(Note: "True Colors" is this space's NCAA column designed to have a slant, but not necessarily bias, toward schools other than that one located in Mendiola. --Howard the Duck)
We're now in the homestretch of the NCAA first round, and we've started to discover several truths:
- San Sebastian can rely on several players to explode in a certain game, which can wreak havoc on defensive strategies.
- JRU still has a penchant in losing important games.
- San Beda can only be beaten if you frustrate Sudan Daniel.
- Letran has hidden something in their OT win vs. the Generals.
- The Chiefs bench is so shallow, if you tire them out you'd win.
- The Blazers has no post presence, thereby simplifying an opponent's defending strategy.
It will probably boil down to six teams: San Sebastian, San Beda, JRU, Letran, CSB and Arellano. There could be a possibility for a triple tie for the last Final Four berth. If this happens, the teams with the best "quotient" gets the bye for the final playoff. San Sebastian is a lock for a Final Four berth, for the twice to beat advantage, that's an altogether different matter. The JRU-San Beda game this Monday will answer several questions, and can probably determine which of the two teams will clinch the twice to beat advantage.
As for Letran, Arellano and CSB, they'd have to beat at least one team from the top three to ascertain themselves of a Final Four berth. Letran came close against JRU, not-so-close against San Beda, and will test San Sebastian in the penultimate (if the MANCOM doesn't change it) game of the first round. Arellano lost all three games, and only came close against JRU, while CSB all suffered double-digit losses against the top three.
The Chiefs have the easiest schedule among the middle three, with games against AUF and Mapua. Should they win these two games, they'd break the .500 barrier, and can either can better or tie Letran's record, depending on the result of the Letran-Baste game. The CSB Blazers wound up a game below .500.
For the bottom four teams, the games between these four are a must-see. Those games will be hard-fought and tightly-contested. On their games against the middle three, they might not win, but it depends on how the games are scheduled (hiding certain players from scouts), or if injuries happen. It is safe to say that if they fail to beat the other three teams from the bottom four, and they don't manage to upset the leaders, they won't make it to the playoffs.
Now for the juniors tournament, it seems that the Squires are on their way on sweeping the first round, but they should hurdle the defending champions first. But if the Red Cubs-Staglets game is any indication (Red Cubs won by 25), and that the Squires beat the Red Cubs by 15, it seems that the Squires are unbeatable this season. The closest any team has gotten to the Squires are, get this, the UPHSD Altalettes, the perpetual whipping boys of the NCAA prior to the return of the Red Robins and the addition of the guest teams, where the Squires won only by 5. The other legitimate contender that managed to hang close with the Squires are the Greenies of LSGH, and they were beaten by ten, and the Alalettes won over the Greenies in OT. In fact, the Baby Perps have a legit chance for a Final Four berth, considering they were beaten by the currently #4 Staglets by two points in their encounter.
Which probably means that the Squires will beat the Staglets silly, and Jarelan Tampus would penetrate his way into the lane like Hayden Kho, and with the supporting cast can beat the starting 5 of any other high school team in the country, it seems that the Squires are on their way for a rare 18–0.
But not if the Altalettes can help it. When was the last time the NCAA relied on the UPHSD Altalettes for a win to prevent a sweep? Never?
As for other non-basketball but still related to the league matters, I guess this would be the first time that the NCAA first round will end later than the UAAP's. I don't know if the organizers knew about this, but the second round will take an insane amount of time to finish, plus the fact that the NCAA is on its way on instituting playoffs for tied teams irregardless of their standings in the top 4.
If this is the case, they should probably have more games played on a gamedate, or allocate more gamedates. This will mean that some games won't be televised (which doesn't seem like a good idea), or that they'd have to use another arena aside from the San Juan Arena, considering that it is also used by the UAAP for their men's and women's games.
If we'd go through the usual scheduling of four games per gamedate, the second round will end around at the end of September or early October, and the playoffs might end during the semestral break! I don't know if this is by design or if they didn't see it but this is something worth looking at.