|There's strength in numbers for both teams, as this game could go down to a test of depth (pic source)|
Since the 2 > 3 season of 2007, when the DLSU Green Archers upset the up-until-then undefeated UE Red Warriors for the championship, the ADMU Blue Eagles have won 7 of their last 8 encounters in the UAAP tournament versus La Salle. That record includes last season's first round triumph by the Archers, a 66-63 squeaker that saw La Salle take control late in the fourth when Kirk Long fouled out, and the subsequent second-round thrashing by Ateneo, a 74-57 beatdown that would have been won by a larger margin had Jovet Mendoza gotten skittish attacking the rim. This summer saw the Archers beat their rivals twice though, once in an exhibition game in Dubai, 62-58, without Greg Slaughter, and again in the elimination round of the Fil-Oil Tournament, 66-61, though the Eagles eventually went on to win the entire affair, while the Archers got booted in the round of eight.
Stat to Watch : Despite FEU going to a zone defense early, the Archers made just 2 of their 11 triples, a sub-par number for a squad with guys like Almond Vosotros, Simon Atkins and Luigi Dela Paz. If Ateneo goes the zone route as well, La Salle needs to make them pay by nailing outside shots.
Player to Watch : Arnold Van Opstal seems eager to face Ateneo's Greg Slaughter, judging from his interview on Hardball, and he probably should be, as he held the 7'0" giant to a paltry 2 points and 5 rebounds. But Slaughter's been much improved since then, especially in the post. Needless to say, Van Opstal will have to use his 5 fouls wisely, or let the other guy get the better of him.
Stat to Watch : After a summer in which the Ateneo bench bailed out their starter counterparts again and again, the Eagle reserves failed them in the season opener, providing just 8 points, including a 0 for 1 debut for Kiefer Ravena. All in all, only 7 Ateneans scored in that game, so it's important that back-ups like Justin Chua, Tonino Gonzaga, and Juami Tiongson find their groove early on Saturday.
Player to Watch : Kirk Long has a made a collegiate career out of playing strong-nosed defense and taking care of the ball. In high school though, he was a scoring machine capable of putting up 30 each night, and he's shown flashes of that as a Blue Eagle, especially against UST. In the first round last season, Long piled up 22 markers (9/13 FG, 4/5 from 3pt) versus La Salle before exiting with 5 fouls, and he'd give his teammates a big boost if he can come out with that kind of numbers again, especially if that's in addition to another guy, Ravena or Slaughter, scoring big as well.
Prediction: Ateneo Blue Eagles