The race to the Final Four continues as two of the hottest teams in the league battle – the De La Salle Green Archers and the National University Bulldogs. La Salle is at 8-4 and is on a five game winning streak while NU is at 9-3 and they’re on a six game winning streak. Both teams are undefeated in the second round. One team will suffer their first defeat of the second round, and the end of their streak. During the first round, NU defeated La Salle, 63-56. That is the only “convincing” loss of La Salle this season. Remember, during the first round, La Salle lost to UST in overtime and La Salle just collapsed in the end as they blew double digit fourth quarter leads against FEU and UE. After an inconsistent first round, both teams improved tremendously during the second round. La Salle showed everyone that they can win close games with overtime victories over Adamson and UE and of course, that classic Jeron Teng game winner over Ateneo. With the exemption of a close game against FEU, NU has been dominating the competition this second round. Before the start of the pre-season, many of the so-called experts said that an NU-La Salle finals is possible. With both teams dominating the second round, will this be a Finals preview? We will know the answer to that question a few weeks from now. But for know, we will be treated to a high quality match between two well-coached and deep teams.
Keys to the Game
Limit Bobby Ray Parks
The reigning two-time MVP scored 20 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and dished out six assists during their first round meeting. After so and so performance during the first round, at least for his standards, Parks is starting to heat up this second round. He scored 30 points during their last game against UP. He also gave an “in your face facial dunk” against Kim Lo in their game against UST and against Raul Soyud in their game against UP. Remember Park’s facial against AVO last year? I won’t be surprise if Parks would try to give a facial against an Archer this Sunday. Jeron Teng has improved defensively this year and he will match up against Parks. Jeron is one of the few players in his position with the size and built to handle Parks. We saw a Parks-Jeron scoring showdown last year. Will we see one again? Jeron had his moments this season, but he still doesn’t have a huge scoring game in a victory. Let us see if Jeron and Parks can cancel each other out.
Limit Emmanuel Mbe
Mbe had 12 points and six rebounds against La Salle during the first round. Norbert Torres and Arnold Van Opstal will take turns in battling Mbe down the post, and maybe Perkins will even guard Mbe from time to time. The big guys of La Salle needs to be aggressive early on, and hopefully put Mbe in foul trouble.
Will the real twin towers please stand up?
The twin towers has been inconsistent this second round. Sure, Norbert Torres had a big game against UP, but that was against UP. Norbert struggled against Ateneo and his mental lapse against UE during the dying seconds of regulation almost cost La Salle that game. After a very good first round, AVO has been struggling during the second round. He failed to score in double-figures during the last four games of La Salle. AVO needs to find his touch that made him a revelation during the first round, which even led to a Gilas Cadet invite. And we need the grizzly bear version of Norbert Torres. We need the real Arnold Van Awesome and the real Bear!
Final Thoughts and Predictions
La Salle is good enough to sweep the second round and get a twice to beat advantage. But there is also a chance that La Salle might lose back-to-back games, and even miss the Final Four! Now is not the time for the Archers to collapse. The calls have not been going our way the past two games. And the UAAP board made several controversial decisions the past few days that involved La Salle, like letting Charles Mammie play just a few hours before the La Salle-UE game, and of course, the controversial issue regarding Coach Bo Perasol and a La Salle alumnus. La Salle needs to be focus on this game. Expect the calls not to go our way, but play through it! I expect La Salle to win this one in a close game and get a share of the top spot!