From top to bottom, UAAP Season 81 has brought chaos into the lives of collegiate basketball fans. Whether we point to Adamson’s undefeated streak, FEU’s enigmatic start, or Alvin Pasaol’s now iconic ‘Gutom Na Ako’ Celebration, this season has been a stressful treat through only roughly 3 weeks of play.
But when looking at the standings, there are definitely still a lot more questions than answers. The top two teams are pretty clear, but the undefeated team has clawed through games while watching the team they upset tear up the competition. The next tier features two or three teams that are either ranked too low or high, depending on who you ask. The bottom tier features a bunch of teams that can legitimately beat any other team on any given night because of the presence of an exciting young star.
Quite frankly, with all the uncertainty in the air at this point in the season, I’d really hate to be the guy that has to rank the UAAP teams.
But here I am.
Here is Week 3 of HumbleBola’s Power Rankings:
UST falls to the bottom of the Power Rankings this week after drawing Ateneo on their schedule, then getting crushed by 32 points. The Growling Tigers fell victim to Ateneo’s vaunted defense, as they shot just 26.5% from the field, and had only 4 players sink a field goal.
Spitfire guards Renzo Subido (15 points per game) and Marvin Lee (9.3 points per game) have shot below 30% from the field despite taking the lionshare of the team’s shots. This is a major reason why UST now sits at dead last in FG%, almost three percentage points lower than the closest team.
However, rookie sensation CJ Cansino (15 points, 8.8 rebounds per game) has continued to show out as he’s become more accustomed to his role as leader of the streak. He’s going to need to grow up quickly if UST’s going to flirt with a Final Four berth, as their next stretch is going to determine just how much they’ve grown past last year’s trainwreck.
Speaking of struggling to score, the NU Bulldogs are currently at the bottom of the standings in Points (63.8 per game) and Offensive Rating (83.15). Their lack of three-point threats has been a major cause for concern, with the team only making 11 threes in total through 4 games, less than half of any other team.
A major hole in the Bulldogs offense has been due to the subpar start of John Lloyd Clemente to his UAAP career. Once dubbed the most college-ready prospect, Clemente has looked anything but in his first four games. While 6.8 points per game would be decent for most rookies, percentages of 23.8% from the field and 17.6% from three are very troubling.
Now that all teams in the league have picked up a win, the young Bulldogs are slowly starting to look like a candidate to finish at the bottom. Head Coach Jamike Jarin has to find offense from somewhere soon or else his boys may flounder into the cellar by the end of the first round.
Do 25-point wins count as upsets? The UE Red Warriors had one of the most improbable blowout wins in recent memory, rolling through an FEU Tamaraws team that’s supposedly a championship contender (I’ll get to that) to pick up their first win of the season.
New Coach Joe Silva’s decision to bring league leading scorer Alvin Pasaol off the bench instilled trust and confidence in his supporting cast, and they delivered. Captain Paul Varilla had the game of his life (career high 17 points) and Philip Manalang channeled his inner Jason ‘White Chocolate’ Williams (12 assists). The rest of the team helped out as well as they totalled a dozen three-pointers and had a season best 22 assists.
Combining Alvin Pasaol with the new found confidence of his Red Warrior combatants, UE may actually find themselves closer to the rest of the pack than most initially thought. We’ll find out very soon as UE’s last two contests of Round One are against the two teams ranked below them this week.
So much for FEU’s first loss to UST being a wake-up call and decisive win over UP being a statement game. The Tamaraws were absolutely outclassed by the lowly UE Red Warriors, as Olsen Racela’s boys seemed lethargic and uninterested for the entire 40-minute contest.
In an eventual loss to UST a few weeks back, the Tamaraws were still seen fighting, even pumping each other up attempt a comeback. Against UE, the Tamaraws numbly watched as Philip Manalang sliced up the defense for Alvin Pasaol to feast on. Yikes.
A major question has been the lack of aggression from graduating point guard Jasper Parker. An impressive showing in last year’s Final Four had many pundits hyped for the Fil-Am floor general, but he has not really separated himself from the rest of FEU’s loaded backcourt rotation.
The Tamaraws have proven through both last year and this year that they can beat the top tier teams in the league. But with the number of competitive ball clubs this season, FEU’s going to need to shore up their effort if they want to even make it to the Final Four. Expect the Tamaraws to come out swinging on Saturday when they try to take down the undefeated Soaring Falcons.
