More than a month after a doomed Commissioner’s Cup campaign that saw them fall short of the playoffs, the San Miguel Beermen look to have a much better ending to the last conference of the season. They get an early chance at redemption with the Kia Carnival once again being their first opponent. Hopefully, there won’t be another upset this time around. Second time’s the charm?

It’s honestly hard to predict how they will play without the services of PJ Ramos. With averages of 35.9 points, 21.2 rebounds, and 3 assists, he was certainly everything for the team. They will rely on the combined production of two new imports: Hamady N’diaye from Senegal and Chang Tsung-hsien from Taiwan, both national team members of their respective countries. Many will remember N’diaye as he was matched up against June Mar Fajardo in last year’s FIBA World Cup. He might not be as big an offensive threat as Ramos, but he’ll definitely be a factor on the defensive end. If he’s not as dominant in the post, then Fajardo and company should have enough to contain him. It’s Chang that they have to be worried about as he was Taiwan’s leading scorer in the 2009 and 2011 editions of the FIBA Asia Championships. He’ll be expected to do the same here and take over Ramos’ offensive duties. Luckily for SMB, they have a flurry of perimeter defenders they can throw at him. Lastly, LA Revilla will still be their best local. The one thing they can’t have is to watch him explode and score 10+ points in one quarter. He can easily swing momentum in their favor.

As for SMB, not much has changed aside from a trade that saw Doug Kramer and Rico Maierhofer shipped out for Gabby Espinas and Yancy de Ocampo. They will employ Arizona Reid and decided to hold out on acquiring an Asian import seeing as they already have a ton of wingmen, including Reid. It remains to be seen if that one-month break was all they needed. They’ve built enough chemistry and hunger already. After winning the Philippine Cup championship and flaming out last conference, they will want to prove that it wasn’t a fluke. They will want to prove that last conference’s second-worst defense was an outlier. They will want to prove that they can consistently be a championship contending team. That chance begins now. #FearTheBeer


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Featured Image Credit: Mon Rubio, The Shaded Lane