- The Golden Stags swept the Heavy Bombers in their three encounters last year, twice in regulation (72-59, 64-59) and then once more in the stepladder round (61-52) for the right to face San Beda in the Finals. Tight defense by San Sebastian locked the JRU shooters down, preventing them from breaking the 60 point barrier even once.
- The Stags lived on the line, doubling the number of trips JRU took to the line, 31.67 to 15.67. San Sebastian also controlled the glass, getting a 21 to 11.67 offensive rebound advantage.
Over the break, the Heavy Bombers jettisoned foreign players Joe Etame and Nchotu Njei and renewed their emphasis on the full-court press. If forced into a half-court, they have a set of undersized post players and shooters that could give less disciplined teams some trouble.
Stat to watch: Turnover points; the Stags actually beat out JRU in this category last year, but if JRU is going to win, they'll need to blow out opponents in this category
Player to watch: Alex Almario; Almario quietly turned into Steve Nash over the summer, averaging 5.1 assists in the summer league, more than doubling his season average of 2.35. Should the team find itself stuck in the halfcourt, they'll need Almario to be dynamic and find the open man.
The Stags stumble out of the gate this season, with their star player, Calvin Abueva, sitting out the first match due to a suspension carrying over from the Finals of last season. Not only will they lose their top scorer and rebounder, Abueva's speed and ability to finish in transition makes him a highly effective press breaker. Without him, newly annointed head coach Topex Robinson will have to cross his fingers and rely on Ian Sangalang and shooters Jonathan Semira and Ronald Pascual to carry the day.
Stat to watch: 3pt FG%; Pascual, Semira and team captain Anthony Del Rio simply need to knock down open shots, which they will get if they move the ball well. If the triples don't fall though, they need to be aware enough to throw it down into the post to Ian Sangalang instead forcing shots up.
Player to watch: Ian Sangalang; the quietest of the Pinatubo Trio, Sangalang averaged just 6.39 points, 7 rebounds and 1.22 blocks in 23.28 minutes last season. Over the summer though, thanks to the graduation of guys like Gilbert Bulawan and Rey Gorospe, Sangalang has gotten to shine, norming 14.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.9 blocks in 28 minutes. If he keeps this up in the NCAA, he'll be a serious contender for Most Improved Player
Prediction: JRU Heavy Bombers