Gatorade and Hydrite have been consumed and the midday nap is over. The UAAP has finally sobered up, at least for one week.
Teams with higher records were 5-1 this week, with the lone upset coming when NU defeated a UST team that they had already taken down in the first round. When looking at the standings, there is actually starting to look like some semblance of structure as we wind down into the final stretch of the Elimination Rounds.
But that’s not to say things aren’t about to get any crazier. There are still five teams within two games of each other battling for the bottom two slots in the Final Four. The upper echelon features a pair of blue birds trying to distance themselves from the pack in order to secure a twice-to-beat advantage, but also likely hoping to avoid a first round match-up with a certain animal native to Mindoro.
So warn your friends, hug your kids and stock up your canned goods. We’re merely in the eye of the storm, and more of the UAAP’s craziness is fast approaching. For now, let me enjoy this momentary peace and serenity from the past week.
Here is Week 5 of HumbleBola’s UAAP Power Rankings:
Every game UE has played in has been decided by double-digits. Every. Single. Game.
Not only that, but the margin of defeat in their 8 losses is a dreadful and frankly embarrassing 19.3 points per game (-18 Net Rating). So while it’s great that UE has a blowout win over a good team under their belt, it’s pretty much safe to say that win was probably a major fluke.
It seems crazy to think that a team that rosters the league’s leading scorer － and only 20+ point per game scorer in the league－ would be this abysmal, but here we are. It seems like week after week a team draws UE on their schedule and is luckyenough to suddenly put the pieces together that didn’t fit against other squads.
Things are getting really out of hand for the Red Warriors, and they likely won’t get better in the next week with Ateneo up next on the docket. It might be time to start channeling some optimism into next year’s team, because it seems like something so strong may be coming.
7. National University Bulldogs (Record: 3-6, Previous Rank: 7th)
NU picked up a crucial victory over UST to keep their fleeting Final Four hopes alive. Troy Rike churned out a solid 13-point performance in his first start of the season, and was part of a the balanced attack that the Bulldogs have been searching for.
But a single win over UST really may not move the needle for NU this year. The Bulldogs’ loss to Adamson last Wednesday is a better barometer to forecast the next stretch for an NU team that’s strong inside game has matched up very well with against the weak UST frontline (I’ll get to that). The Falcons fortified the paint and forced Dave Ildefonso to play one-on-one for most of the afternoon. By end game, Ildefonso was the lone Bulldog to score in double-figures.
Just like last year’s squad, the NU Bulldogs still have an outside shot of entering the playoffs. Let’s pray all their hope isn’t sucked out of them after they play Ateneo－ who beat them by 26 in Round 1 － on Saturday.
6. University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers (Record: 4-5, Previous Rank: 3rd)
The Growling Tigers came back to earth against NU, losing for the second time to a likewise youthful Bulldogs. UST’s heavy reliance on the three ball came back to haunt them in this game, where they launched nearly half their shots from downtown, but nailed only 27.8% of them (10/36). This includes a scoreless stretch in the final few minutes where UST missed on all 6 of their field goal attempts, including 5 from three-point range.
Don’t expect Coach Aldin Ayo to shift from this trigger-happy approach, though. With gunners like Marvin Lee, Renzo Subido and Ken Zamora in the backcourt, as well as a very limited offensive frontcourt, UST is going to rely heavily on the three-ball. The bigger problem for the Tigers is their inability to defend in the paint. They’re last in Points in the Paint Allowed (40.9, 6 more than any other team), and it showed against a strong inside team like NU.
With an injured import and frontline devoid of a battle-tested big man, UST is going to have to hope their missiles are on target for their remaining five games. Luckily for them, they’ll have a match-up with UE this week to try to get themselves back to .500 as the UAAP enters the home stretch.
5. University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons (Record: 4-5, Previous Rank: 6th)
Last week, I called out the UP bench for being a major reason for UP’s up and down season. They responded by pouring in a season-high 42 points against the UE Red Warriors. Diego Dario led the way with 13 points on 5 of 6 shooting, including a stretch of 8 straight in the fourth quarter that really broke the game open for the Fighting Maroons.
The 42 bench points may be a bit skewed because Juan Gomez De Liano (15 points) came off the bench and still played 32 minutes. However, it’s clear that Head Coach Bo Perasol is making a concerted effort to stagger the minutes of his three stars. It’s interesting to note that despite a shot distribution that heavily favors their Big Three, UP continues to lead the league in assists (18.9 assists per game) and is ranked second in Offensive Rating.
As it stands, UP is still on the outside looking in of the Final Four, but they are knocking on the door of the two teams above them that suffered Ls this past week. A game against UE was the perfect pill for an otherwise dreadful last few games for the Fighting Maroons, but the schedule Gods have UP facing both FEU and Adamson in this upcoming week. A pair of losses would have UP’s best possible finish at just 7-7, so the Maroons are going to need to pull off a major upset if they are to keep their Final Four hopes alive.
