During the previous edition of the HumbleBola Power Rankings, I wrote about the uncertainty surrounding the landscape of the league. At that point, Adamson and Ateneo stood above the rest, but there was looming sense of discomfort as to which team really had control over the entire UAAP.
Now, take that feeling, add a bunch of alcohol to it and you have this week’s Power Rankings: An irrationally rational attempt at ranking eight perfectly flawed teams. The drunken mess really takes place in the top five, where my refusal to create a tie will probably lead to some angry fan bases.
But as most intoxicated nights turn to day, there is no other option but to deal with the consequences of the past night. I’ll ride with these rankings knowing full well that next week may present a completely new outlook on the league.
Here is Week 4 of HumbleBola’s UAAP Power Rankings:
UE followed up their insane win 25-point win over FEU by… getting destroyed by a combined 41 points by UST and NU.
When assessing the Red Warriors, there are really just too many holes to point out. The team ranks last in both Offensive and Defensive Rating, as well as rebounding and three-point percentage. Their depth continues to be a problem, and this was most evident against the Growling Tigers when Alvin Pasaol had to pour in half the team’s field goals just to make the final score respectable.
UE could still squeeze out another win or two this year and play spoiler to the teams jockeying for Final Four position, though it does feel like they have used up all their winning juice in that magical win over FEU.
Note: Alvin Pasaol was 2nd in the MVP Race after Round 1, so maybe it would be nice to see UE rack up a few more wins to boost his chances. Who would think a guy on a last place team could potentially win MVP? Well, that’s how drunk this season is!
Amidst the chaos of this season, NU feels like the team that’s just been there. They haven’t had any extraordinary wins, as their inexperience would always seem to show up during their few chances to steal victories over good teams. Their Final Four window is also looking bleaker by the day considering the sheer number of teams battling for the limited slots.
However, aside from Troy Rike playing his lone season with NU, Season 81 was always supposed to be all about development for the Jamike Jarin-led Bulldogs. One of the key developmental pieces in John Lloyd Clemente finally found his footing in the team’s last match-up with UE as he dropped in 21 points on 7/11 shooting. Continuing to see him find comfort in the seniors’ division is essential as the season winds down, as his pairing with Dave Ildefonso could make for a deadly wing duo in the succeeding four years.
As far as winning is concerned, while NU may be too young to generate a second round surge into the Final Four. However, they are talented enough to make things difficult for the rest of the UAAP.
Bright Akhuetie leads the MVP race, Kobe Paras and Ricci Rivero are donning the Maroon and White next season, and the Fighting Maroons don’t have to play Ateneo anymore this year.
Did I say enough positive things about UP? Because it’s about to get pretty dark. UP’s last three games have seen them nearly collapse against NU, get absolutely demolished by UST, then outclassed by Ateneo.
Akhuetie has continued to rack up the stats, but his running mate Juan Gomez De Liano has looked like he may have hit a sophomore wall over the last couple of games (which coincides with me picking him as the Round 1 MVP, so it’s probably my fault. My bad, UP fans). The charismatic off-guard has averaged just 7 points in his last two outings, including a measly 1 for 11 from downtown.
However, the biggest concern for UP isn’t their struggling star, who is way too good to be kept in an extend slump. The clear problem is UP’s bench, which has been quite unproductive for most of the season as they rank dead last in bench points at just 23.1 points per game. Outside of Javi Gomez De Liano, no one off the UP bench averages more than 3 points per game, and only one time has someone from that bunch scored in double-figures this season.
With the rise of the UST Growling Tigers over the last several weeks and the consistency of the foursome at the top, the climb to the elusive Final Four has suddenly become a lot more difficult for the Fighting Maroons. While there’s still plenty of time, and several marquee games left on the calendar to sway the tide, it might be time to hit the panic button in Diliman.
This isn’t a typo: The once 5-0 Adamson Soaring Falcons are Number 5 on this week’s HumbleBola Power Rankings. This isn’t a conventional fifth spot, as the separation from 1st to 5th feels a lot closer than 5th to 6th. But Adamson is the only team in the top 5 without a win since the last rankings, and their play prior to the losses only foreshadowed what was to come.
Adamson played well down the stretch in games against UST, UP and NU to secure victories. However, they could not sustain their offense in the clutch against more veteran teams like FEU and La Salle. The Falcons’ offense has been prone to lulls, in spite of the fact that they have two of the best wing scorers in the game in Jerrick Ahanmisi and Sean Manganti. This was evident in the two overtime periods: a field goal-less OT against FEU and a scoreless first 3 minutes against La Salle.
The absence of an efficient offensive paint presence could be the main culprit for the team’s lackluster offense. Papi Sarr is the team’s third leading scorer (10.4 ppg), but he shoots just 32.5% from the field, which is unacceptable for a player that operates in the paint.
Franz Pumaren’s defense combined with the offensive skill of his star wing connection propelled the Falcons to a historic start. However, many of the team’s preseason flaws are beginning to haunt them again in the middle of the year. With La Salle once again next in their docket, Adamson needs to regroup immediately as a loss will suddenly drop them to the Final Four bubble.
