The FEU Tamaraws have always been viewed as a title contender around college basketball circles, and why not? Sure, they haven’t been piling up blue chip recruits like Ateneo and La Salle, but when it comes to developing talent, they have undoubtedly been one of the best. Mark Barroca, Mac Baracael, Aldrech Ramos and Terrence Romeo are among the names the vaunted basketball program from Morayta has produced throughout the years. They have all had solid PBA careers so far, all of them are part of the Gilas Pilipinas program at one point or another. The combined number of college championships which they have?
No championships won by four of the biggest names in collegiate basketball in recent memory. Despite all the talent each one possessed, it was not enough to tow their squads to championships.
In fact, this is something that has plagued the FEU Tamaraws for the past ten years. They had talented teams, and players who were developed from the get go. The teams that they had were good. Really good in fact. But the problem was, they weren’t excellent. They weren’t excellent enough to win a championship.
But they have been looking to change that so far this season.
A Decade-Long Struggle
So much has happened in the ten years that the Tamaraws have not won a championship. Denok Miranda and Mark Isip have jumped to a bunch of teams. Arwind Santos not only won an MVP award and a bunch of championships, but also released his own album.
The last time FEU won a championship, Kevin Durant was still a high school student, still slowly making a name for himself in the sport. The Ateneo Blue Eagles just recently hired Norman Black. And the Pokemon Fire Red recently made its way to the Game Boy Advance. The Game Boy Advance was still a thing.
Point is, it’s been quite a while ever since the last time FEU won a championship. And it’s not like they have been lacking in talent. In fact, they haven’t been lacking in talent. AT ALL. Just in case you need proof as to how talented the Tamaraws have been this past decade.
Current PBA team
UAAP Mythical 5 member?
Naational Team member?
|Terrence Romeo||Globalport||Yes||Yes (2015; Gilas)|
|Mark Barroca||STAR Hotshots||No||Yes (2011; Gilas)|
|Mac Baracael||Barako Bull Energy Cola||No||Yes (2011; Gilas)|
|RR Garcia||Barako Bull Energy Cola||Yes||Yes (2011; Sinag)|
So much talent. So much firepower.
But what went wrong? Well…
1. The Ateneo Blue Eagles. During the Norman Black days, the Ateneo Blue Eagles were pretty much how the Chicago Bulls were during the 90’s in the NBA. They were so good that any other talented player was left without the ring during the course of their UAAP careers. Alex Nuyles, Eric Camson, and the other Adamson boys didn’t get one because of Ateneo. So did Pari Llagas, Elmer Espiritu, Paul Lee and the Red Warriors. Oh, Jeric Teng and Jeric Fortuna have none either. And finally, these poor Tamaraws. It wasn’t that the Tamaraws sucked. Nope. In fact, they were really good. It’s just that the Blue Eagles were better. WAY BETTER.
2. Controversy. During Season 71 of the UAAP, Mac Baracael was involved in a shooting which rocked the collegiate basketball world. He was shot along Morayta supposedly because of a game fixing issue which he reported to FEU management. The legitimate reasons are still unknow, however. Speaking of game fixing, Mark Barroca was accused of game fixing after FEU’s sudden loss to the Blue Eagles during the second round of Season 72. After that game, he just went MIA. The Tamaraws would fail to make it to the Finals despite having a twice-to -beat advantage.
3. Chemistry issues. This was more evident during Seasons 75 and 76, when Terrence Romeo and RR Garcia were the focal points of the FEU offense. You had two otherworldly playmakers who both needed the ball in order to contribute. The problem was, there was only one ball. The result, disaster.
Come Season 76, Romeo and Garcia, two of their best players, were headed to the pros. So, if those two couldn’t lead the Tamaraws to a championship, who could? They had Mac Belo and Mike Tolomia, but they weren’t established stars just yet. So, was there hope for the FEU Tamaraws?
So Close, Yet So Far
Big Mac, big goodness. // Pinoy Exchange
Entering Season 77, the Tamaraws were expected to make the Final Four. They weren’t really expected to reach the Finals, not only because of the loss of Garcia and Romeo, but also their core for that season lacked the necessary experience to contend against the likes of Ateneo, La Salle and UE during that season.
Experience schmexperience. That didn’t matter for this batch of Tamaraws.
They were determined to prove their doubters wrong, coming out of the gates during the start of Season 77 with a 10-4 record. Leading the charge of the Tamaraws was much-improved Belo, who not only helped lead the Tamaraws to a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four, but also was in the thick of the MVP Race, coming into the top three. And well.. you can take a look at this….
That shot would propel them to the Finals with a date against the NU Bulldogs, who beat top ranked Ateneo Blue Eagles to make it there. The Bulldogs themselves were looking to end their championship drought, last winning a title… in 1954. Yep. That long.
The length of their drought would be directly proportional to their hunger, as they outwrestled their foes from Morayta. Finally, the Bulldogs had the championship in Sampaloc.
The folks at Morayta, however, were left empty-handed once more.
FEU has been having a hell of a good time this season. // Paul Ryan Tan, SLAM Philippines
This was a hashtag that went trending around social media circles before the Finals rematch of the FEU Tamaraws and NU Bulldogs last October 7, 2015. If you ask me, it’s weird they only got that hashtag to trend during that game as this whole Season 78 has been a redemption tour for the FEU Tamaraws so far. As of this writing, they’re currently at the top of the team standings along with the UST Growling Tigers at 7-1. Despite their tie with UST, one could argue that undoubtedly, the Tamaraws have been the best team this season.
FEU Season 78 stats
|Effective Field Goal Percentage||50.9||1st|
|Total Rebounding Rate||53.4||1st|
|Points per game||80.5||1st|
Despite the dominance that they have showed so far this season, it can’t stop there. The Tamaraws have to be able to keep this quality of play until the Final Four, and ultimately, until the Finals. They possess the best blend of talent, depth and experience with their squad this year. Other than Belo and Tolomia, RR Pogoy, Russell Escoto, Raymar Jose and Achie Inigo have all been solid contributors for FEU. Monbert Arong and Ron Dennison have been pleasant spark plugs off the bench when needed. With all of these factors coming into play, FEU have been dominant, to say the least.
They have the talent.
They have the depth.
They have the experience.
They’ve been able to blend all of that so far.
Now they just have to remain consistent and bring that up until the Finals. When they do, not only is redemption theirs. So is world domination. The Tamaraws are built for that. It’s now time for them to get it.