Season 92 Preview: Jose Rizal, Mapua, San Beda, Letran (Paradiso)

Mendiola, Manila
June 23, 2016
Season 92 Preview: Jose Rizal, Mapua, San Beda, Letran (Paradiso)

(Final part)
As of this writing, on Thursday, we all woke up with three news in the NBA.
The first one was Derrick Rose being shipped by the Chicago Bulls to the New York Knicks for Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon and Jerian Grant. And then Jeff Teague was dealt by the Atlanta Hawks to the Indiana Pacers for George Hill, who landed at Utah, which sent its No. 12 pick in today’s rookie draft to Atlanta, which is planning to trade it and its 21st pick for cap flexibility with an eye on re-signing Al Horford and Kent Bazemore.
Manu Ginobili also opted out of his contract with the San Antonio Spurs to test the free agency market.
As to why I’m talking about things I wouldn’t even write about, I don’t know.
But let’s just forget about it and proceed with what I’m truly going to blog about, which is the final installment of my NCAA Season 92 preview.
And as per tradition, I’m saving the best for last.

Jose Rizal

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The Bombers were the least visible team in the pre-season among all the NCAA schools, having joined just the Fr. Martin Cup this summer. If they’re trying to conceal some secret weapons or hidden gems that they’re planning to unleash come tournament time, it will not happen. Because truth is, Jose Rizal will parade practically the same team from last season. So I suspect, they’re just resting their team and bracing for a long, very long tournament ahead.
Why it would not win?
Apart from potential injuries and the end of the world, one of the factors preventing this experienced squad from snaring the NCAA title is the absence of one or two go-to-guys. Last year, I thought the hard-playing Tey Tey Teodoro would be The One. But unfortunately, he couldn’t live up to it. John Pontejos was on the ascent until death in the family stalled his rise. Scoring also poised as a problem for the Bombers. They would need to score and hit those outside shots. I agree that defense wins championships. But I also believe offense helps a team get close to it.

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Why it would win?
Experience and an intact roster should be keys for the Bombers’ possible success this year. Defense too. Jose Rizal has one of the league’s best defensive teams and they’re expected to be more unforgiving this season. Cris Jordan Dela Paz should be his team’s lead defense from the backcourt while shotblocking Abdul Razak Abdul Wahab and bruising Abdul Poutouochi will be the pillar of their interior D strength. It’s unfortunate that I wasn’t able to see the Bombers play this pre-season but I was told Teodoro and Pontejos were playing well and should have breakout seasons. And as I’ve said, the talented backcourt tandem will be the key for Jose Rizal to unlock the championship mystery.
Madam Auring: If this team loses again this year, they should be forced to reas Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo in one seating.

Mapua

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Atoy Co has got to be one of my favorite coaches around. The funniest too. One of his whackiest moments for me was when he undressed and waved his shirt to the crowd in protest of a non-call. He may have been slapped a technical foul and ejected that day, but he left a big mark in yours truly. Idol!

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Why it would not win?
No more Josan Nimes and his shameless scoring and Andretti Stevens and his hard-nosed defense. JP Nieles, who came out of nowhere to emerge one of the guards who over-achieved last year, was also not in the roster. Aside from the aforementioned, this team needs an emergency frontcourt back up just in case reigning MVP Allwell Oraeme got himself in foul trouble, or gets injured (knock on wood) or gets tossed out after biting into thr oppossing team’s ploy in enraging him (knock on wood). They were exposed in Filoil when Oraeme was out because the Cardinals just went on a losing spree and never recovered. The lack of big men next to Oraeme will take its toll.

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Why it would win?
This is an experienced team. And the return of Joseph Eriobu and Andrew Estrella should further make the Cardinals a more dangerous team. CJ Isit has also emerged as a leader and an anchor on both ends. He needs to add range to his game though and make those triples to open up things a bit for him when he attacks inside. This is a team that should find comfort that their offense will continue to hum despite losing Nimes. And I haven’t even talked of Oraeme, who has added some jumpers to his growing arsenal. I wouldn’t be surprised he starts shooting threes in the future.
Madam Auring: Is there a misfortune cookie?

