UAAP Season 75 Outlook: The DARK HORSES: Adamson Soaring Falcons & UST Growling Tigers

Can Alex Nuyles and Jeric Teng tow their respective
teams back into the Final Four?
(images compressed are from Arvin Lim/


Who's out:
Lester Alvarez, Jerick Cañada, Janus Lozada, Jan Colina, Austin Manyara, Genesis Manuel

Who's new:
Ar-Raouf Julkipli, Jericho Cruz, Eric Cabigas, Gian Abrigo, Celedonio Trollano, James Deans

Season 74 Record & Finish: 10-4, seeded second in the Final Four, but lost twice to the FEU Tamaraws

2012 Filoil Record & Finish: 4-4, tied for fourth in Group B, but because of the win-over-the-other provision, College of St. Benilde was the one that advanced.

Preseason Positives:
One big concern for the Falcons going into this UAAP season is the point guard position. It’s very difficult, after all, to replace a duo as dynamic as the one Adamson had with Lester Alvarez and Jerick Cañada. Ryan Monteclaro is next in line for the Falcons, but he doesn’t exactly send shivers down anybody’s spine. So far, he’s accounted relatively well, especially in terms of taking care of the basketball. With him as coach Leo Austria’s chief playmaker, Adamson ended the preseason as the team with the third fewest turnovers per game, and as the third best UAAP team in terms of assists. Does this mean Alvarez and Cañada won’t be missed? Of course they’ll be missed, but maybe their absence won’t be as bad as once thought.

Another good thing about Adamson in the preseason was that they played reasonably good defense. They were the best among all the UAAP teams in terms of forcing turnovers, and were near the top in both the blocks and steals categories. This is mainly because of the development of Rodney Brondial at the slot, and the emergence of newcomer Jericho Cruz as a good on-ball defender.

Most impressive, however, was how Adamson enjoyed a plus 4 difference in terms of scoring average. The Falcons averaged 71.0ppg, while allowing just 66.9 for the opposition. This means that Adamson has what it takes to be a winning team, but, of course, that alone doesn’t automatically mean they WILL be a winning team.

Preseason Concerns:
For one thing, despite the improvement of Brondial and the generally solid play of Eric Camson, the Falcons still floundered in terms of rebounding. They were the worst UAAP team in terms of rebounds, and were, on average, -4 against the opposition. When one considers that they didn’t even battle the bigs of Ateneo, DLSU, and UST in the Filoil tourney, it seems their rebounding average of 40 per might sink even further when the UAAP wars commence.

Despite generally scoring better than their opponents over the summer, Adamson also showed a disturbing propensity to sputter from the charity stripe and from behind the arc. At just 56% shooting, the Falcons were the worst UAAP team in terms of free throw accuracy. They were also near the bottom of the rankings when it came to three-point shooting with a paltry 23.9% success rate.

Still, the most significant concern coming off the preseason is the underperformance of Alex Nuyles. With the exit of most of Adamson’s core after last season, the onus is on Nuyles to really take over. He has, however, so far been overtaken. In the preseason, the once prolific wingman averaged just 8.5ppg while shooting 33% from the floor and 46% from the line. He also had the second-highest turnover rate on the team. Needless to say, those aren’t the numbers the San Marcelino faithful are expecting from their undisputed leader.

What should work in S75:
Aside from Alvarez and Cañada, two other names no longer on the roster are Jan Colina and Janus Lozada. Both were highly regarded players, and they had their share of brilliance in the past few years. They will be missed, but maybe not as much as one might assume. This is because their exodus leaves just enough room for Brondial and Cruz to blossom.

Big things are expected from
newcomer Jericho Cruz.
(image by Carl Sta. Ana/Filoil Flying V Sports)
The bleach-haired Brondial showed his top-tier potential by averaging about 11 points and 8 rebounds in the preseason, both stats just second to Camson’s numbers. For his part, Cruz has been as good as advertised, too. He normed better than 10 points per outing to go along with about 2 dimes and a team-leading 1.3 steals per game. Brondial should now start at center, especially since Austin Manyara won’t be returning. Cruz will probably start, too, unless Nuyles slides to the two and streak-shooter Roider Cabrera starts at the three.

No matter what scheme coach Austria uses, though, he should still have a really solid starting unit for each game. Imagine a first five composed of Brondial, Camson, Nuyles, Cruz, and Monteclaro. Not too shabby, right? Whether that’s championship or even Final Four material, however, is still up for discussion.

Having said that, what the Falcons may lack in depth should be compensated to some degree by their Final Four experience last season and the high level of coaching Leo Austria is sure to bring. The Falcons are going to be plenty competitive in Season 75.

What will be tough in S75:
Being competitive, however, is never really enough to get high praise from all corners. There will be many moments in the next few months when Adamson fans will be left wondering about the “what ifs” of last season, which many viewed was the Falcons’ best chance at really vying for a title. After beating Ateneo (finally, after a gazillion and one tries), everyone and his granny thought Adamson had finally figured things out, that they were good enough to dethrone the Blue Eagles. In reality, maybe they WERE good enough, but they never really found out because they squandered their twice-to-beat edge against FEU. It’s this mentality of crumbling under the pressure that really gets Adamson down, and, coupled with the dearth of talent, the proverbial mountain might just be too high even for these Soaring Falcons.

