Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Kevin Ferrer versus Bobby Ray Parks will be a match-up to watch for the next five years (pic source)

History Lesson:
UST and NU split their meetings last season, with Melo Afuang playing hero on route to a 59-58 first round encounter win for UST, and Jul-Ashri Ignacio catching fire to lift the Bulldogs to a 62-54 stomping in round two. During the preseason, these two teams met again, with a Bobby Ray Parks-fueled NU team shutting UST down late, 60-52.

NU Storyline : The Bulldogs caught a huge break, with the UAAP board declaring Bobby Ray Parks to be eligible to play this season. Without him, they were going to be a fringe playoff team, at best, but with him, the Bulldogs have a legitimate shot at the Finals, should the squad gel together. The biggest question early on will be how the squad reintegrates Emmanuel Mbe, after the big man missed much of summer training in France "for personal reasons." Mbe was never someone who demanded the ball last season, so he might be content just rebounding and scoring off putbacks. However, if they're really going to be a contender, they'll need to form an inside-out combo with him and Parks and the team's defense clicks as well.
Stat to Watch : The Bulldogs last year averaged the least number of field goals made (21.79/game) and attempted (53.43/game), while turning the ball over the most (20.53/game). We'll see if the new offense installed by Eric Altamirano can cut down on the squad's miscues, or if rookie point guards Cedrick Labing-isa and Gelo Alolino take care of the rock better.
Player to Watch : Bobby Ray Parks is a player that's simply pure excitement on the court. He can run the floor, he can dunk  on your head, and he can nail off balance free least he can in the preseason. We'll know when the game ends if his skills translate to the actual UAAP tournament.

UST Storyline : Celebrating their 400th anniversary, the UST Growling Tigers look to showcase one of their best recruitment years in a long time, with a list that includes last season's UAAP Jrs. MVP Kevin Ferrer, former NCAA Jrs. MVP Louie Vigil, and foreign big man Karim Abdul. Lending an extra edge to the season is a promise by head coach Pido Jarencio to resign if he doesn't get this squad into the Final Four. That places some degree of pressure on this team, and they'll have to go out there without veteran shooting guard Clark Bautista, who's been sidelined due to academic reasons.
Stat to Watch : The Tigers were aces from outside the arc, making a league-high 7.93 a game, while shooting it best at 38.75%. However, teams were also shooting lights out at the same time, as the porous UST defense allowed a league-worst 42.66% field goal percentage by their opponents. Having Abdul defend the paint helps, but the team as a whole has to play better defense if they're going to save Jarencio's job.
Player to Watch : After poor first showings by fellow blue chip rookies Baser Amer and Kiefer Ravena, all eyes are now on the newbies to see if they hold up at the collegiate level. Making things harder for Ferrer is the fact that he was shut down by Parks in their preseason meeting, scoring just 5 points in 29 minutes. That said, he averaged 11.6 as a whole in the summer, and his height will help UST pull down rebounds if needed.

Prediction: NU Bulldogs

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