NCAA Season 89 Preview Final Part

Manila Bulletin

June 21, 2013

NCAA: Our Stars Will Shine Season 89

(Last of a two-part series)

On this day when everyone just stopped doing everything to witness the deciding Game 7 of the NBA Finals that resulted into an epic win by (Bleep!) LeBron James and the (Bleep!) Miami Heat over the San Antonio Spurs, Sportsmaryosep decided to finish what it started. Of course, we dealt with the first five schools that finished the lower bottom of the standings in last year’s Season 88. To recap, just double-click Part I of my NCAA Season 89 preview below.

Now, we’re going to tackle the Top 5 finishers last year and summon the powers of Madaming Auring and her crystal ball starting with…

Jose Rizal (5th, 10-8)

Why it would win. The only thing constant with the Bombers is it non-stop, full-court trapping implemented by coach Vergel Meneses. It’s actually the thing that he learned from his mentor, Derrick Pumaren. This Jose Rizal team has practically lost everyone except Meneses and this sophomore big man Michael Mabulac. Mabulac shows he’s not soft as a cotton as his name implies but actually impressed a lot of people including Sportsmaryosep with some solid double-double efforts in the pre-season. If anything, he will be the anchor of a rudderless boat.

Why it wouldn’t. As I’ve said, the Bombers are decimated to the core and will have to do with 11 rookies they hope to produce miracles. First, they would have to start praying now.

Madam Auring: I always admire Jose Rizal, not only as a National Hero and as a basketball team, but I see bad things for the team this year understandably because I consider this season as its “rebuilding” year.

Perpetual Help (4th, 10-8)

Why it would win. I rever coaches in the mold of Aric del Rosario. He’s the oldest but most experienced coach in the current batch at 73 years old. You’re probably still young when Coach Aric steered University of Santo Tomas to a four-peat feat in the 90s. He brought his magic to the Altas when he coached them to their first Final Four stint in years after turning back Jose Rizal in sudden death. Although they lost a close 52-56 decision to San Beda, the eventual champion, in the Final Four, the Las Pinas-based left an impression it will bounce back strong the next year. And it looks like they will as it retained the core of the squad last year while getting promising additions. Jett Vidal, or Jettsanity to a cult following from the NCAA Press Corps led by the Inquirer’s Cedelf Tupas, is gone but Perps got Juneric Baloria and Gerald Dizon to replace with some dose of wing defense. George Allen also left but the Altas filled that vacuum by recruiting 6-3 Nestor Bantayan and 6-4 Kervin Lucente from Adamson. Of course, they have this Nigerian twin towers in Nosa Omorogbe and Femi Babayemi to man the fort and slow down the likes of Adeogun and Happi. I see Earl Scottie Thompson to come through with triple-double efforts day in and day out. This is also a team that has complimentary role players who are not only experienced but also has great chemistry.

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Why it wouldn’t. The only way the Altas will not make the Final Four is for them to all tear an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and suffer a rare injury called “bleeding scrotum.”

Madam Auring: I have a feeling they will get past the Final Four because I have faith in Coach Aric’s magic. See, I call him Coach Aric? That’s how I respect the man.

San Sebastian (3rd, 13-5)

Why it would win. Topex Robinson is one of the most dynamic coaches in the country today and he has proven that by engineering the Stags’ second place finish two years back. During the first half of last season, San Sebastian appeared headed for another title crack before he decided to resign for unknown reasons. As history showed, the Stags, reduced to a headless chicken, wound up being upset twice by the overachieving Knights. Robinson though will have no armory like he had the past years as their “Big Three” of Calvin Abueva, Ronald Pascual and Ian Sangalang are all gone. What’s left are Jovit dela Cruz, who will skipper the team this year, and tough-defending Bobby Baculanag. Thankfully, the Stags found gems in Jaymar Perez of Pampanga, who is considered the second coming of The Beast though smaller, and Fil-Am Leo de Vera, a 6-4 Fil-Am who can do it all–shoot 3s, rebound, block shots, defend the wings and provide the needed hustle. Topex puts it simply: “We’re like the Miami Heat without the Big Three. We’ll be relying on our running game, outside shooting and hustling defense to make up for our lack of big men.”