In conclusion:
Like I wrote, Adamson will be a competitive team, but they won’t be a winning team. They should still be a notch above both UE and UP, but, unless Alex Nuyles rediscovers his old fighting form, they might not figure prominently in the Final Four race. I expect Adamson’s win ceiling to be at 7 games, which is a couple of wins away from a Final Four berth. 6th place.


Who's out:
Chris Camus, John Sheriff, Ed Aytona, Aljohn Ungria, Kent Lao, Ron Javier

Who's new:
Returnees: Clark Bautista, Aljon Mariano, and Eduardo Daquioag
Newbies: Janrey Garrido, Errol Villar, Robert Haingan, and Ken Mamaril

Season 74 Record & Finish: 8-6, advanced to the Final Four where they got eliminated by Ateneo

2012 Filoil Record & Finish: 5-3, advanced to the quarterfinals, but got eliminated by NU.

Preseason Positives:
Despite the absence of energy man Chris Camus, UST still defied expectations by being a good rebounding team. That’s mainly due to Karim Abdul averaging nearly 10 boards a game, and returnee Aljon Mariano being surprisingly effective on the glass, collecting a little more than 6 caroms per outing.

The return of Mariano also added another dimension to UST’s offense, as the slasher brought his devil-may-care penetration to the fore. The result? UST led all UAAP teams in free throw attempts and free throws made per game. The Tigers attempted about 24 charities a game, converting about two-thirds of that amount. That means they made 16 extra points per game, which should be significant since they were mainly a jump-shooting team last season.

Another preseason plus was being one of the top 5 Filoil teams in scoring at 70.6ppg, but, knowing how coach Pido Jarencio is fixated with lighting up the scoreboard, that shouldn’t be much of a shock. At least the España fans can still expect a lot of buckets this coming season. I guess some things never do change.

Preseason Concerns:
Another thing that hasn’t changed is UST’s penchant for turning the ball over. The Tigers were the second most turnover-prone UAAP team in the preseason with 18.1 per game. And the times when they did have the ball? They weren’t particularly stellar, either.

UE and UP were the only teams who fared worse from the field, and a 25.8% clip from rainbow country isn’t exactly inspiring. Considering how UST attempted nearly 19 threes a game during the summer? Uh oh.

Another “uh oh?” There’s a big donut-hole where Camus used to be. The athletic Fil-Am was one of the best interior defenders last season, and one of the more immediate results of his absence was UST becoming the worst shot-blocking UAAP team in the Filoil tourney. Consequently, the Black & Gold became the second worst defending UAAP team, too, allowing their foes to score about 69ppg.

What should work in S75:
Having said that, UST still made the quarterfinals of the preseason tournament by winning 4 of their 8 elimination round games. Among their victims were UE and UP. Backed by a solid starting unit, the Tigers should continue to be at least marginally better than both the Warriors and the Maroons. Imagine Abdul at center, Kevin Ferrer at PF, Mariano as swingman, Jeric Teng at off-guard, and Jeric Fortuna calling the plays. Rock-solid. Championship class? Hmmm…

I guess if Aljon Mariano does bust out the way Jojo Duncil did in 2006, then perhaps UST can make the Final Four. But will he? Early signs indicate he just might. He averaged more than 15 points per outing while shooting about 45% from the field in the preseason. The only UAAP players who scored better were Ray Parks and Greg Slaughter. Pretty good company, right? I doubt he’ll supplant Parks as the best SF in the league, but if he continues to be effective, then the other 7 teams should definitely watch out.

Couple Mariano’s production with a refined Abdul and an accurate Fortuna, and UST can give any team a run for its money. Abdul should average at least close to a double-double this season, and Fortuna should continue his hot shooting form from the summer, where he led all UAAP players with 50% accuracy from three-land. Factor in the experience from the last season’s Final Four run and anything can happen.

Jeric Fortuna wants another Final Four trip in this,
his last playing year in the UAAP.
(image by Carl Sta. Ana/Filoil Flying V Sports)
What will be tough in S75:
What will happen, though, is that the shallowness of UST’s bench will be its undoing. Sure, Clark Bautista is back and Melo Afuang isn’t exactly the worst big man in the country, but the talent really tapers off relative to the depth of other UAAP squads like Ateneo, FEU, DLSU, and NU.

The thing UST’s got going for itself is its trademark streakiness. With Fortuna, Teng, and Bautista, coach Jarencio has a group of shooters who can erase a double-digit deficit in a flash. That same group, however, can also shoot the Tigers out of any game if left untempered.

And this is where Chris Camus’s absence really hurts, because even in the moments when UST suffered a shooting drought, he could keep them in the game thru sheer athleticism and will. If Camus were still here, UST would be a cinch for the Final Four. Without him? UST might be outside looking in.

In conclusion:
UST is too streaky to be taken for granted. When they’re on, they’re really on. And for how many games will they be ON? Maybe 6, 7 at best. By the middle of the season, we’ll all talk about how UST is in the thick of the Final Four race, but when the dust settles, we’ll see España flooded with tears again. 5th spot.

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1 Comment

Hmmm interesting observation. Hehehehe guess that's why we call it observation. Vamos Tigres ! Number one in standing sa first round. Keep it up!