La Salle’s win over Adamson was monumental in that it showed that they were a team capable of beating the top brass of the UAAP. Yet despite the win, the Green Archers stay in the fourth spot of this mosh pit of teams (they have been in the same spot since the Preseason Power Rankings) by virtue of their inability to sustain any positive or negative momentum.
Prior to beating Adamson, La Salle’s offense was exposed by Ateneo, as Aljun Melecio struggled to single-handedly keep his team afloat. In spite of what seems like a gaggle of talented offensive weapons, the Green Archers actually have struggled on the offensive end in comparison with the rest of the league. They rank second to last in Offensive Rating, two-point and three-point percentage and could be attributed to their lack of a ball distribution (12.9 apg, last)
But just as surprisingly, La Salle has been able to offset this by boasting one of the best defenses in the league. Despite losing Taane Samuel in the first game of the year, the La Salle bigs have paired nicely with the team’s aggressive wing defenders and currently lead the league in Opponent’s FG%. And as I mentioned earlier, Adamson was the recipient of this bolstered up DLSU defense during their recent overtime thriller.
With what we’ve seen so far from La Salle, even with the win over Adamson, the question still remains as to how serious of a contender they actually are. They’ve mostly preyed on the weaker foes, and have only their 1-point win over Adamson to counter against convincing losses to UP, Ateneo, and FEU. With Adamson and FEU up next on their schedule, we’ll find out soon whether the Archers belong to the top or the middle tier of the UAAP.
The UST Growling Tigers are the hottest team in the league right now, having won three in a row by an average of 12 points. CJ Cansino is the definition of “gets better every game,” streaky guards Renzo Subido and Marvin Lee are currently in the red zone, and Zach Huang has become a huge revelation in the absence of Steve Akomo.
UST is just a half game back of fourth seed, and are already playing with house money at this point in the season since no one expected them to even come close to this position. It may be hard to forget that this team is only a season removed from having won just one game, and were also already blown out by 27+ points twice already this year. But with a budding superstar and a championship coach, don’t be surprised to see the Tigers make a premature Final Four appearance this season.
You know that classmate that’s always in the top of the class in your major subjects but fails GE subjects because of a lack of effort. You just know that the kid is naturally smart, but you also can’t say he’s the smartest kid in school because, well, he fails the supposedly easier classes.
That kid is FEU. Last season, we saw FEU nearly take down Ateneo in spite of only finishing at .500. They start out this season with high expectations, only to lose to UST and get demolished by league cellar dweller, UE. They follow that by scraping out a pair of wins over who was at the time the undisputed two best teams in the league, only to lose again to the Tigers.
In short, half of what has made this season so crazy is because of the FEU Tamaraws. This is a team that ranks dead last in perimeter points allowed, gave up double-digit threes to two of the worst 3PT shooting teams in the league (NU, UE), then all of a sudden limited the league leader in 3PM (Ateneo) to just 5 for 31. FEU just doesn’t make any sense!!
At the end of the day, and in spite of their loss to UST, the Tamaraws sit a number two in the HumbleBola Power Rankings because they have proven they can beat the best teams. Right now, FEU is undefeated against the teams above .500, a stat nobody else in the league can boast. At the end of the day, it’s those teams that they will have to beat to take home the crown.
Well, unless UST sneaks into the Final Four…
Admittedly, Ateneo sits at first spot one-half because of actual play on the court and one-half because of reputation. It could be argued that they are exactly the opposite of FEU, as they’ve beaten down the lesser teams while falling to their stiffest rivals.
But Ateneo still boasts a +20 Net Rating, a roster filled with championship experience and a coach like Tab Baldwin. It’s difficult to favor any of these flawed rivals over Ateneo, at least at this point in the season. Thirdy Ravena’s 21-point, 11-rebound performance against UP should also keep many Ateneo fans more optimistic. Last year’s MVP runner-up has had a significantly quiet season stats-wise, with dips on offensive stats across the board.
However, it’s true that there are some obvious red flags surrounding Ateneo this season. Their offense has looked a lot less dynamic without the extra playmaking ability of Vince Tolentino as well as the full-court pressure defense applied by several teams. Against FEU, the Blue Eagles found themselves scoring just 7 points in the third quarter as FEU stifled Ateneo’s shooters and brought out the key weaknesses present in each individual Ateneo player.
Currently-injured Matt Nieto’s below-par play was also a cause for concern prior to him missing the last game. Nieto had struggled to score, shooting below 35% from the field and just 21% from 3PT land (he shot above 50% in last year’s Elimination Rounds). Tyler Tio stepped in admirably against UP, while guards SJ Belangel and Jolo Mendoza can definitely run the point in spurts, but Matt Nieto is going to have to be in tip-top form if Ateneo is to repeat this season.
Amidst the haze of this drunken season, the one thing that’s been made clear is that a repeat title isn’t going to be a cakewalk for Ateneo. The Blue Eagles cannot afford to take their competition lightly this year because Isaac Go may not have enough extra lives left to use come playoff time.