This season's guest team makes their first appearance against the Blazers. Obviously, there's no real history between these two teams (yet) but both fared the worst in this summer's Fil-Oil Preseason Tournament, going winless in their respective groups. Is there a chance for either of these two to go winless in the NCAA as well? Quite possibly, thus, the importance of this game.
Coach Richard Del Rosario blew up last season's squad and opted to go with a Team B call-up laden line-up. Expect the first few games of the season to be a feeling-out period, as the team tries different combinations to see who can actually play come crunchtime. While last season's rookie of the year Carlo Lastimosa will still be option #1 barring any unforseen circumstances, Del Rosario will need to discover who his other options will be. He'll also need to be extra creative to neutralize or at least play down the size advantage of his opponents over his relatively small team.
Stat to watch: Rebounding; Jan Tan and Tim McCoy will be doing most of the work underneath once again, almost by default, really. Del Rosario got some good effort from Tyler Fikowski, but he needs another year of residency before he can play. Should the Blazers get outhustled on the boards, victory will be much harder to achieve.
Player to watch: Jonathan Grey, Grey was second to Lastimosa in terms of scoring in the summer, averaging 10 per game. Playing just 15 minutes an outing, Grey shot a spectacular 61% from the field. If his game translates to the NCAA, he will take much pressure off of Lastimosa.
The Pirates join the NCAA as a guest-team on the wrong year, with their top two scorers from last season, Regie Rimando and Joseph Abaya playing out all their eligibility years. Coupled with a lack of size, the Pirates will need to rely on their shooting and defense to take down teams that similarly have a limited ceiling. They had an inauspicious introduction to NCAA play, when they started their Fil-Oil Preseason Campaign with a scuffle-filled game against the reigning champs, the San Beda Red Lions, but hopefully they will have learned already from that encounter how the game is played in the big leagues.
Stat to watch: Field goal percentage allowed; in the pre-season, the Pirates were like a defensive sieve, allowing a whopping 46% of opponents' shots to go in (By comparison, CSB allowed 44.4%). If the Pirates haven't adjusted yet to the higher quality of their opponents, they'll be in for a long season
Player to watch: Floricel Guevarra; in the absence of Rimando and Abaya, it was Guevarra who stepped up over the summer, norming 16.2 points in 25.7 minutes. If he can carve out a path similar to what Andrian Celada of Arellano did last season, his squad could see some success, and he could contend for a Mythical 5 spot.
Prediction: College of Saint Benilde Blazers