September 30, 2013

UAAP Final Four postmortem

What has never been done before in the UAAP has finally happened: the #4 seed has beaten the #1 seed. You see, this happened in the NCAA before when #4 seed Letran defeated #1 seed San Sebastian (ah, the bad blood rivalry) in 1999. Like 2013 UST, 1999 Letran's seed was masked by the fact that their best players weren't able to play, for one reason or another (in Letran's case, national team duty; in UST's case, injuries).

UST wasn't your ordinary #4 seed. The Tigers had a 2-0 start until Jeric Teng got injured. Teng returned, ironically against NU, but UST still lost. Then, UST won 6 of their last 7 games, with the only loss coming from La Salle.

As for La Salle, the Archers actually had a losing record at the end of the first round, with a 3-4 record, losing their season opener to the Tigers; UST was even better at 4-3. But the green school from Taft was undefeated in the second round, and defeated FEU (which were unbeaten in the first round) twice to progress to the Finals.

If there's one thing going for the Green Archers, it is depth. Sauler has the luxury of going 8 men deep on his rotation, which is shallow, while letting the likes of Jarelan Tampus and even LA Revilla rot away at the end of the bench, only to contribute when called upon.

All of this after the powers that be in Taft changed coaches, from Gee Abanilla (now coaching #1 seed Petron in the PBA) to long-time assistant Juno Sauler. Sauler, who has not coached (as head coach) on the big leagues before, was the wild card. Most people knew him as the brains behind the La Salle bench, or any other bench he was a part of for that matter; what no one knew is how it'll change once he's the one calling the shots.

This brings us to FEU. Undefeated in the first round, then suffered an inglorious exit as the #3 seed. Nico Salva tweets aside, FEU lives and dies with Terrence Romeo. In the first round, observers pointed out that Romeo and RR Garcia sharing the ball won't go on forever. And we have to thank Nico Salva for pointing out the obvious: Terrence Romeo is like a black hole on the court that sucks the life out of every basketball (the ball per se). It was unfortunate for the Tamaraws to go out this way; Nash Racela deserved better.

Halftime! I owe you a Tricia Robredo pic since I left her out here.

Now we're into the powers that be: as Sportsmaryosep has previously pointed out, Ateneo has MVP, La Salle has Danding and NU has the Sys. UE even has the Tans, FEU has Boss Anton and his cadre of thugs, Adamson has the patrons of the beer house at Ayala Blvd., and UP has the entire cabal of the Napoles underworld: but who's financing UST? Does a part of your Sunday mass offering goes into the coffers that pay Pido Jarencio?

Ah yes Pido. Every journalist's dream come true. Even he has an awesome parody account:

Chot Reyes, the national team coach, has this to say:
If I was a player, all things being equal, I'd LOVE to play for Pido. You'd look at him as a father you wish you had. Kevin Ferrer, it turned out, made the right choice. Aggressively recruited from almost every school that has pockets as deep as the Marianas Trench, Ferrer opted to let his talents stay at Espana. Ferrer shunned the bright lights of Katipunan, Taft and Savemore. You'd have to give it to this kid, the true blue, or should I say, the glowing goldie of a growling Tiger.

And finally, the NU Bulldogs. The Bulldogs have to be everyone's favorite UAAP team aside from their alma mater. Even after SM transformed it into a college sports juggernaut, winning in all sports events that matters: men's basketball, women's basketball and cheerdancing, people still wanted NU to win. Maybe it's the stoic approach of Eric Altamirano, or their fans don't rub off the bad way (except when they point out that their school has escalators). They even got the son of Bobby Parks, who could've easily been playing at the NCAA (USA) right now, as not just their alpha male, but the entire league's as well.

Basketball is tailor made for a superstar to take his team to the next level: after all, there are only five teammates on the court. Now Parks has to consider maxing out his UAAP eligibility and chase for the elusive title, go to the NBA (via the NCAA or even the D-League), or go to the PBA.

If there's one thing going for Parks, it is that the last impression of people while playing college ball won't be their last impression of you. Mike Cortez infamously allegedly (HA!) sold the game, LA Tenorio cramped up as DLSU blew out Ateneo. Parks cramping up won't be the last time we'd see him.

UST and La Salle are in the finals. They owe it to us to deliver a finals that we will tell our grandchildren on the night before the 1st Hunger Games.

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