Why it wouldn’t. Inexperience and lack of bench depth will take its toll on the new-look Stags. They’ve got a wing-heavy roster but in a season this long, you will need all the fresh legs you’ve got including the younger guys. That’s where the trouble starts.

Madam Auring: I see a glimmer of hope for these young Stags and a Final Four stint is not far-fetched. But again, I have my doubts. I hope I’m wrong.

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Letran (2nd, 12-6)

Why it would win. They’ve lost a scoring machine in Kevin Alas and a bruising, fearless and intelligent big man in Jam Cortes but they’ve found a way to put a plug on those holes by pulling off a gem of a recruit in Rey Nambatac, one of the most well-rounded players in the current rookie crop in the collegiate ranks. I mean, this kid, who happens to be a former national youth team mainstay, can score, pass and defend. Meaning, he is a potential triple-double machine down the road. Also, Raymond Almazan, a former Mythical First Team member two seasons back, will be playing his last season before he turns pro this November, while another big man Jonathan Belorio, this year’s team captain, is also back to fill the Cortes void. Almazan should get the attention of the opposing team because he will no longer be purposely defensive-minded. His liberation on offense should pose a threat to others including San Beda. But the Knights will be more a the team of Mark Cruz and Kevin Racal because the two were already given the license by their coach to carry to scoring load. And oh, they will be coached by Caloy Garcia in lieu of Louie Alas, who decided not to extend late last year.

Why it wouldn’t. The problem with Almazan getting offensive touches is that he doesn’t have an armory of moves like his cousin Kerby Raymundo. But he’s definitely trying. If he finds a go-to-move in the post, the Knights would be much dangerous. One problem I see is who will be the real go-to-guy between Cruz and Racal, who both happen to be just trying to figure out how is it to be a star post Kevin Alas era.

Madam Auring: Letran is one of the teams I’m really impressed about. Especially this Nambatac kid. I love players who are versatile and he fits the bill. I also see some promise in Jamil Gabawan, who has shed off his enforcer status by taking advantage of the opportunities given to him with an increase of playing time. And oh, who would not be complacent with a team with a player named Fidel Castro in it?

San Beda (1st, 15-3)

Why it would win. Ola Adeogun should be an unstoppable force if he decides he wants to play. If he gives extra effort, he’ll have a strong chance of emerging MVP this season. This is also the time of Baser Amer, or The Hammer, if you could still remember his outraegous shot from the backcourt in a game against Perpetual Help. They lost their second best big man in Jake Pascual but the impact was lessened with the return of the Fil-Aussie twins, Anthony and David Semerad. Kyle Pascual and Art dela Cruz shore up the Lions already formidable frontline that should make the tallest team this year. Rome dela Rosa will skipper this team this year and his leadership will be valuable. I like the emergence of Francis Abarcar, who have gained the confidence of San Beda’s new coach Boyet Fernandez with strong guard play in the pre-season. Fernandez, who has taken over the coaching reins after Ronnie Magsanoc decided not to extend and focus on his job at Meralco, for his part, has been a tested commodity after steering Sta. Lucia to a PBA title and NLEX to four D-League crowns out of five finals appearances. Curiously, he hasn’t won a collegiate title yet.

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Why it wouldn’t. In spite of its bench depth and scary appearance, San Beda can be beaten as shown by Arellano U when it pulled off a shocker over the reigning three-peat champion. Lack of consistency is also a concern.

Madam Auring: I know two teams that has the ability to pull the rug from San Beda–one Arellano U, the other San Beda itself. But I see nothing that can stop the Lions from making the finals for the eighth straight season and perhaps win them a four-peat feat and a seventh crown in the last eight years.

So there. You’re probably asking me now my general fearless forecast? And my crystal ball tells me its San Beda and Perpetual clinching the first two Final Four berths and Letran, Arellano U and San Sebastian in a tug-of-war for the last two berths. I have a hunch EAC could gatecrash into the post season. Mapua is a darkhorse also. It’s safe to put your money on the Lions. But if you love underdogs, go for Perpetual, Letran or Arellano U.

Follow Sportsmaryosep on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

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(Photos courtesy of NCAA.org.ph)

Here are the first round schedule:

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