The National University Bulldogs have really come a long way. From the squad who settles for seventh place in the past UAAP seasons to a big-shot contender bidding for the championship trophy. Now with a deeper line up, the third place finishers of last year’s season are ready to take on just about anything — including crowd-favorite, Ateneo Blue Eagles and FilOil Flying V Hanes Cup Premiere Champions, UE Red Warriors. This season’s NU basketball team is still as intact as ever with back-to-back MVP Bobby Ray Parks Jr. still leading the pack, Gelo Alolino playing point guard and adding into the mix new guys like big man, Alfred Aroga and Malayan High School Red Robins and Energen Under-16 stalwart JJ Alejandro. It’s possible that head coach Eric Altamirano and the rest of the coaching staff couldn’t ask for more.
This Bulldogs squad can achieve many things in this new UAAP season. With NU possibly losing big man Emmanuel Mbe, who played an average of 28 minutes per game resulting to 13.6 points (56.9 FG%) and 11.5 rebounds, they’ve recruited another Cameroonian in the person of Aroga, who served his residency and has averaged 14.3 points, 10.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in the recently concluded FilOil Flying V Hanes Cup Premiere. This rookie is a treat to a spectator’s eyes. He’s such a skilled player for someone his size. He dribbled the ball from coast-to-coast and is great at moving without the ball. He’ll be a good addition for a team that will probably lose its starting center.
It seems that this team has been sharpening their taller guys, like Jeoffrey Javillonar and Lee Villamor, into shooting beyond the arc. Per Game, Javillonar shot 28.1% and 17.9% from three (for UAAP Season 75 and FilOil, respectively) while Villamor shot 28.9% and 31.1% from three (UAAP Season 75 and FilOil, respectively). Those may not seem like much, but if you read Nico Baguio’s article, you’ll come to understand that shooting 31.1% from downtown is similar to shooting 47% from the field because of effective field goal percentage, which takes into account the added value of a 3PT shot. They’ll get cleaner looks with Parks creating open shots for them.
As such, never underestimate the Bulldogs especially with Parks still in the line-up. The NU go-to-guy, who plays close to 33 minutes per game, both in Season 75 and in the FilOil tournament, has been effective in getting AND making free throws swishing, on average, 7 out of his 9 free throw attempts per game. The team will rely heavily on his performance coming into UAAP season 76 as he is the main man and most of the plays centered on him.
Defense is the key to their game. In the FilOil tournament, they recorded an 83.3 DTRG when the league’s average was 91.2 DTRG. Compared to their record of 87.2 DRTG in season 75, they improved slightly. If they could bring this into this year’s UAAP, there would be a big chance of winning more games. Also, Alolino, whose main role is to dish out passes to his teammates, has improved greatly in the summer leagues, he needs to bring that into this year’s run. He needs to step up and take charge of the floor.
Consistency. National University Bulldogs needs to be consistent in their defense. Heading into a game pumped up, the boys usually stay atop their opponents in the first two quarters scoring an average of 35.4 points while limiting their opponents to only 30.3 points. They slowly let them close the gap in the second half by giving the ball away and letting their opponents score 35.4 points while they manage to obtain just 34 points. Also, they averaged below the league average of 17.2% turnover rate, turning the ball over on 18.3% of their possessions.
I wouldn’t be surprised (without being biased) if Parks bags another MVP trophy. The son of the late Bobby Parks Sr. is an all-around guy. Last season, he totaled 21.4 points (39.4 FG%), 7.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. The 6’4” shooting guard/forward is a team player; he passes and creates plays on the court for his teammates, finding open guys. In UAAP Season 75, he spent an average of 33.7 minutes on the floor and has been effective, scoring 102 points per 100-possession while using 31.7% of his team’s possession while he was on the court.
The X-Factor of this National-U team is the fact that they have guys like Villamor, Javillonar and Troy Rosario who are all tall guys but can play three and four positions very well. How often do you see a team that banners guys who can post-up and at the same time shoot from the outside? On paper, National-U has got it all. Their opponents couldn’t leave any NU player near the rim neither at the three-point line. If they take this to their advantage, other UAAP teams need to step-up their defense.
I’m predicting a 12-2 record this UAAP Season 76. I’m still not sure which two teams can beat them, though. I’m thinking either Adamson Soaring Falcons, UE Red Warriors or the silent creeper and resilient FEU Tamaraws — who they had to re-do a game with due to a contest on the FEU part. This is a fair guess since literally anyone from this Sampaloc-based squad can produce, whether points from field goals, free throws or through passing. It’s going to be a head-on battle to whoever this team is going up against next. For sure, this year National University Bulldogs will bite harder than they’ll bark.
UAAP Season 76 Team Previews
|Ateneo Blue Eagles||UST Growling Tigers||NU Bulldogs||De La Salle Green Archers|
|FEU Tamaraws||Adamson Soaring Falcons||UE Red Warriors||UP Fighting Maroons|