It is a safe bet that the University of the Philippines, the host of this year’s UAAP festivities, will put on a majestic performance in the opening ceremonies. It is up to the men’s basketball team to carry on the good vibes for the UP community as they begin their journey towards relevance this Season 78 with a matchup against the heavily depleted UE Red Warriors.

Last season, the Red Warriors obliterated the Fighting Maroons in their two one-sided encounters, outscoring them by an average of almost 30 points per 100 possessions. They had done so by pushing the tempo to extreme levels as the two games averaged an astronomical 85.6 possessions and pestering the Fighting Maroons with their full court pressure, a signature staple by their head coach Derrick Pumaren. But the Red Warriors  today is not the same of last year’s squad who narrowly missed out the Final Four festivities. Gone from the lineup are Roi Sumang, Bong Galanza, Dan Alberto and Charles Mammie as they left the team for various reasons.

With a considerably thin frontline, the Red Warriors presents a good matchup for UP and its bigmen. With Chris Javier, who is not a much of a force at the post and is a poor rebounder for his size (rebounding splits of  5/13/9), as the most seasoned player among UE’s bigs, guys like Cheick Kone, Mark Juruena and Jerson Prado will have a relatively easy task in patrolling the paint. Without the rebounding behemoth Mammie, the Fighting Maroons should be able to perform better than the 38% rebounding rate they registered against them last year

As for the guards of UP, we shall watch out on how new head coach Rensy Bajar will juggle their playing time. Who shall he elect to start at the 1-position? Will it be the young and energetic Diego Dario, or the more seasoned Henry Asilum? How is he going to play the likes of  Jett Manuel, Paul Desiderio and Dave Moralde, the supposed gunners in the team? And of course, how will he squeeze some playing time for Janjan Jaboneta and Pio Longa, the two highly-touted freshmen from Cebu?

This is only the first game of what appears to be a trying (again) yet interesting  season for the Fighting Maroons. Should they play their cards right today while the Red Warriors do the opposite, they could be in an unfamiliar territory at the end of the game — atop of the team standings.



TIME: 2:00 PM