The Eagles wanted nothing to do with the Tamaraws in the regular season last year, losing their first game and the last game of the elimination round by hairs, as FEU claimed one possession victories, 72-69 and 74-72, twice. Of course, things then completely turned around in the Finals. In the first game, Ateneo basically ended the game in the first quarter, with a 26-8 first quarter, and never let up afterwards, outscoring the Tams all the way to the end, a 72-49 shellacking. The second game was a closer affair, as the Tams endeavored to be more physical, but Ryan Buenafe was simply too much for them to overcome, and his huge triple handed Ateneo a 65-62 win, and their third straight title on a silver platter. These two teams also met in the semi-finals of the Fil-Oil Tournament last summer, where Greg Slaughter introduced himself to the Tamaraws with a 24-14 performance. Not only was the result, an 82-74 Ateneo win, never in doubt, this was also the game where Pipo Noundou went down with his injury, robbing FEU of their only true post player for this season.
Stat to Watch : FEU has done a great job defending the perimeter, allowing just 15.33 perimeter points a game on 21.59% shooting, best in the league in both categories. But as we've seen, if the perimeter shots aren't working for Ateneo, they're going to run. Currently, the Tams allow 8.5 fastbreak attempts for 8.67 fastbreak points. Chances are, that might not hold against Ateneo.
Player to Watch : How good Christian Sentcheu is going to be in this game is anyone's guess. When he played versus NU, he shut down Emmanuel Mbe, but when pitted against Alinko Mbah, he barely lasted nine minutes. He has the height, sort of, to maybe bother Slaughter, but it's just as possible that Slaughter will tag him with two fouls early and force him to sit.
Stat to Watch : What happens when you're constantly attacking the rim, either in fastbreaks or by throwing it into the big man? The other team starts getting into foul trouble. The Eagles currently norm 25.83 free throw attempts, second in the league to DLSU, but not only do they make 72.9% of them, it usually results in opponents' bigs having to sit down, as was the case in the game versus UST with Chris Camus and Paolo Pe having to sit with four fouls. Given FEU's already slim pickings up front, foul trouble on Aldrech Ramos for example, could be huge.
Player to Watch : Greg Slaughter had a poor offensive showing versus UST, finishing with just six points, but defensively, he pulled down seven rebounds and had four blocks. Versus FEU, odds are the Eagles will look to establish him early, and to get his Smart Gilas teammate Aldrech Ramos away from the rim for Slaughter's teammates to drive in from the opposite side.
Prediction: Ateneo Blue Eagles