View from the Enemy: De La Salle Green Archers
By looking at the performances of the UP Fighting Maroons and the DLSU Green Archers this season, this second round encounter between these two teams is definitely a meh. I won’t be shocked if you decide to just watch “The Conjuring” again instead of viewing this two-hour match, including those (insert your preferred adjective) commercials. The Fighting Maroons are walking down on what appears to be a never-ending tunnel of darkness while the Green Archers might have already seen the light in their quest for a title (impressive string of wins as of late). But with the recent unfolding of events on the side of Diliman, this game will be a bit interesting and probably worth viewing.
On the UP coaching saga
It all began a few days after UP lost to Ateneo last August 15, as they stumbled to their eighth defeat in eight games so far this season. Virginia Dandan, coach Ricky’s mother, claimed her son was fired by the UP Alumni Association in her post on Facebook. UP’s representative to the UAAP board Ronualdo Dizer denied it and said Ricky was still the coach and only UP Diliman Chancellor Caesar Saloma (also a representative to the UAAP board) can fire him. But Dizer turned the table, finally put to rest rumors and stated Dandan resigned, not fired. Replacing Dandan is team manager Rey Madrid, who coached the Fighting Maroons from 1989 to 1993 and was a member of the mythical 1986 championship team.
I really am not a fan of midseason coaching change, especially if it is not really for the improvement of the entire team. And especially in the UAAP where each team only plays 14 times in the elimination round. Firing Dandan at this juncture and replacing him with a new guy with a different mindset won’t change the Fighting Maroons’ fortunes for this season. Doesn’t management know that we are one loss away from being officially out of the Final Four contention?
Yes, I believe Dandan, who had a 3-33 record in his tenure, was fired by the management. Given his feistiness, I really don’t think Ricky Dandan will simply just raise the white flag and tender his resignation at this point, even if we still are winless. That’s what I really admire about him. He’s a true fighter. As much as I question his coaching decisions this season (letting Mikee Reyes go, centering the offense on Joseph Marata and lack of playing time of Kyles Lao), Dandan does not deserve all of this drama. He deserves a graceful exit. They should have let him finish the season and given the axe after, should they really want him out of the position.
A basketball coaching job is undeniably a hard one. But a UP basketball coaching job? That is hell harder, considering the lack of support (more on financial) and the mismanagement of the program as evident in this coaching saga aka Maroonovela. Which is why I commend Dandan for making it through for three years. I wish him well in his future endeavors. And as to our returning coach Rey Madrid, I hope that the management made the right decision in choosing him to call the shots for the Fighting Maroons.
Enough of this rant, let’s proceed with the UP-DLSU preview.
Keys to the Game
1. Less Marata
I hope Coach Madrid will address this issue because the cold reality is that UP needs less of Joseph Marata. Arguably, there is no more one-sided player in this league than he is. As much as he loves taking over the team on the offense, he is a total opposite on the defensive end.
The offense becomes stagnant whenever he holds the ball. It happens a lot as he registers a team-high 27.8 usage rate. He opts to shoot contested long threes early in the shot clock instead of passing the ball to his teammates. On the defensive end, he loses his man and just watches the ball a lot.
Probably the best thing to do is cut down his minutes. UP’s offense becomes less predictable and less stagnant when he’s not on the court. This should also give more playing time for other guys like Kyle Suarez and Agustini Amar who are, without a doubt, better defenders than him. It will also help them polish their game as they are set to be part of the future of this team.
2. Better rebounding effort
Rebounding the ball will definitely be a tall task in this assignment as they’ll face the best rebounding team in the league (68.3% defensive rebounding rate, 52.6% total rebounding rate). Average-wise, UP’s bigs Chris Ball and Raul Soyud have put up better individual rebounding numbers than DLSU’s bigs Norbert Torres, Jason Perkins and Arnold Van Opstal. But DLSU has a lot of backcourt players who can put good rebounding numbers like Almond Vosotros and Jeron Teng which UP lacks. In their first round duel, the Green Archers dominated the rebounding battle, 52-33.
3. Will it rain threes again?
Three-pointers helped UP to keep afloat in their last encounter even though they ran out of steam in the end (14-28 3PT). It also helped them overcome a sluggish start after DLSU came out scoring 14-2. But since that game, DLSU has been limiting their opponents to 22.5% 3PT shooting. If UP manages to repeat that great three-point shooting display, this might be an interesting affair.
Are we going to see a new UP? Not really, but do expect some changes in their offensive and defensive schemes. Would a coaching change translate to a win? No. Not against La Salle. I think the Green Archers are slowly unleashing the true beast inside their talent-laden squad which unfortunately is way too much for the Fighting Maroons. DLSU by a huge margin, at least 20 points.