The University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers were on a world of their own last season. Finishing the eliminations with a 5-9 record, they were four games above the cellar dwellers UP Fighting Maroons and Adamson Soaring Falcons, and were at least four games below everybody else. It was the strangest and loneliest sixth place finish you could ever think of. For a team that is a perennial shoo-in in the Final Four festivities, it was clearly a lackluster season. With three of their key players now about to play out their final year in collegiate level, can they make their way back to the upper tier of the league?
Most of the statistics point out to a mediocre Season 77 for the Growling Tigers. Opponents outscored them by 5.1 points per 100 possessions last season, which marks their lowest net rating since Season 74. This can be attributed mostly to their struggle on offense as they only produced 81.4 points per 100. Could they just be missing the offensive supremacy of their former talisman Jeric Teng? Perhaps. Could it be head coach Bong dela Cruz’s struggle to create their identity on offense? Highly likely. Rebounding also went to be a concern for them last year. For them to clobber only 48.8% of the available rebounds last season, considering they were one of the better teams in cleaning up the boards in recent times, it was quite puzzling. It was not as if Teng and the guys who left were excellent rebounders.
Quite A Downer
It also did not help their cause that the guys who were expected to deliver in Season 77 failed to do so. Kevin Ferrer, Karim Abdul, and Aljon Mariano, the anointed trio that should have propelled UST to great heights last season, had all dull campaigns. Ferrer, who was injury-ridden last season, posted career-lows in offensive rating (75.4) and true shooting percentage (36.8). And that hurt the Growling Tigers pretty bad, considering he used 25.1 percent of their possessions while he was on the court. Mariano, who sported a career-low PER of 13.9 last season had a terrible time that dela Cruz opted to sit him in crucial stages and go with the smaller Kent Lao to man the 4-spot instead. For Karim Abdul, his numbers on offense were at par with previous seasons where he was part of the Mythical Five. But it was his rebounding numbers that dipped considerably. He only managed to rebound 9.9% of his teammates’ misses, which is a career-low and only the fifth best among the foreign players.
Roster in A Nutshell
Now on the second year of Bong dela Cruz era, the Growling Tigers are bound to make a significant leap from their Season 77 display. They should be able to sort out their problems on offense that pestered their campaign last season. The three graduating players (Abdul, Ferrer, and Ed Daquioag) are expected to have tremendous seasons. Now with a season tucked under his belt, expect better things from guard Renzo Subido, who should expect an uptick in his playing minutes. Their wing rotation should also be watched out as they are pretty stacked there.