Nobody thought Ateneo will be in this position. Final Four? Yeah probably. Number one? Nope. Now that I got that out of the way, let’s throw the thought of ending the eliminations on top out of the window and start this semifinals discussion on this note: the Ateneo Blue Eagles will be up against the National University Bulldogs, the team that swept them for two seasons in a row.

Ateneo versus NU means offense versus defense. Unfortunately for the Eagles, the Bulldogs were unforgiving on both ends of the court the last time around. Everything was clicking for Pao Javelona, Troy Rosario, and Alfred Aroga in particular as they combined for 41 points in that game. Gelo Alolino and Glenn Khobuntin were also difficult to control.  It’s unforgivable that National U shot NINETY PERCENT from the field in the early goings of the first quarter and 52% overall.

How on earth did they manage to do that? Blame Ateneo’s defensive lapses.

Team Stats

Advanced Stats League Average Ateneo Blue Eagles NU Bulldogs

Free Throw Rate (FTR)

21.6 30.8 (1st) 16.5 (8th)

True Shooting Percentage (TS%)

46.3 49.1 (2nd) 47.1 (5th)

Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%)

42.4 42.9 (5th) 44.6 (3rd)

Offensive Rebound Rate (OREB%)

33.4 35.4 (3rd) 37.8 (1st)

Assist Rate (AST%)

55.0 58.0 (2nd) 52.4 (6th)

Steal Rate (STL%)

5.7 6.4 (3rd) 4.2 (7th)

Block Rate (BLK%)

6.8 7.7 (4th) 9.7 (1st)

Turnover Rate (TOV%)

20.0 16.4 (1st) 21.8 (7th)

Offensive Rating (ORTG)

86.5 96.0 (1st) 87.6 (5th)

Defensive Rating (DRTG)

86.5 89.6 (6th) 78.4 (2nd)

Keys to the Game


Climbing out of a 19-point hole in their recent game versus FEU was incredible, but man, if the Blue Eagles are going to put themselves in the same situation, they might as well bid farewell to the championship crown.

Cramming will not work against NU, and I’m sure Ateneo knows this by now. They learned it the hard way in their second round encounter when the Bulldogs’ defense was too unrelenting to allow any comeback attempts to succeed. The Eagles should start strong and set the pace to a frantic one that will make the Bulldogs rush their shots and give up the leather. Ateneo averages 15.5 turnover points per contest (second in the league next to UE) compared to NU’s 9.8 (last in the league).

Also, it’s easier to attack the NU defense when they’re rattled. Remember the eight straight baskets that Ponso Gotladera manufactured in the fourth quarter? That happened when the Eagles were running fast and putting extra pressure on the ball, not giving NU enough time to transition smoothly.


With Aroga clogging the lane and blocking everything in sight, it’s a must for the Blue Eagles to connect from the perimeter. Here’s where offensive sets involving Kiefer Ravena and Chris Newsome will be crucial. I would put at least one of these two guys on the floor all the time to maneuver the complicated maze that is NU’s D. Von Pessumal‘s sniping, which was amiss the last time they met, will also be instrumental in this matchup.


Ateneo is the best at drawing fouls and converting them, while NU is the worst. Mythical Five members Kiefer and Newsome who average 9.5 and 5.9 free throw attempts respectively will again be the x-factors here.


Ateneo would want to close this out in one game. It will be really dangerous for them if they let this boil down to a win-or-go-home.

The Blue Eagles will probably be required to use their twice-to-beat card though.

Featured image courtesy of Arvin Lim, UAAP Sports TV