HOW THEY GOT HERE: 14-0 sweep, straight to the finals
The Blue Eagles made history as only the second team to make it out of the elimination round unscathed in the Final Four Era. While the Blue Eagles are second in the league in scoring, it is the defense that anchored their perfect run. This has made many a scorer look pedestrian, and has foiled almost every offensive scheme thrown at them. The biggest question with regard to this iteration of Ateneo is that how would the 16 day break affect the gameplay of the defending champions.
PG- SJ Belangel
SG- Matt Nieto
SF- Thirdy Ravena
PF- Will Navarro
C- Ange Kouame
This unit is Ateneo’s best in offense and defense. While the starting five with Wong is a deadly five, Adrian has a problem going against players smaller than him. If for example Coach Aldin throws a backcourt of Subido and Nonoy, an equally small backcourt would be able to negate the deadly duo from UST.
Retaining Thirdy, William, and Ange in this lineup would be a good idea, but instead of putting Navarro on Chabi Yo, Ravena would pick up the MVP. William has enough speed to cover whoever is at small forward. Although Thirdy loses about three inches to Chabi Yo, he is strong enough for the assignment. In the event Chabi Yo blows by the defense, having the best rim protector in the league (Kouame) would not be bad. It would be a possibility that coach Tab uses this option, given that the veteran mentor loves looking for wrinkles in the system and using it to their advantage.It’s a win-win for the Blue Eagles.
ADVANTAGEOUS STATS: Defense (59.5ppg allowed), second chance points (18.93ppg), both tops in the league
As previously mentioned, it’s the Ateneo defense that has anchored its perfect run through the elimination round. In a fast paced era where the shot clock resets to only 14 seconds, limiting opponents to 59.5 points an outing is simply mind-blowing. UST loves to run, Ateneo loves to limit space. It’s fire versus water. Something’s gotta give.
If there is one weakness that Ateneo can exploit, it’s the UST’s lack of ceiling. Ateneo’s height and depth in the frontcourt has produced the most second chance points. Ange Kouame is a GameShark when it comes to rebounding, and tapping the 50/50 balls to teammates. This allows the Blue Eagles to reload quickly and reset their offense.
PROJECTED IMPACT PLAYER: WILLIAM NAVARRO
The starting power forward of the Ateneo Blue Eagles is the most crucial player for them, as he will be the primary cover of Soulemane Chabi Yo. The four players on the court have the benefit of being volatile, but not Navarro. He is the glue guy all season long, being very consistent on both ends of the floor. In the 13 games that William has played, he has been a positive impact and Ateneo has won every time. He does not need to score a bunch, he just has to do the details that Coach Tab has mapped out for him this finals round.
Ateneo will show ring rust… In the first half. By the third quarter, they will flip the switch and their ProMojo™ will take effect, and win the first game. It will be somewhere in between their first and second round matchups, and this will be a close game.