the UP Fighting Maroons will now attempt to get their first win of the season on their third try as they match up with their neighbors Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles.
Entering into this ballgame, the Fighting Maroons are the worst team offensively and defensively (to no one’s surprise) as they are producing a very low 72.2 points per 100 possessions (nine points lower than their average last season) while allowing their opponents 96.1 points per 100.
In my postgame article versus NU, I mentioned on the last part that I was quite optimistic coming into this match (dubbed by some as the
one-sided Battle of Katipunan) because UP has finally got to face a team this season which does not present a strong frontline. However, after witnessing this madness from Kiefer Ravena in Ateneo’s masterful performance against their nemesis DLSU Green Archers, my hopes of a UP victory have faded quicker than a wink of an eye.
Keys to the Game
Grab a fair share of rebounds
Even though the Eagles do not parade a frontline that is as massive as to those of UE and NU, it doesn’t mean that they can be outdone easily on the boards by the Fighting Maroons. It is because 1) Ateneo has outstanding rebounders on all positions, from their bigs (Ponso Gotladera, Chris Newsome) down to their smallest players (Nico Elorde, Von Pessumal), and 2) for the first two games, UP has been struggling mightily to grab the boards as they only managed to collect only 20 percent of the available offensive rebounds (~33 percent was the average offensive rebounding rate last season) and 56 percent of the available defensive rebounds.
|Season 77 Stats||Offensive Rebounding Rate||Defensive Rebounding Rate||Total Rebounding Rate|
While I do not expect that UP would win the rebounding battle against Ateneo, I am just hoping that they can at least get a fair share of boards. If they can collect at least 25 percent of the offensive rebounds, they can get more extra possessions which might produce second chance points. The Fighting Maroons are only averaging five second chance points per contest so far, which is almost half of the average 2nd chance points scored by a team last season (9.4).
The story of turnovers
One of the few bright spots on UP’s game this season is their ability to force turnovers and to limit theirs. The Fighting Maroons have forced NU and UE to an average of 24.5 turnovers per 100 scoring possessions while they only committed 16.1 TOs per 100,an improvement compared to a league-worst 19.9 per 100 last season. If they can force TOs against Ateneo (the least turnover-prone team this season, 14.0 per game) and score from these extra opportunities and if they can limit their own, this might do huge wonders to improve their chances of taking home the W.
Can the rookies step up?
After two uninspiring games from UP veterans, maybe it would best serve the Fighting Maroons to shuffle their lineup combinations and give more playing time to the greenhorns who played stellar in limited minutes. Diego Dario provided some spark off the bench in the closing moments versus NU while Gelo Vito showed us some good offense and defense despite being matched up with a behemoth in Alfred Aroga.
Clearly, this is an uphill battle for the UP. Still on cloud nine after their impressive victory over the Green Archers, the Blue Eagles are expected to sustain their strong start to the season and fire up on all cylinders. Kiefer might go berserk again from three-point territory. Pessumal might surpise us again. The highly-touted rookie Arvin Tolentino might notch his second straight double-double. Gotladera might audition again to become the next great Atenean bigman.
But if you may recall in August 26,2009. the then-defending champs Ateneo, who were heavily favored, were stunned by the Fighting Maroons. Who knows, if lady luck gets on our side tomorrow,
we ‘re gonna rock this town alive we might pull off a victory for ages once again.