After 14 games, we’re down to four. It was a quick turnaround, but here we are. The Final Four is upon us, and what fun is it if we don’t make predictions? Members of the Humblebola staff thought about it hard, and they ultimately came up with these.
No. 1 Ateneo Blue Eagles vs. No. 4 FEU Tamaraws
Ged Austria: FEU has been picking up the pace after a roller-coaster elimination round. Arvin Tolentino’s morale and confidence has been sky high, and his game-winner versus DLSU certainly help.
ADMU swept the entire 2nd round even with lots of DNPs. Their “Next Man Up” mentality has done great things for them. It looks like they are peaking at the best possible time. If Orizu is still not 100% (the way he looked sluggish / rusty during the knockout game vs DLSU), then Ange Kouame will have a good serving of BBQ Chicken for dinner. Prediction: Ateneo in 1 game
Michael Severino: FEU is definitely primed for an upset. For all their victories, Ateneo looks more vulnerable compared to last season, especially with how often their offense can stagnate and the heavy reliance on threes going in to make it work. A Tamaraw squad leaning on elevated play from Kenneth Tuffin, Barkley Ebona and Arvin Tolentino could be the perfect squad to take advantage. With such an emotional win over the La Salle Green Archers, I could see that momentum carrying them to a great start in Game 1.
But I think Tab Baldwin’s wards will respond pretty well. They still have a couple of players who have yet to step up – Matt Nieto, in particular, hasn’t had a good season. And they still have Thirdy Ravena and Ange Kouame, two guys who might have a chip on their shoulders after being left out of the Mythical Five. As long as they stay focused on running Baldwin’s system and are able to hit threes, they should be fine. Prediction: Ateneo in 2 games
Pio Garcia: Ateneo will move on to the Finals after defeating a peaking FEU team for two games.
I’m saying this because I still doubt the Blue Eagles’ ability to create offense when the going gets tough. FEU is also the perfect foil for Ateneo. They may lack in the size and heft to contend with Ange Kouame inside, I really doubt any team has the tools to stop him in the first place, but they more than makeup for it with the ability to score solely by Arvin Tolentino, and lately Kenneth Tuffin.
Those two will be quite a problem, or rather, THE problem for Ateneo. With the way Tolentino has been rumbling, it will be really difficult to have him operate on single coverages. Thirdy Ravena can pick up the defensive slack, because I damn well know Raffy Verano is going to be a healthy serving of Frankie’s to someone born to score. But then, who will check Tuffin? Ateneo’s swingman rotation is awfully thin and I’m not even counting on Will Navarro to be able to keep in step with Tuffin.
The only difference maker I see that will swing this in Ateneo’s favor is Tab outfoxing Olsen Racela, which is not outside the realm of possibility. You know it, I know it, Olsen probably does too. I’m only giving the Tams a shot here because I absolutely love AT. Now if only Hubert Cani can stop dribbling the air out of the damn leather… Prediction: Ateneo in 2 games
No. 2 Adamson Soaring Falcons vs. No. 3 UP Fighting Maroons
Ged Austria: UP’s coming in hot and has been playing great from the last few elimination games. Bright Akhuetie is the MVP. The streak of more than two decades of not making it to the Final Four has been broken, thus added momentum. Every player looks hungry for more in UP.
Adamson has been playing great but missed Ahanmisi and Manganti due to “injury precautions”. They will be playing with more playoff experience, both players and coaches. It’s also time for AdU to break a long drought in failing to reach the UAAP finals, but this will be a slugfest. Prediction: Adamson in 2 games
Michael Severino: Everyone loves an underdog and the UP Fighting Maroons have definitely given basketball fans that feel-good experience. Back in the Final Four after 21 years and they face a school that’s tormented them for quite a while. With MVP Bright Akhuetie and Mythical Five member Juan Gomez de Liano leading the way, they definitely have the firepower to compete. The question is still their consistency. They’re in the midst of a great run but their play has still been up and down.
I’m really tempted to say the Fighting Maroons will continue this Cinderella run but I think Adamson will bring them back down to Earth. They’re simply the more experienced and consistent squad. Not only that but they have great depth, able to reliably get production from second or third stringers. Akhuetie and Papi Sarr will probably cancel it out so it’s up to their teammates to decide it. If Jerrick Ahanmisi and Sean Manganti are fully healed (ahem ahem) and UP can’t find an answer for them, Adamson can end it pretty quickly. Look for Manganti to figure in another crucial play in the endgame. Prediction: Adamson in 1 game
Pio Garcia: Adamson should have no problem handling their business with UP.
UP will give them a hell of a fight but it’s nothing Franz Pumaren cannot escape from thanks to Sean Manganti more than Jerrick Ahanmisi. Who can check Mangantitokounmpo on that Fighting Maroons squad? Juan? Too easy. Jarrel Lim? Come on now. It should be a quick visit to the Final Four this time for UP. It’s just the way it is. We haven’t even brought up the way Jerom Lastimosa, CJ Catapusan, and Simon Camacho have affected Adamson basketball whenever Ahanmisi goes Ahanmissing or when Manganti is taking his foot off the pedal and Papi Sarr not being able to lift himself off the floor for more than an inch. Prediction: Adamson in 1 game