View from the Enemy: Ateneo Blue Eagles
After 22 games in Season 76, last year’s finalists find themselves at the opposite ends of the standings. Last year’s runner up, UST Growling Tigers emerging at the second spot with a 4-2 win-loss record while the defending champion Ateneo Blue Eagles have been dragged to an unfamiliar situation being relegated to the bottom two of the standings with their 2-4 card. Both teams gunning to improve their record and wanting to end their first round assignments on a winning note.
Keys to the Game
Ateneo’s bread and butter this season have been their perimeter players. One vital factor for the Tigers to win over the Blue Eagles is to do a better job in keeping in step with the perimeter guys. In the game against FEU, UST showed how they cover guys like Michael Tolomia, RR Garcia and Terrence Romeo. But even with their efforts, all these three players were able to tally a double digit point production scoring 12, 17, and 19 points, respectively. This time around the challenge is to defend Christopher Newsome, Ryan Buenafe, and Kiefer Ravena. These guys could kill the Tigers from the post and ball screens. Hence, the help defenders should be on cue in their rotations.
With the departure of Greg Slaughter, Nico Salva, and Justin Chua, the Blue Eagles’ frontline has greatly depreciated. This caused them to allow their opponents to take 48.2% of their shots near the rim at 44.3% shooting percentage. It is expected that with Ateneo’s lack of a dominant force inside, Karim Abdul, Aljon Mariano, and Kevin Ferrer will keep on attacking the rim. The challenge now for them is to compensate for the lack of perimeter offense (they are surely missing the services of their main man Jeric Teng). Another important factor that the UST frontline should keep in mind is the boards. The average rebounds of these two teams are almost the same, with the Blue Eagles having a slight advantage (ADMU: 44.0, UST: 43.8). If UST manages to outrebound Ateneo, those extra possessions could spell the difference between winning and losing this game.
Just like the rebounding story, average eFG of both teams are close and again the Blue Eagles have an edge over the Tigers (ADMU: 41.2%, UST: 39.9%). UST’s low eFG is primarily due to their miserable shooting percentage from beyond the arc. They are currently putting up the lowest 3PT% in the league at 23.1%. With the Tigers’ poor display of outside shooting, their opponent’s defense could just focus on helping their big man in covering the lane and making it hard for the UST frontline to operate inside the paint. Thereby negating the advantage that the UST frontline has.
Ravena has finally found his rhythm and is very scary. With his team’s back against the wall, he will surely come up with the MVP-like performance that the Ateneans are waiting for. Ateneo will win this one, unless the Tigers finally find their stroke from beyond the arc and allow their bigs to dominate the paint.