The anticipation is killing us all.
The UAAP is two weeks away, but we’re already debating the favorites to win the title. Hey, we’re all sports fans right? It’s in our nature.
Taking into consideration intact line-ups, call-ups from Team B, signed, sealed, and delivered recruits, and of course, performance in tourneys like the FilOil Preseason Premier Cup, all of us have an idea as to who should, on paper, go all the way.
Of course, we’re rarely right when it comes to our predictions. We’ve seen favorites implode, or dark horses emerge from out of nowhere. Great squads have also succumbed to the pressure of the Final Four, or the Finals.
As such, here are our picks for UAAP teams in recent seasons that had great elimination round outings, but couldn’t get the job done.
UE Red Warriors (2014, Season 77)
Record: 9-5 (#5 Seed) Lost to NU in the playoff for the #4 spot
ORTG: 88.1 DRTG: 78.3 differential: +9.8
This UE Red Warriors team not only failed to win the UAAP championship, they even failed to enter the Final Four. Led by super scorer Roi Sumang and dominant big man Charles Mammie, the Red Warriors were a team to be reckoned with in Season 77. But it wasn’t their star power that made them dominant, it was their team defense and full court pressure that struck fear in their opponents. They led the league in defensive rating, 78.3 and were the best in forcing turnovers, with a 24.9 TOV%. They were also the best in Offense-Defense Rating differential during the season with +9.8.
Despite all of that, they picked the wrong season to be good in. Normally a 9-5 record would be enough to get you the fourth seed, but thanks to ADU and UP going 1-13, all of the other teams had inflated records. As such, they finished tied with the NU Bulldogs, and lost the playoff to the eventual champions.
5. Ateneo De Manila Blue Eagles (2014, Season 77)
Standing: 11-3 (#1 Seed) Lost to NU in the Final Four (0-2)
ORTG: 96.0 DRTG: 89.6 differential: +6.4
In 2014, the Blue Eagles were just two years removed from their 5th title in 5 years. After a disastrous 2013, where they failed to defend their title, they were more than ready to reclaim what was theirs. During the season, the Blue Eagles climbed to the #1 seed in one of the tightest Final Four races in years. Ateneo’s return to the top spot was led by league MVP Kiefer Ravena, Mythical 5 member Chris Newsome, and 2014 Rookie of the Year Arvin Tolentino.
How did they accomplish this? ADMU led the league in offensive rating with a 96 score, and they were the most aggressive team at getting to the foul line, posting a free throw rate of 30.8%.
Unfortunately for them, the Final Four match-up didn’t go their way. True, they were the number one seed, but they were going up against the NU Bulldogs that had defeated UE. The same team that handed Ateneo two of their three losses. In a battle between offense and defense (NU was #2 in DRTG at 78.4), the Bulldogs showed they had figured out Ateneo, and defeated them twice, to punch their ticket to the Finals.
4. Adamson Falcons (2011, Season 74)
Standing: 10-4 (#2 Seed) Lost to FEU in the Final Four (0-2)
ORTG: 94.4 DRTG: 81.3 differential: +13.1
The 2011 Adamson squad represented the pinnacle of the Falcons under head coach Leo Austria. They were stacked – with a pair of stellar point guards, potent wing players, and big men who did the dirty work. They looked like the most serious threat to the then-four-peat seeking Ateneo Blue Eagles, and proved their bonafides by inflicting the sole loss on that team.
Adamson’s stats were impressive too. They had the best offensive rating at 94.4, and were second to Ateneo in defensive rating at 81.3.
In the semifinals however, they faced a veteran-laden FEU squad led by RR Garcia and Aldrech Ramos. The Tamaraws were a season away from being the one seed in Season 73 and were looking for redemption versus Ateneo. That extra edge allowed them to buck a twice-to-beat advantage and return to the Finals. That’s unfortunate, because two more Ateneo versus Adamson Finals matches really would have been must-see TV.
3. DLSU Green Archers (2014, Season 77)
Standing: 10-4 (#3 Seed) Lost to FEU in the Final Four (2-1)
ORTG: 92.4 DRTG: 84.6 differential: +7.8
After their championship run in 2013, everyone picked the DLSU Green Archers to repeat in 2014, thanks to a nearly intact roster from the year before. The season didn’t start out as smoothly as they hoped though. The Archers opened with a 0-2 card, but managed to finish strong. Leading the way was Jeron Teng, who had an MVP-level season, averaging 18.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 4.0 assists. And while they didn’t lead the league, their 92.4 ORTG (#2 in the UAAP), 84.6 DRTG (#3) and 53.3 REB% (#3), definitely made them a contender.
In the Final Four however, they went up against the FEU Tamaraws, the same team that they defeated a year ago. However, in a case of addition through subtraction, the Tams played like a more potent squad despite not having RR Garcia and Terrence Romeo anymore. Through better ball movement and defense, FEU was able to triumph, with a Mac Belo triple being the decider.
2. UST Growling Tigers (2015, Season 78)
Standing: 11-3 (#1 Seed) Lost to FEU in the Finals (2-1)
ORTG: 91.9 DRTG: 85.8 differential: +6.0
Three times in the last four years UST made the UAAP finals. And three times they were unable to add another title, with their last coming in 2006. While the Growling Tigers probably had a more talented roster in 2012, and they were closer to a title in 2013, they had their best season of those campaigns in 2015.
With the likes of Kevin Ferrer, Karim Abdul, and Ed Daquioag on the way out, it was clear they were a team on a mission. Hardly favored during the offseason, that trio carried UST to the #1 seed. Ferrer put up MVP-esque numbers of 18 points and eight rebounds. Abdul played his way into his usual dominant shape. The x-factor though was Daquioag, who more than doubled his averages from the previous season, by posting 16 and 6 during the eliminations.
The Finals were a battle between the two teams with the top ORTG, FEU posting a 94.9 number, compared to 91.9 for UST. The slight difference played out as FEU edged UST in three games, keeping the Tigers as bridesmaids, and not brides, anew.
1. NU Bulldogs (2013, Season 76)
Standing: 10-4 (#1 Seed) Lost to UST in the Final Four (0-2)
ORTG: 94.4 DRTG: 84.8 differential: +9.6
The NU Bulldogs had every reason to believe that they could become champions in 2013. Their main stumbling block, a stacked an Ateneo team, saw Coach Norman Black, plus multiple starters, graduate, putting them in the driver’s seat ahead of Season 76.
All of the elements were there – a two-time MVP in Bobby Ray Parks, an intimidating center in Emmanuel Mbe, plus a stacked supporting cast. And they lived up to their promise initial, racing out to a 10-4 record that saw them overcome FEU and La Salle for the first overall seed, thanks to a superior quotient. They led the UAAP with an 84.8 DRTG, and their 94.4 ORTG was nothing to sniff at either.
However, they found themselves matched-up against the UST Growling Tigers, a squad that had bad blood against them, stemming from an injury suffered by team star Jeric Teng caused by NU’s Jeoffrey Javillonar. While the Bulldogs played their usual game, the Growling Tigers were just more motivated, and won the two games needed to advance to the Finals.
Of course, it ended up better the next year, when they would take the same path, a four-seed overcoming the number one seed, to snap a lengthy title drought. But at the time it happened, it was a monster collapse for the Bulldogs, and a disappointing end to this team’s run.