Formerly known as a perennial doormat in the league, the National University Bulldogs finally rose to the top after outclassing the FEU Tamaraws in last year’s UAAP Season 77 Finals in three games. A lot of people doubted if the Bulldogs would enter the Final Four after losing two-time MVP Bobby Ray Parks Jr. and Emmanuel Mbe. But under the tutelage of Coach Eric Altamirano, the Bulldogs heavily relied on their stingy defense to go all the way, winning the crown after a 60-year drought in the men’s basketball.
Key holdovers: JJ Alejandro, Gelo Alolino, Reden Celda, Rev Diputado, Alfred Aroga, Nico Javelona, Kyle Neypes, Mohammad Salim, Ralf Tansingco, Dave Yu
Key losses: Troy Rosario, Glenn Khobuntin, Henri Betayene, Tristan Perez, JP Cauilan, Raph Atangan, Ralph Tansingco.
Key additions: Nik Abatayo, Kevin De Castro, Jeoffrey Javillonar, Ronnel Lastimosa, Reggie Morido, Tzaddy Rangel
With the loss of pro-bound Troy Rosario and Glenn Khobuntin, the defending champs will surely miss their production in terms of scoring, rebounding and their defense. Rosario, the second overall pick in the recently concluded 2015 PBA Draft provided length and athleticism at the power forward spot while Khobuntin will also be sorely missed, with his relentlessness and unparalleled energy.
Expect Gelo Alolino, JJ Alejandro and Cameroonian reinforcement Alfred Aroga to carry much of NU’s load on both ends of the floor. Look for Alolino to make a huge leap in his final playing year for the defending champs as he will be relied on scoring and playmaking of the team. Now on his second year, Aroga will be asked to carry tremendous amount of responsibility. He will patrol inside the paint to protect the rim and provide great energy to continue their defensive reign after allowing the opponents 60 points per game last season. Offensively, expect the import to step up his game and be one of the most dominant big men in the league.
The guidance of Coach Altamirano will be vital once again as he will do the same thing he employed in their last year’s title run. Under his helm, Altamirano focused more on the defensive end to pest the opposing team’s offensive scheme. As they say, defense is the key to winning championship.
What to Expect?
I think it will be another great year for the Bulldogs. The core of Alolino, Aroga and Alejandro will surely give the NU community plenty of reasons to believe that they can defend their title. Contributions from role players like Rev Diputado, Kyle Neypes, and Nico Javelona will also play a big factor to provide some spark from the bench.
Projected Record: 9-5
The NU Bulldogs shall make their fourth consecutive appearance at the Final Four. And for the second straight year, they’ll wind up as the fourth seed behind contenders Ateneo, La Salle and FEU. If that should be the case, will NU’s Season 77 be a been-there-done-that story? Can they take it all away again?