Despite the improvement of the NU Bulldogs last season, they were still the team that came closest to cutting UP some slack and giving them a win, as sloppy play nearly cost them in both encounters. In round one, the Bulldogs found themselves down 20 points after the first quarter, before recovering to win 70-66. Their Round 2 encounter is infamously more memorable because it was the "lane violation" game, that saw the Maroons repeatedly commit that infraction in the hopes of getting a jump ball, only to have game officials say "Screw this," and let time expire, allowing the Bulldogs to escape with a 61-59 win.
Stat to Watch : Always known more for their perimeter play than big man scoring, that much hasn't changed for the Maroons, as it was their shooters, Mike Gamboa, Mike Silungan and Jett Manuel, that shot their way to the victory. Clearly, the Maroons love the long ball, eschewing attacking the rim, as they earned just a measly nine charities. The Maroons should be able to recognize when their shots aren't falling and switch things up by attacking the rim.
Player to Watch : After getting clearance for Alinko Mbah to play from the UAAP board, the big man proceeded to lay an egg, not even attempting a single shot, though he did haul down four rebounds and swat two shots. Matched up against a more experienced Emmanuel Mbe, the Maroons will once again count on his defense, rather than his offense, though any points he can contribute will be the cherry on top in a hypothetical win.
Stat to Watch : Despite having two dynamic players that can dominate the interior, NU still had less points in the paint than the smaller, perimeter oriented Growling Tigers, 52 to 38. Against UP, they'll play another team that doesn't list height as one of their strengths, and if they can't edge the Maroons out there, odds are they won't be able to against a team like FEU or Ateneo.
Player to Watch : Glenn Khobuntin's game is a great compliment to that of Mbe and Parks, but the former Letran Squire played just 25 minutes, as he turned the ball over a team-high 6 times, negating his 8 points and 8 rebounds. If he can get his act together, he'll be a great third option that the Maroons will have to cover as well.
Prediction: NU Bulldogs