UAAP Season 75 Outlook: The LONG SHOTS: UP Fighting Maroons & UE Red Warriors

Jett Manuel is back to help UP's cause, but JM Noble
 won't be back for the UE Red Warriors.
(compressed images from Arvin Lim/


Who's out:
Vergel Evangelista, Don Fortu, Moriah Gingerich, Carlo Gomez, Miggy Maniego, Martin Pascual, and Mark Juruena

Who's new:
Returnees: Diony Hipolito, Mark Lopez, and Alvin Padilla
Newbies: Raul Suyod, Chris Ball, Joseph Gallarza, and Renzar Asilum

Season 74 Record & Finish: 2-12, dead last

2012 Filoil Record & Finish: 1-7, dead last in Group A

Preseason Positives:
Surprisingly enough, the numbers reveal that the UP Fighting Maroons weren't half-bad on defense. They topped the entire Filoil cast in fewest three-pointers allowed per game (just 2.5 opponent threes per match), and blocks per game (5.9bpg). At 15.4 turnovers per game, UP was actually not as turnover-prone as one might think. In fact, they turned the tables on their opponents, forcing roughly 19 turnovers per outing.

Preseason Concerns:
So UP played pretty solid defense, and defense wins championships. Sadly, however, UP won't win the championship this year, at least not with the way they've been playing offense. The Maroons were dead last in the Filoil field in points scored with just 59.4 per game. They were also the worst UAAP team in the preseason when it came to field goal % and three-point %, shooting just 34.1% and 23.6% respectively. And since they do have a penchant for settling for outside shots, the Maroons also didn't go to the line much. Their foes shot about 9 more charities than they did per game. UP's opposition, on average, made about 16 FTs per game, while the Diliman five connected on just 8.6. And despite having Alinko Mbah and a promising new big man in Raul Suyod (or is it Soyud?), they were also -7 in rebounds per game. Their playmaking also left a lot to be desired -- dishing out 13.3apg was last among UAAP squads.

What should work in S75:
Alinko Mbah was great last year in terms of rebounding and patrolling the paint on defense, but his offense wasn't up to snuff. Carlo Gomez was perhaps UP's best legit low post threat, but he's gone now. This is where Raul Suyod comes in. Suyod was UP's third-best scorer in the preseason while also leading the team in rebounding. His weakness, it seems, is his penchant for foul trouble. He was third among all UAAP players in terms of fouls per game in the preseason.

The return of Alvin Padilla and Mark Lopez should add more wing options/threats for coach Ricky Dandan. In the event Mike Silungan and/or Jett Manuel get cold, both Padilla and Lopez can take on the scoring cudgels.

Another potentially exciting prospect for the Iskos is the development of youngsters Paolo Romero, Renzar Asilum, and Manuel. Manuel, last season's Most Improved Player, should see even more playing time this season even if Padilla and Lopez play pretty much the same way he does. Romero is undersized at the 4 or 5, but his grit is nothing to scoff at, while Asilum has a lot of upside. Look for these former RP-Youth standouts to have many bright moments this season.

What will be tough in S75:
For UP to match or improve on its Season 74 standing, they'll have to score more consistently. Mike Silungan is still going to be their best scoring threat, but he's not the type of player who can carry a team UNLESS he shoots the lights out. He's not a prototype facilitator who can make plays from anywhere. His biggest weapon is his shooting, which is not saying much since, at least in terms of percentages, he's not exactly Mr. Velvet Touch. He did finish in the top 5 in the Filoil tourney in terms of 3pt field goals made per game, but he shot at an un-amazing 30% clip. On average, that's maybe 2 converted threes out of 6-7 tries per game. Volume shooter, but volume misses, too.

The re-entry of Padilla and Lopez might also bring in some unexpected challenges -- like whose minutes will get slashed. I definitely think Manuel and Silungan should be the main options in the wing rotation, which means Padilla can be the top reliever. Both Lopez and Jelo Montecastro (yet another wingman) can pinch-hit at the PG spot, but that means less time for UP's other playmakers (Mike Gamboa and Asilum). Looks like coach Dandan will really have to evaluate his rotation. Oh, and where is Mark Juruena anyway?

Will Alvin Padilla's return be a boon or
bane for the Maroons?
(image by Carl Sta. Ana/Filoil FLying V)

In conclusion:
UP will not make the Final Four this season. Of course, that's barring injuries and other fortuitous events, but, the way things stand, they might not even win more than 3 or 4 games. We will see improved defense from the Maroons, but they will find it tough to score consistently. They also will be wanting of a true leader (my fingers are crossed for you, Jett Manuel).