La Salle stays at the same spot for the fourth week in a row despite suffering a potentially crucial loss to UP simply because by virtue of FEU’s incompetence. I have them ahead of the Tamaraws this week because at least they have brought a consistent level of play every single afternoon. La Salle has beaten the opponents they should, while sticking with and challenging the better foes.
But the problem La Salle is facing has to be depth. Coach Louie Gonzales’ decision to field only 13 players is drastically backfiring early on, with both Taane Samuel (Foot Stress Fracture – Season) and Captain Kib Montalbo (Fractured Thumb – 4 to 6 weeks) suffering serious injuries. The absence of both defensive stalwarts was felt in the last loss to UP, when Bright Akhuetie and Juan Gomez De Liano combined for 36 points.
The jury is still out on exactly where this La Salle team lies in the pack this season, but Saturday’s marquee match-up with the Ateneo Blue Eagles should give us a better understanding.
Did anyone else hear that massive sigh of relief from the UP faithful after the team’s win over La Salle? The UP Maroons built a 14-point lead with under 6 minutes to go, only to allow the Green Archers back by giving up a 13-0 run. Juan Gomez De Liano then did some King Maroon-level things and put La Salle to bed to snap UP’s three-game losing skid.
Bright Ahkuetie answered some critics (including me in last week’s rankings!) by becoming significantly more aggressive and posting absolute monster numbers. In their heartbreaking loss to Adamson, the Nigerian posted 20 points and 20 rebounds while limiting Papi Sarr to just 4 of 18 from the field. He then followed up his 20-20 performance with 19 points and 19 boards against Justine Baltazar of La Salle.
The schedule softens up significantly for the Fighting Maroons to end Round 1, with NU and UST next on the docket. After winning over La Salle and seeing a flailing FEU, UP should only be even more optimistic about their chances at challenging for that elusive spot in the Final Four.
Adamson falls down a spot this week despite their spotless record. While this says less about Adamson than the competence of the team ahead of them, the Soaring Falcons’ performance as of late has left a lot to be desired.
Sean Manganti’s last-second floater to beat UP was sandwiched in between two narrow victories over UST and NU. Against, they allowed Juan Gomez De Liano to go off for 21 points, while also letting Bright Ahkuetie have his best game UAAP game so far. Interestingly, Adamson snuck past UP by drilling 9 of 19 from downtown, in spite of drilling just 5 of 29 threes in total versus UST and NU.
The team has still played well enough to win their games in spite of those numbers, a testament to their maturity in crunch time. Keep and eye on whether the Falcons can remain unscathed after Round 1 as they play the FEU Tamaraws and La Salle Green Archers to close out the first half of the season.
Remember the Ateneo Blue Eagles we thought were going to run the table in this season? The team-oriented, defense-first juggernaut that breezed through the preseason tourneys and showed out in the Jones Cup? The one that opponents were be afraid to play, like a team-version of Ben Mbala? That Ateneo team has finally showed up to terrorize UAAP Season 81.
Over the last two weeks, the Blue Eagles have won four in a row by feasting on the lower tier teams of the league. Both Ateneo and Adamson have actually had the same last four wins (NU, UST, UP, UE) but Ateneo beat those teams by an average margin of 23.8 points versus just 7 points for Adamson.
Team statistics definitely support Ateneo’s dominance. The team leads the league in both Offensive Rating (103.99) and Defensive Rating (81.03). Their perimeter gunners can be credited for both stats, with the team having already knocked down 47 threes this year (second most 3PM: UP with 29), while also limiting opponents to just 16.4% on shots outside the paint.
However, the emergence of rookie import Angelo Koaume has also help set Ateneo apart on the inside. The 6’10” Center is currently averaging 9.6 points and 12.4 rebounds this season, which includes a statement 20-point, 15-rebound (11 offensive), 4 block and 8/9 shooting performance over UST in their last contest. His control of the offensive glass is a big reason why Ateneo ranks second in the league in second chance points with 17 per contest.
Ateneo has proven over their last chunk of games that they are still the team to beat this season, despite the fact that they may not gain the best record until they play Adamson again in Round 2. However, my job is not rank to teams based purely on record, and that’s why the Ateneo Blue Eagles are the top team for this week’s HumbleBola Power Rankings.