Sunday, July 31, 2011


History Lesson:
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.

MIT Storyline : The Cardinals finally got win number one, against an undermanned EAC team that had nobody to guard the interior, especially when fouls began to be dealt. The question now though is whether or not the victory will be a launching point for Mapua, or if it was just a random fluke. If the Cardinals still have aspirations of making the Final Four, it better be the former, as they have a lot of ground to make up, and matches with San Beda and San Sebastian to come before the first round is over.
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.

AU Storyline : The Arellano Chiefs have continued to regress after a 5th place finish in 2009. But if last season's 6-10 finish, after an 8-10 debut, was a step back, this 1-4 start must be several backwards bounds. Part of the reason for their failure is, as I keep mentioning, an over-reliance on a zone defense that every team in the league seems to have figured out, as seen by the percentages they're shooting when playing Arellano. Coupled with a seemingly nonexistent bench, which appears to be a move made by choice, with head coach Leo Isaac looking to give the majority of the minutes to his starters, all of whom average more than 30 minutes, and it's easy to see why this team often comes up short in the second half.
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

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