NCAA mid-term Grades: Big Three

Resorts World
August 30, 2013
NCAA mid-term Grades: Big Three
(Conclusion)

It all boils down to three.

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You’re probably aware by now that the 89th NCAA basketball tournament is fast turning into a three-cornered fight as what Sportsmaryosep predicted before the season even started. There is not much gap among these three teams we’re grading below as Letran defeated San Beda, which downed Perpetual Help, which trounced Letran. So don’t be shocked if one of them emerged from the ashes as champion.
The key, of course, is to finish No. 1 because finishing No. 2 at the end of the double-round elimination means clashing with No. 3 in the Final Four. And we all know the worst these current top three teams could finish is at No. 3 right? So expect the second round to be a tougher grind for everyone because the mad dash to the Final Four will be two-tiered. The first one is the race for the top seed among the Knights, Lions and Altas while the other is the battle for the fourth and last spot in the semis by the rest of the field.
And here it goes.
Perpetual Help (7-2)
What went right?
Practically everything and let us count the ways. Nosa Omorogbe, the prolific Nigerian who have stepped up in the absence of his injured countryman Femi Babayemi. And perhaps, Babayemi’s absence is a blessing in disguise since it paved the way for him to blossom this year. And boy, he has with averages of 19 points, about nine boards, five assists, two steals a block a game. If you’ve seen the Altas play, everything they do on offense emanates from the 6-6 Omorogbe, who has the ability of making a triple and blowing by single coverages with dribble drive penetrations. What makes it easier for the Nigerian is that he can dump the ball to anyone of his teammates if something goes awry. One of them is Juneric Baloria, who leads the league in scoring with a norm of around 22 points a game and an efficient line of 36-48-77 (three point-fieldgoal-free throw) percent. Or Harold Arboleda, who has connected from both inside and out while averaging a career-high 12 rebounds this season. Or Justin Alano, whose post up plays and being just in the right place and time makes him an important piece of the championship puzzle.
What went wrong?
Earl Scott Thompson. The talented kid from Davao City hasn’t yet recovered from the injury he suffered late last year. I mean, Thompson is a high-light reel machine a season ago and when you see him not making a simple lay up or clang a short jumper, it makes you cringe or just shut your eyes at the ghastly sight. Imagine if he gets back to shape? I will be scared for Letran and San Beda if it happens.
What Madam Auring says?
Aric del Rosario is the most experienced of all this year, bar none. His Aric magic has carried the team through and should continue doing so until the post-season. Barring unforeseen events like injuries or suspensions (Hello UAAP!), Perpetual Help is making the finals for the first time in nine years. If it happens, the Altas will be a dangerous team to face. And oh. Perpetual Help is hungry to win a championship for the first time in its NCAA life. EVER.
Grade: A
San Beda (7-2)
What went right?

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Minus their first two games where they sleep-walked to a one-point win over the St. Benilde Blazers and a painful defeat to the Lyceum Pirates, the Lions, like a killing machine, have rolled and devoured almost everyone in their path. Ola Adeogun and Baser Amer have played greatly after that shock setback to Boni Tan’s charges. Art dela Cruz too. Never mind his forgettable performance in their loss to the Knights. Their defense has also shown wonders being the the No. 1 team in points allowed.
What went wrong?

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Inconsistency. The Lions have shown some losses of concentration not just in their two defeats but also in some of their wins. One example is their game with Perpetual where they’ve lead by a mile, blew it before coming through in the end. Against Letran, they couldn’t cash in when they had the chance. Okay, let’s give them some leeway because they’re probably adjusting to the system being implemented by their new coach in Boyet Fernandez, who likes giving credit where credit is due. But I’m used to a team that literally fight and claw their way to wins, blowouts or otherwise. Have you seen how they swept their way to the tile just a few years ago?
What Madam Auring says?
I’m still waiting for that mighty ROAR by the Lions. Without disrespecting the other players, Adeogun is the best player in the league right now. He SHOULD be. For now, and probably the rest of the season, Raymond Almazan has outshone Ola. But somewhere along the way, Adeogun will impose his might. It will be a disaster if San Beda ends up No. 3. So time to sharpen up the claws and fangs boys because it’s going to be war from now on.
Grade: A-
Letran (8-1)
What went right?

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We didn’t see it coming. Almazan playing like an MVP. Unless Adeogun does something about it, Almazan has by far emerged the BEST player in the league to this point. Almazan has evolved offensively while keeping the defensive intensity he is known for. You could see in his eyes how he wants to finish his NCAA career. Win a championship as his legacy and use the MVP trophy as his crowning glory before he turns pro. Mark Cruz has started to assert himself after playing behind the long, imposing shadow of Kevin Alas. Kevin Racal too. K-Racs is fully recovered now after struggling with his injury at the start of the season. This rookie kid named Rey Nambatac has been a revelation. He and his all-around impact. The boy can shoot, drive, defend and pass. We’re still waiting for Jonathan Belorio, who is the 6-6 Almazan’s tag team inside.
What went wrong?
It’s probably Belorio and his injury. But he’s returning soon. Jamil Gabawan has disappeared after a solid pre-season play. Nothing wrong with the bench except that Fidel Castro hasn’t stolen the democracy from the other teams like he used to the first time we saw him play last summer.

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What Madam Auring says?

The Knights are the exact opposite of the Blazers. While St. Benilde dropped heartbreakers, Letran won it as most of its triumphs were by single digits. It’s good and bad because it sharpens their ability to finish games while exposing some tweaks in their shinning armor. It will be interesting to see  how they will react finishing at No. 2 after the elims and facing either San Beda or Perpetual Help in the Final Four. If they could handle that pressure I’m talking about, you know they deserve to be champions.
Grade: A+
Follow Sportsmaryosep on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

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(Photos courtesy of Jan Dizon of NCAA.org.ph)

Here’s the full second round schedule:

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