It’s put up or shut up time for UP.
4. De La Salle Green Archers (Record: 5-4, Previous Rank: 4th)
La Salle’s blowout win over UE and competitive showing over Adamson allowed me to look past what was one of the ugliest offensive quarters of basketball I have ever seen.
Okay, not really.
Can you believe La Salle went 0/19 in a quarter? Against Adamson, the Green Archers took TWENTY FIELD GOALS before finally making their first shot at the 8:36 mark of the SECOND QUARTER against Adamson. That’s otherworldly futility and the most obvious indication of their 7th-ranked Offense.
And yet, despite the lowest scoring quarter since the UAAP tracked stats in 2003, La Salle only lost by 7 and were within 3 points in the final minute and change. Frequent Power Rankings readers will already know that the reason for this is the team’s improved defense. Additionally, the Green Archers are also lead the league in rebounds, including a 55-rebound performance to help them stick with the Falcons.
La Salle is going to struggle to score in an offense that doesn’t move the ball around much and is full of inefficient scorers, but the talent is available to create an at least league average offense. Coach Louie Gonzales’ ability to put together a better offense over the final five games will spell the difference between the playoffs and an early exit for the boys from Taft.
3. Far Eastern University Tamaraws (Record: 5-4, Previous Rank: 2nd)
FEU’s blowout loss to Ateneo was their second defeat in a row, putting them on the bubble of the Final Four just one week after they had tasted the top seed. The Tamaraw faithful are probably beginning to be worried about a team they had lofty expectations for at the beginning of the season, but perhaps that’s exactly what Olsen Racela and the Tamaraws need.
For the last two years, it feels like the Tamaraws have thrived in times when they were considered the underdog. They were looked past for all of last season, but still managed to claw into the Final Four and nearly upset the eventual champion Blue Eagles. This year, they have played to the level of weaker foes, but have also clamped down and taken down the high profile powerhouses. Doubt is exactly what has made this cast of characters thrive.
In spite of this, the team’s Jekyll and Hyde play has left a lot of pundits questioning their legitimacy as contenders this season. Their play on the court against the top teams could support them being elite, but stats (-3 Net Rating) and record picture them more as a pretender. FEU enters this week with games against the teams directly above and below them in these Power Rankings, and with their Final Four spot hanging in the balance, it’s going to be interesting to see which FEU team comes out of the shadows.
2. Adamson Soaring Falcons (Record: 7-2, Previous Rank: 5th)
Adamson grinded out a pair of wins this week by reverting back to their style of play: Slow and defensive-oriented. The Falcons at the league’s slowest pace limited La Salle to the aforementioned 2-point first quarter and held their opponents to an average of just 54 points a game this week.
It helps to have two of the best wing scorers in the league on your squad when games are of the grit and grind variety. Jerrick Ahanmisi and Sean Manganti have continued to feed off of each other, easily alternating the position of lead Falcon between themselves. It’s honestly a shame we can’t just morph them into one to let them challenge Angelo Koaume and the UP star duo for the MVP award. Nevertheless, the pair’s strong play have them poised to keep a top-two seed for as long as they can avoid a surprise haymaker from one of the lower-ranked teams.
The inconsistency of Papi Sarr’s inside scoring will remain a concern, and the reported sickness that will sideline key bench player Jonathan Espeleta will taint their depth. But the Adamson Soaring Falcons are in position for a top two seed and have had proof since Day 1 that they could topple the defending champions. Don’t think the Falcons will ask for much more at this point.
1. Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles (Record: 7-2, Previous Rank: 1st)
Has anyone checked if Clifford Jopia still wants to play basketball? The FEU rookie was a -7 with 4 fouls and a turnover in three minutes as he was put up against Angelo Kouame.
Kidding aside, Kouame’s jaw-dropping 33-point, 27-rebound (14 offensive) performance over FEU was a display of both dominance and skill from the Ivory Coast big man. While a huge chunk of Kouame’s points were simply because he was bigger and stronger than the short-handed FEU frontline, Kouame was still able to showcase his great footwork in the post and knack for establishing good position for rebounds.
The play of both Anton Asistio and Tyler Tio has also been noteworthy for the Blue Eagles, especially in the absence of a slew of key pieces over the last couple of games. Asistio’s red-hot shooting from beyond the arc (52.4%, 1st in the league) has been there all year, but against FEU, it was his ability to be a playmaker and create shots for himself and others that made Thirdy Ravena’s absence sting a little less. On the other hand, Tio’s ability to properly run the Ateneo offense (4 assists per game in Ateneo’s last two) with Matt Nieto sidelined has been essential in Ateneo’s last two blowouts wins. Tio’s looked a lot more comfortable out on the floor than he did in the first round, taking confident shots and no longer worrying after in-game errors.
Ateneo finally beat one of their two biggest competitors for the crown, albeit with one of them severely short-handed. The question mark still remains as to whether Ateneo can stop Adamson or FEU at full-strength, but we’ll have to wait at least until November 4 to find out.