UAAP Season 74 Outlook: NU Bulldogs

(image from wikipedia.org)
Will the NU Bulldogs ambush the UAAP with the help of Bobby Ray Parks, or will their inexperience guarantee another tour of the dog pound?

Filoil Results:
NU over UST, 60-52
NU over SBC, 83-80
NU over AU, 55-47
NU over LPU, 77-70
NU lost to SSC, 74-81
NU lost to AdMU, 66-71
NU lost to DLSU, 74-81
Record: 
4 wins & 3 losses

Who's new?
Bobby Ray Parks, Kyle Neypes, Cedrick Labing-isa, Angelo Alolino, Denice Villamor
These four have the potential to instantly change the fortunes of NU on the hardwood. Henry Sy's takeover already boosted the school on all fronts, but these five fantastic finds will help cement NU's status as a force to be reckoned with. Everyone not living under a stone already knows who Parks is, and what he can do (which will be detailed later). Neypes and Labing-isa both came from UST High School, where they dueled with the Kiefer Ravena-led Ateneo Blue Eaglets in the Season 72 Juniors Final Four, losing despite the twice-to-beat edge. Alolino is a rookie point guard from the UPHD Altalettes program. He was part of the most recent incarnation of the Philippine U18 squad, along with Ravena, Von Pessumal and Xavier's Jeron Teng. VIllamor is a transferee from Rizal Tech, and he should fit in nicely sharing time with Neypes at the 4 position.

Bobby Ray Parks was born to dominate on the basketball court
(image by Jan Dizon/Filoil Flying V Sports)
Who'll be top dogs?
Emmanuel Mbe & Bobby Ray Parks
Mbe averaged a double-double (13.4ppg & 11.7rpg) last season, and there's no real reason he shouldn't deliver in the same statistical nieghborhood in Season 74. The 6'7" Cameroonian is a solid inside force who's a threat on both ends. Many people believe that Ateneo's Greg Slaughter will dominate the paint this year, but I believe Mbe will be the best overall slotman when Season 74 ends. 

If Parks plays, he will dominate. There are no two ways about it. He is just that good, and whereas Mbe will be the team's anchor, Parks will be its propeller. It will all begin with him. He's such a golden find that he led the Bulldogs in most stat categories during the Filoil tourney (20.9ppg, 7.3rpg, 4.1apg, 1.3spg, 48% FG, 87%FT). He's going to light up the statsheet, and IF the UAAP had an 8-cat fantasy league, he'd be the #1 ranked player. Needless to say, where Parks goes, so will the Bulldogs. To borrow a term from Cesar Milan, the "Dog Whisperer," Parks is the "pack-leader."

How bad will NU be if Parks is deemed ineligible?
Not bad at all
By the time July 9 arrives, we'd have long known Parks's Season 74 fate, but will he really be the be-all and end-all many people put him up to be? He will be the best Bulldog on the floor, if not the overall best player in Season 74, but his absence will not necessarily mean NU will go crashing out of contention. Remember that without Parks, Neypes and Labing-isa, NU was just a win shy of the Final Four last year. And that was with an erratic crew led by Kokoy Hermosisima and Jewel Ponferrada. The exodus of those two players now gives the chance for other talents to shine, especially former Letran Squire Glenn Khobuntin, who was the #2 guy in the Filoil league, averaging 10ppg and 3rpg in only 16 minutes of play per game. This team will still be tough to handle even if Parks is not cleared to play, but coach Eric Altamirano will definitely prefer having him around.

What will help them?
Athleticism, Coaching, Depth
No team in college basketball right now is more athletic than these Bulldogs. The innate athleticism of Mbe and Parks, along with the youthful exuberance of the rest of the squad (they only have 3 seniors), will be a trademark in Season 74. Don't be surprised if there are at least 2 dunks each game from NU (Mbe and Parks could each get one easily), and don't be surprised too if their athleticism leads to the hustle necessary to be serious champ contenders.

Eric Altamirano brings a new mindset and a lot more "credibility" to the table for NU. Eric Gonzales did a swell job last year with what he was given, but Altamirano should have little trouble building and improving on those solid foundations. Thanks to his coaching, NU enjoyed a fast start in the 2011 Filoil campaign, winning their first 4 games, including pulling the blanket over powerhouse San Beda, 83-80. Altamirano steered his national quintet to a respectable 4th-place finish in 2009 and "Coach E" would do well to produce similar results with NU.

As they are now, NU is one of the deepest teams in the league. Not really surprising with the amount of support the Sys have thrown at the team. The Bulldogs' starting unit will probably feature Mbe, Neypes, Parks, Ajeet Singh and Labing-isa, which is pretty solid already. The depth comes along with a talented group of second-stringers: 6'6" Spencer "Jano" Eman, Villamor, Khobuntin, Alolino and then Joseph Terso. There's hardly a dip in terms of size and skill, so it should be a fun year for NU.


What will make it difficult?
Inexperience, Playmaking, Defense
The peril of being young is being inexperienced. NU will be the classic example of this. They are bristling with talent and athleticism, but are definitely short on experience. This is the biggest reason why NU MIGHT fall short of the Final Four this year. Teams like Ateneo, FEU, DLSU and Adamson all have experienced cores who should prove to be mentally tough enough to handle anything NU unleashes. NU's innate talent will make them very dangerous, and might even enable them to steal a Final Four spot, but when the chips fall, don't count on NU to make the lion's share of big plays.

Can Cedrick Labing-isa help steer he Bulldogs in the right direction?
(image by Carl Sta. Ana/Filoil Flying V Sports)
One key uncertainty right now for NU is who will they start at PG (and get most of the minutes)? They have three talented floor generals in the veteran Terso and newbies Labing-isa and Alolino. The two young 'uns gobbled up most of the minutes in the Filoil preseason, with combined averages of 13.7ppg, 5.6rpg, BUT only 2.3 apg. The Labing-isa-Alolino tandem could be Altamirano's answer to this conundrum, but that only means the chief playmaker will still be Parks. The "truest" PG in this trio is definitely Terso (7.6ppg, 2.4apg in S73), but, sadly for him, it seems he's on his way to being the afterthought after playing an average of only 9 minutes this preseason.

In their first four Filoil games, NU only allowed their opponents to score 62.3ppg. Those were all wins. In their last three matches, NU allowed the opposition to score a mean of 77.7ppg. They lost all three. NU can shoot, can rebound, can run fast and jump high, but they'll have to be able to contain the top UAAP teams if they no longer want to be outside-looking-in. 

Glenn Khobuntin and Bulldogs might barge into the Final Four this season
(image by Jan Dizon/Filoil Flying V Sports)
Will they make the FInal Four?
Fair chance
Considering Pipo Noundou's injury, Reil Cervantes foregoing his final playing year, the absence of Ryan Buenafe, and a Green Archers squad laden with freshies and sophs, NU has a good window to make the Final Four. Having said that, I think when the dust settles, NU will still not win enough games to book a semifinals ticket. The Bulldogs are still a year away from that, BUT they have so much talent that they might just will their way to prove me wrong.

I'm seeding them as
#5 -- The Parks-Mbe duo will probably be the most potent 1-2 punch in college basketball, but, as a team, NU still has some growing up to do. They remind me of the 1993-1994 Orlando Magic, who barged into the playoffs for the first time that season, but lost to the Indiana Pacers via a sweep in the first round. NU will have a year full of highlights, but they are still a ways away from ending up with any jewelry.


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3 Comment
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Nice article!

Balas
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Whoah! Nice one. Godspeed!

#GOBULLDOGS

Balas