Season 91 Preview: Perpetual, JRU, Arellano, San Beda (Fantastic Four)

SM Megamall
June 21, 2015
Season 91 Preview: Perpetual, JRU, Arellano, San Beda (Fantastic Four)

(Final part)
I always save the best for last.
And this year is no exception.
So it’s time to talk about the top four best teams from last year. Interestingly, these could be the same four that could end up legitimately battling for the championship trophy by October. So read on:

If there’s a team that us in the media call the team of the people, it’s Perpetual Help. Maybe because of we, just like everyone of us Filipinos, love underdogs. Maybe we just like veteran coach Aric del Rosario. Plain and simple.
Why it would not win?
Hard to replace Juneric Baloria, Harold Arboleda and Justin Alano, who comprised about 70 percent of Perpetual Help’s statistics last year. If the Altas are going to lose on its title chance this season, it’s because they utterly lack a consistent three-point threat in Baloria and Arboleda. It didn’t help that Joel Jolangcob, another outside sniper, also graduated.
Why it would win?

Three words: Prince. Bright. Thompson. No it’s not the name of one person, but three. I’m referring to Cameroonians Prince Eze and Bright Akhuetie and reigning NCAA MVP Earl Scottie Thompson. If you haven’t seen Akhuetie, you’re missing out on life. He idolizes LeBron James, the second best player in the planet today. And, I’m not exaggerating, is trying to play like one with success. Like KIng James, he’s 6-8 with the exact same built and athleticism. I’ve watched him play in the pre-season and, boy, he’s a monster. One example was in a game against St. Benilde, he unleashed 35 points and 20 rebounds. In a shock win over UAAP champion National U, he poured in 21 points in 21 minutes. Eze is taller at 6-11. Can block, rebound and shoot. In fact, he’s comfortable playing small forward and shoot jumpers. And, he doesn’t mind playing second fiddle to Akhuetie. And we haven’t even talked about Machine Gun Thompson, who is a triple-double machine as we speak. Oh, there is also Aric del Rosario, who is ripe for a championship in the NCAA after steering Santo Tomas to a four-peat feat in the early 90s. Watch out also for Gab Dagangon, who I think will have a breakout season.
Madam Auring: If San Beda drops dead right now, it’s Perpetual Help which is going to win it all.

I’m an open book. I’ve always said my favorite hero is Jose Rizal. I live in Rizal. I love to read Rizal books. So anything Rizal, I love. Including what Jose Rizal, the school, not the hero, represents. And I’m happy with the direction the Bombers are taking in terms of their basketball program.
Why it would not win?
Like Perpetual, Jose Rizal lacked a consistent outside threat and a go-to-guy. They brought back John Paulo Pontejos after a one-year hiatus to address that particular issue. But he’s still untested until he proves me wrong.
Why it would win?
Aside from Pontejos, JRU has pulled off a coup by securing reigning NCAA high school MVP Darius Estrella, who decided to stay put and not be blinded by the glitter of the other league at the expense of playing time. In the Bombers, Pontejos and Estrella will vastly improved Trey Teodoro, Dave Sanchez and Jordan dela Paz in forming one of the most formidable backcourts in college basketball today. The Kalentong-based dribblers have also added Abdouladif Aylagningni Poutouchi to team up with Abdul Razak Abdul Wahab, another African. If you don’t the two, just think of Dikembe Mutombo teaming up with Nerlens Noel. That’s how formidable the Bombers’ frontcourt.

Madam Auring: If Jose Rizal doesn’t win this year, they will be shot in Bagumbayan.

Arellano U almost pulled off a Cinderella story last year after making the finals only to lose to San Beda. This year, there’s a chance, though smaller, that the Chiefs could do the same this year. And maybe, just maybe, they could pull off a caper.
Why it would not win?
Losing John PInto, Prince Caperal, Keith Agovida and Levi Hernandez was a big blow to the Chiefs. They will be hardput to fill the vacuum of their departure. Coach Jerry Codinera would also need to find a way to improve their league-worst defense last year and start believing the notion that “offense wins games, but defense wins championships.”
Why it would win?

Jio Jalalon should have a career-high season. Like Thompson, he could churn out triple-doubles effortlessly. He will be the spark-plug of Arellano’s league-best offense. American Dioncee Holts should also explode considering that Codinera is planning to unleash team captain Nichole Bangga, Julius Cadavis and Ranimark Tano as the team’s center by committee. They might slow their game a bit to minimize turnovers which they were a little prone a year ago. Also, Codinera has started to put premium on defense a bit and try to live up on his personal mantra when he was still a player. His being “The Defense Minister” will be meaningless if his team will not play like one.
Madam Auring: Jalalon Ranger for MVP?

The Lions are going all out to win a historic sixth straight title this year and it looks like they wouldn’t let anyone stop them.
Why it would not win?
Multi-titled high school coach and former national team mentor Jamike Jarin has taken over the coaching reins from Boyet Fernandez. Jarin is talented in steering Ateneo to countless UAAP juniors crown and was the brains behind Batang Gilas’ first ever FIBA World trip. But as much as I’m a fan of Jarin, college basketball is an entirely different animal than high school or FIBA basketball. He steered San Beda to the Filoil title just a week ago. That’s a good start. But again, the NCAA is an entirely different plane from the Filoil. The pressure is on him if he could coach the Lions to a six-peat feat.

Why it would win?
Despite the African deluge, Ola Adeogun remains the best player in the NCAA today. Baser Amer has also decided to play one last year before he turns pro. Art dela Cruz should also have a great year. San Beda owns the deepest bench in the league today. Their championship experience also counts. The fear they put in the hearts of the opposition also matters.
Madam Auring: Can we bring out the trophy now?
Sportsmaryosep’s prognosis: Pardon me if you got tired hearing our resident seer Madam Auring. Worry not, I’m already contemplating on firing her anytime now, if I hadn’t already. But seriously, I think Letran will have a good year barring any major injuries. I see Mapua as a darkhorse. San Sebastian and Lyceum could surprise the big guns. But I think, San Beda remains the team to beat and Arellano, JRU and Perpetual Help as the favorites to make the Final Four. I’m a little intrigued by the what’s on the table of Perpetual and Jose Rizal. I mean, they’re both scarily strong and I wouldn’t surprise if they end up shocking San Beda and snatching the title. And I really mean that because the Bombers and Altas are super strong on paper. But hey, experience thought me that strength is not measure by reputation but by playing and living up to it. So maybe it will still be San Beda but I wouldn’t blame you if you put your money or bet your house for Jose Rizal and Perpetual.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar
(Photos courtesy of, and Dennis Abrina of Perpetual Help)


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