The Chiefs and the Cardinals split their two meetings last season, with Mapua drawing first blood, courtesy of a 36-23 first half lead that they never relinquished. Behind strong performances by Macky Acosta and Erwin Cornejo, Mapua bucked 16 turnover points by Arellano, winning 73-51. The second meeting between these two in Season 86 was more dramatic, and much tighter, with Arellano finishing on top, 76-72, behind 21 points by Ronnel Del Rosario. Erwin Cornejo's 29 points were wasted, and a brawl nearly broke out at the end of the game.
Stat to Watch : Mapua makes and takes the most triples in the league, averaging 6.4 makes off 22.6 attempts per game, for a 28.32% clip. Good news for them though, the Arellano Chiefs possess the worst field goal defense in the league, allowing teams to make 48.55% of their shots, including 37.86% of their triples, thanks to their fondness for the zone defense. If the Chiefs allow guys like Jonathan Banal and Josan Nimes to find their rhythm, this could be over early for Arellano.
Player to Watch : Making their first win sweeter for the Cardinals was the fact that they didn't need to rely too heavily on rookie Yousef Taha, who actually finished with a poor showing, 6 points on 2 of 6 shooting, plus 4 rebounds. Given the thinness of Arellano's rotation, let alone their front court, expect Taha to bounce back in a big way, as long as he doesn't find himself embroiled in conflict with Gerald Lapuz.
Stat to Watch : One of the prescribed ways to beat a zone defense is ball movement, swinging the ball from side to side, or from side to a big man in the gaps of the zone, to get an easy look. Clearly, the other teams are well aware of this, as they've averaged 23.4 assists against the Chiefs, a high in the NCAA. That means the Chiefs are possibly not rotating fast enough to cover the open man, or that they need to be a bit more disruptive, whether that means gambling for steals or collapsing on certain guys to force turnovers for easy points.
Player to Watch : Given the fact that teams have been focusing on stopping Andrian Celada, a Mythical Five selection from last season, Vergel Zulueta has gotten the benefit of more than a few open looks. He's leading Arellano in scoring, with 17.8 points, while shooting 49% from the field, while also pulling down 4.4 rebounds and dishing out 3.4 assists. With him and Allan Mangahas on the other side, it's safe to say we can expect a shootout from these two players.
Prediction: Mapua Cardinals