Out of the blue, the poet-wannabe in me suddenly wrote  a haiku for my beloved UP Fighting Maroons while writing this pregame article.

There is no question.

Kapag UP nagchampion,

End of the world yun.

Kidding aside, UP will attempt for the sixth time this season to get that very elusive first win as they face a very motivated University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers on July 24.

Both teams are coming off losses last July 21 as UP bowed to their Katipunan neighbor Ateneo Blue Eagles, 72-64; while, UST were caught offguard by the unbeaten FEU Tamaraws, 77-67 .

Keys to the Game

1. Keep the players fresh

If there’s one right thing Coach Ricky Dandan is doing right now, it is that he utilizes his bench to keep the key players like Joseph Marata and Raul Soyud rested in hopes of pulling a late game rally. Marata plays 29.2 minutes per game, which tops the team, while Soyud follows with 24.2 minutes per game.

The case is different for the Growling Tigers as Coach Pido Jarencio prefers short player rotation. Here is the playing minutes per game of their starters.

martin table

Their starters are really logging in heavy minutes. In their last game, FEU capitalized on the heavy legs of the UST players at the end game as the Tamaraws pulled away, thanks to their frenetic game pace. UP should follow the gameplay of FEU in the closing time to tire out the Tigers starters. Question is, can they do it? I say yes. They have players, who are quick and athletic, like Kyle Suarez, Agustin Amar and Chris Ball to operate a fast-paced game. Will that mean Soyud will be benched in the late game?  To answer, I say yes. UP should experiment more. UP has nothing to lose but eight more games this season.

2. Marata versus his defenders

In UP’s game versus Ateneo, one might argue that Marata played his best basketball as he scored a career-high 22 points. I don’t know about that. I think he was just lucky that his threes are entering the rim. He was well-defended by a long and athletic defender in Chris Newsome for most of the time, and he really struggled against him. But against other defenders, he was impressive. Here’s the proof:

Marata

Unfortunately for Marata, UST also has a long and athletic player in Kevin Ferrer who probably will be tasked to defend Marata for most of the time. It will be interesting how Joseph will fare in this matchup. Will he keep on taking down triples in the face of the black-masked Ferrer? Will he be passing the ball when he’s double-teamed? Or better yet, will he be double-teamed?  Lots of questions that needs to be answered by the King Maroon.

3. Who will step up?

It is as obvious as Voldemort’s nose that Marata will be the main gunner of UP, but you have to wonder who among his teammates will carry some of his burden in the offense. Kyles Lao was pretty impressive (setting aside the game against Ateneo), but his midrange game is a blackhole. Soyud, the team’s best center, is not really your prototype slotman. He has a decent jumper but his post game is suspect. Jason Ligad has shown signs of being a scorer in their last game. UP’s offense, aside from Marata, is really unpredictable. And that’s not good. Someone has to step up and be a consistent potent force on the offensive side.

Prediction

UP

The most exciting part of this game. (Photo Credit: MaroonsBasketball.com)

The only exciting part of this game is the halftime break. Watch out for the performances of the two schools’ pep squads. Oh , there’s another exciting part – the crowd. Watch out for the battle of cheers and jeers of the two schools. How I wish it can be heard clearly on television. Unfortunately, there’s such thing as a play-by-play commentator and analyst.

This game is as close as the distance between Burundi and Greenland. UST will flex their muscle early on and will never look back. I hate to break it, but I have to – UP will go 0-6.