Looks like UP will, again, finish at 8th spot.


Who's out:
Paul Zamar, Biboy Enguio, Von Chavez, Lucas Tagarda, Nico Montelibano, RR De Leon, JM Noble, Lord Casajeros, BJ Zosa, and Jess Sabangan

Who's new:
Returnees: Sam Razon
Newbies: Dan Alberto, Ian Valdez, Gene Belleza, Ivan Hernandez, Roy Villarias, Carlo Duncil, JP Mena, Mark Olayon, and Pedrito Gallanza, Jr.

Season 74 Record & Finish: 3-11, 7th place

2012 Filoil Record & Finish: 3-5, 6th place in Group A

Preseason Positives:
The Red warriors can look back on several good things that happened this past preseason. The troubling thing is most of those good things are because of just two guys – Roi Sumang and Adrian Santos. Not surprisingly, Sumang led UE in scoring with 14.6ppg, which was tops among all point guards in the Filoil meet. He was also the top playmaker bar none with 5.5apg while turning the ball over just 2.5 times per game. That gives him a 2-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, which is rare in this part of the globe. He was also a pretty good defender, netting 1.3 swipes per game. Sumang is the biggest reason why UE was the second-best playmaking UAAP team (15.6apg) next to NU.

The other guy UE coach Jerry Codiñera might be able to count on is forward Adrian Santos, who is in his third playing year. Like he did in Season 74, Santos was near the top of the heap in field goal shooting (61.9%), and rebounds (7.6rpg) during the Filoil wars. He’s a good reason why the Warriors topped all other UAAP teams in rebounding with 45.1 a game.

Preseason Concerns:
Apart from Sumang and Santos, however, there are certainly a lot of chinks in the Warriors’ collective armor. When measured against all other UAAP teams, UE was the worst in points allowed (74.1ppg), which can probably be explained by them allowing their foes to shoot 40.8% from the field and 27.3% from beyond the arc, both dead last among UAAP squads. Coach Codiñera’s boys also need to sharpen their sights from the charity stripe, since they shot just 58.5% from the line. And, unlike UP, UE was quite turnover-prone at 18.4 miscues per game.

What should work in S75:
Despite the risk of sounding foolish in the face of other awesome floor generals like RR Garcia, LA Revilla, and Jeric Fortuna, I’m calling it right now – Roi Sumang is going to be the best point guard of Season 75. That’s in terms of numbers, at least. He’ll also be pretty much the only reason for any non-UE fan to tune in to any UE game, unless the Warriors happen to be playing against one’s own school, of course.

Still, like last season, nobody can put it past these fearless Warriors to spring a few upsets and beat up a few giants. They did that against the Green Archers and the Tamaraws last year, and they repeated over DLSU this past summer. In short, one shouldn’t expect big things out of the Recto-based five, but nobody should drop his guard either. This is the saving grace of a team replete with young talents who are willing to grind it out in every match. That’s the kind of team coach Codiñera has built, and that’s the kind of team the other seven teams must prepare for.

What will be tough in S75:
The other side of the coin when it comes to a young team, of course, is inexperience. As great as Roi Sumang will be, I’m pretty sure he’ll fumble in some crucial moments – maybe a pass too late here, or maybe a hurried shot there. Ditto with the other guys on the team. This is why, despite definitely not being the number one option on the team, not having someone like JM Noble is significant. In what could've been his last tour of duty with UE, he would've been able to fulfill the role of “old wise man” in their scheme of things.

Another stumbling block this season will be UE’s depth, or lack thereof. The biggest reason why only Roi Sumang and Adrian Santos figured prominently in the preseason player rankings is that the rest of UE’s roster is filled with players of promise, not necessarily players of, umm, awesomeness. Don’t get me wrong. When compared to many other collegiate programs in the country or in the metro, UE is stacked, but when measured against Ateneo, FEU, DLSU, UST, or NU, it’s undeniable that UE’s depth is, well, not so deep. The danger with that, of course, is that this could be the Roi Sumang show, which is not the worst thing in the world, but it’s certainly not what will propel the Warriors back into title contention.

For Season 75, Roi Sumang is UE.
(image by Carl Sta. Ana/Filoil Flying V Sports)

In conclusion:
UE will be an interesting team. I doubt if they’ll get blown out left and right, but I also doubt if they can win more than a handful of games. Right now, I’ll consider it an upset if they lost to UP, but it’ll also be as much of an upset if the Warriors beat anyone else, which they will, just not often. UE should win about 4 or 5 games. Anything past that is reason to bust out the champagne.

They won’t be doormats this season, but there are a lot of reasons why they’re underdogs. 7th.

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