Reigning five-time champion San Beda College looks to annex one more crown for an unprecedented sixth-straight conquest but this may be easier said than done for the other member teams have definitely souped up their rosters.
Will this San Beda team be reminiscent of that 18-0 juggernaut during Garvo Lanete’s last year in Mendiola? Or will Perpetual finally get over the hump, seeing that it’s their best year to do so? With Letran still in rebuild mode, who else will step up alongside surprise Finalist Arellano and that Aric Magic squad?
How did the other teams do? Find out in this primer what’s in store for hardcore basketball fans.
San Beda Red Lions
- 2014 Record: 13-5 (Champions)
- Offense: 3rd (76.7)
- Defense: 2nd (66.7)
- Rebounding: 1st (46.50)
- Assists: 4th (15.5)
- Predicted finish: Champion (15-3)
The Red Lions are bringing back the core of Art Dela Cruz, Ola Adeogun, and the country’s best pure point guard, Baser Amer for their record-breaking attempt. The Big Three of Mendiola is responsible for 52.2% of the team’s output. Adeogun (16.1 PPG, 11.5 RPG) is one of only five players to average a double-double last year and does most of the heavy lifting for a Red Lions team that has surprisingly shot only 25% from downtown compared to previous seasons. Dela Cruz, for his part, has done his job efficiently, shooting 46% and hauls down 9.4 rebounds an outing and stretches defenses by extending his game up to 20-feet, giving Adeogun all the space he needs. Amer suffered a down year shooting the basketball, hitting only at a 35.8% clip overall, and a disappointing assist to turnover ratio of 1.5:1.
However, the biggest blow to the Lions’ campaign this season would be the loss of AnthonySemerad who shot a blistering 41% from downtown, good enough for 8.9 PPG and 3.5 RPG. Kyle Pascual, who got a championship for every year he played, has also graduated and will be leaving a big question mark as to who will giveAdeogun a breather but still produce in short bursts. Their iteration of a Big Three will be more than enough to get them by through the season, no doubt. And no one can check Ola one-on-one. Period.
University of Perpetual Help Dalta System
- 2014 Record: 12-6
- Offense: 5th (73.7)
- Defense: 4th (69.6)
- Rebounding: 5th (42.2)
- Assists: 2nd (16.7)
- Predicted finish: Finals (14-4)
Perpetual lost three of their core players in league- and team-leading scorer Juneric Baloria (21 PPG), second leading rebounder Harold Arboleda (9.1 RPG) and their lone center, the undersized Justine Alano (11.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG). However, they more than made up for it by recruiting Bright Akhuetie, who has terrorized opponents in pre-season leagues. Akhuetie is not a true power forward or small forward, but he’ll be the ace in the pocket of Aric Del Rosario as the season goes along. He gives the size and scoring they have lost with the departures of Baloria, Arboleda, and Alano.
It does help their campaign this year that Scottie Thompson will be back after having one of the best MVP seasons in recent memory. The combo guard was terrific across the board as he posted 17.4 PPG, 11.4 RPG, 5.8 APG and 1.7 SPG. He was the best player in all of college basketball and no one can even argue with that. This is probably their best year to get over the hump. Time to seize the day Scottie before you go to the pros!
- 2014 Record: 13-5
- Offense: 1st (85.7)
- Defense: 10th (82.9)
- Rebounding: 2nd (45.4)
- Assists: 1st (18.7)
- Predicted finish: Final Four (12-6)
Last year’s runner up would have to content itself with the return of Dioncee Holts and Jio Jalalon. The Chiefs surprisingly lead the league in scoring, playing in a free-wheeling style that saw them assisting on about 19 of their 34 field goal makes per game. Jalalon emerged as a star in a year that saw him put up 12.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 5.8 APG while shooting 46% from the floor. He would have to turn it up several notches to make up for the loss of John Pinto, who has went pro, and sixth man Keith Agovida who provided a combined 24.1 PPG, 10 RPG & 7.2 APG. Holdover sniper Zachary Nicholls has to live up to expectations and must produce more than his 4.2 PPG and 34% three-point field goal shooting if the Chiefs expect to make it back to the Finals. But everything rests on super-athletic and all-nation point guard, Jio Jalalon and how effectively he and Holts can run the opposition to the ground via PnRs and PnP situations.
I wonder though, what would the departures of the likes ofCaperal,Enriquez, andCiriacruz do to the team as they had one of the best big man rotation last year.DionceeHolts can definitely use a rest somewhere, somehow, because hey, just look atLeBron man.
Jose Rizal University
- 2014 Record: 12-6
- Offense: 7th (70.4)
- Defense: 3rd (67.3)
- Rebounding: 7th (39.4)
- Assists: 10th (13.2)
- Predicted finish: Final Four (11-7)
Jose Rizal was the surprising entrant to the Final Four last year. But last year’s host really started hot and was good at one thing: they will have you playing their grind-it-out style wherein execution and defense must be at their finest while offense becomes a premium. They ranked 7th in scoring but made up for it by being the third-stingiest defense behind Letran and San Beda. JRU has to do more with less now since their top two scorers, and only guys to breach double figures, have used up their playing years. Philipp Paniamogan has been stellar in his last two years especially the last, being the main weapon of coach Vergel Meneses, as he put up 18.8ppg while shooting 36% from downtown.
Losing Michael Mabulac however might be the biggest blow to the Bombers. He was their main muscle in the middle providing 11.3 PPG and hauling down 8.9 RPG. Razak Abdul Wahab may want to take a larger role offensively and not just be a rebounding machine (11.4 RPG) reminiscent of Ben Wallace, but with more points (7.7 PPG). The scoring falls on returnees Jaycee Asuncion (9.8 PPG) and Bernabe Teodoro (8.3 PPG) and point guard Paolo Pontejos, who is coming back from a leave of absence. Pontejos may add a few more dimes here and there to an offensively starved Bombers squad while being able to score himself by getting to the line, the hoop and throwing in some jumpers in-between.
Also, pass the goddamn rock around.
College of Saint Benilde
- 2014 Record: 11-7
- Offense: 4th (75.3)
- Defense: 5th (73.6)
- Rebounding: 9th (38.9)
- Assists: 5th (15.2)
- Predicted finish: 8th-10th (6-12)
The College of Saint Benilde Blazers were considered the heart-break kids of the league. They were so close to making their first Final Four appearance since Sunday Salvacion and Al Magpayo last suited up. To make matters worse, the team is losing 42% of their offensive output thanks to the departures of the second scariest wing combo, behind Perpetual’s Thompson and Baloria, of Mark Romero and Paolo Taha. With Romero (16.1 PPG) and Taha (15.7 PPG) gone, Jonathan Grey (12.2 PPG) is thrust into the spotlight as the team’s go-to-guy. Fonsy Saavedra has to really step up big time and produce three times as much as he used to (6.4 PPG) for the Blazers to have a fighting chance. But scoring is not the only problem besieging College of St. Benilde.
Almost last in rebounding, the Blazers’ returning leading rebounder would be a toss-up between the two guys supposed to lead them in scoring as well. But who knows? The league’s heart break kids ought to put up a darn good fight come the opening tip.
This will be a trying season as the team is in transition right now so don’t expect lots.
What are your predictions for each team?