San Beda

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After coming one game short of extending their dynastic reign, the Lions are back going all out to achieve what they failed to do last year. And this year, they look more dangerous despite losing practically most of their starters.
Why it would not win?
As I’ve mentioned, Ola Adeogun, Baser Amer, Arthur dela Cruz and Ryusei Koga are all gone. Adeogun was the team’s biggest loss since the Lions will be minus one of the league’s best rim protectors and an inside scoring threat. Donald Tankoua will have a hard time filling the Ola void. Without Adeogun, opposing squads will have extra space and open lanes to operate inside. It’s probably the reason Jio Jalalon and the guard-heavy Arellano U Chiefs beat them in Filoil.
Why it would win?
Smaller doesn’t mean weaker. Watching the Lions in the pre-season is like watching a track and field team doing a 4×100-meter relay race. I mean San Beda is freakishly fast. Dan Sara has taken up the skipper’s role but I see Jayvee Mocon coming out with his best season as a college player if he keeps his head in the game and not commit unnecessary fouls. I like the acquisition of La Salle transferee Robert Bolick, who will bring stability to the team. AC Soberano should light it up after torching opponents with his high efficiency three-point shooting in Filoil. Fil-Am Davon Potts is also a prize find, a solid defender with an outside shooting. The high-leaping, slam-dunking Arnaud Noah is a bit smaller import but his quickness and athleticism would be an asset off the bench. Ranbill Tongco and Jose Mari Presbitero should have major roles and would be X-factors.

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Madam Auring: Loved Jamike Jarin’s answer when asked by college writer if he’ll play softer against weak things. He sarcastically responded, “We don’t do that. We play the same intensity and desire wherever we play, whether it’s the NCAA, the Filoil and even Inter-Kulangot tournament. Yes. A Booger to a booger question.

Letran

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Right after the press-conference, I ran into their athletic moderator, Fr. Vic Calvo, OP, and he was disappointed no one believed the Knights will win a second straight title. You see, everybody was looking at Arellano U as the team to beat. San Beda, Mapua, Jose Rizal also got some attention. Only a few mentioned Letran. They forget the Knights are the defending champions.
Why it would not win?
When you lost the coach (Aldin Ayo) and two leaders (Kevin Racal and Mark Cruz) who helped the Knights defy the odds and complete a Cinderella finish by beating everyone to win last year’s championship, it’s hard to keep that confidence. New coach Jeff Napa will also be transitioning from a multi-titled high school coach from National U to a college coach, which means it will not be easy. Nothing changed except Rey Nambatac and McJour Luib should receive more responsibility as well as Jomari Sollano, Bong Quinto, Felix Apreku and Jerick Balanza. And the pressure got bigger since everyone has probably prepared for one whole year to dethrone the champions.
Why it would win?
They’re the defending champions. If that alone doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will. Or can I just mention Rey Nambatac? He will have a monster season.
Madam Auring: Who is Aldin Ayo?  Sportsmaryosep’s prognosis: Who is Aldin Ayo? Joke. Seriously, there could be an Aldin Ayo in our midst somewhere out there. Ayo, for those who don’t know, was a virtual unknown a season ago. But he made a loud introduction that made sure we all heard him and won the NCAA championships with a smaller, all-Filipino crew. In our face. Face palm. And Ayo, everytime we saw each other, always made sure he reminded me of the blog we at Sportsmaryosep wrote asking who Aldin Ayo is. But come to think of it, no one, except Ayo himself, believed and predicted Ayo and the Knights will even make the Final Four, much more win the title. But he won. End of story. But Ayo and Letran’s story was a special case. A fairy tale. So this year, its hard to blame the coaches and the pundits if they didn’t see Letran in their championship radar. I agree that Arellano U is a contender. San Beda, as much as Jamike Jarin didn’t want to admit it, is legit. And so with Jose Rizal and Mapua. Perpetual Help could make a run for it. Letran will be carried by its championship reputation and as always, heart. Actually, everybody has a chance thanks to the Aldin Ayo example. But since I have to make a fearless forecast, I will be making one. EAC, LPU, St. Benilde and San Sebastian will have a competitive season that is as sure as the sun will rise in the morning. I consider them all darkhorses. But this early, they’re all underdogs and will need a miracle or two to have an Aldin Ayo-like season. Barring any major injuries and an apocalypse, Arellano and San Beda will try to outrun each other to the top and easily make the Final Four. Jose Rizal, Mapua, Perpetual Help and Letran will make a heated race. Jose Rizal will be the third team to the semis. Mapua will be the fourth, beating Perpetual and Letran to it. As for the champion, I see all four capable of winning it all. But when the smoke of battle dissipates, I see San Beda coming out of it as victor because San Beda has never lost two seasons in a row in the last decade. Or I could be wrong. And Aldin Ayo comes into my dreams and tell me…”Jooooooeeeeyyyyy. Follow your heart.”

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

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(Photos courtesy of NCAA, Tristan Tamayo of inquirer.net, Jerome Ascano of spin.ph and abscbnnews.com)

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