Wednesday, November 30, 2011

PCCL 2011 Final Four Schedule

With the University of Cebu Webmasters defeating the South Western University Cobras 63-58, and the San Sebastian Stags coming back against the Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights 83-76, the Final Four cast of the 2011 PCCL is set. ADMU is the UAAP champ, SBC is the NCAA champ, UC is the Visayas/Mindanao champ, and SSC-R is the Luzon/Metro Manila champ.

That gives us the following schedule, with all games to be held at the Arena in San Juan, broadcast live on Studio 23:

Monday 2pm - UC Webmasters vs ADMU Blue Eagles
Monday 4pm - SSCR Golden Stags vs SBC Red Lions

Tuesday 2pm - ADMU Blue Eagles vs SSCR Golden Stags
Tuesday 4pm - SBC Red Lions vs UC Webmasters

Thursday 2pm - FEU Baby Tams vs LSGH Greenies
Thursday 4pm - UC Webmasters vs SSCR Golden Stags

Friday 2pm - NU Bullpups vs SB Red Cubs
Friday 4pm - ADMU Blue Eagles vs SBC Red Lions

The team at the end of the round-robin phase with the highest record gets twice to beat in the Finals versus the team with the next highest record. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

NCAA S87 Autopsy: UPHSD Altas

Outgoing Players
- Christopher Sison (10.4 minutes, 2.8 points, 1.4 rebounds, 0.8 assists)
- Harold Sumera (16 minutes, 3.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.1 blocks)

Win/Loss Records
- Season 87: 5-13 (9th out of 10)
- Season 86: 2-14 (8th out of 9, due to quotient)
- Season 85: 3-15 (9th out of 10)

Key Stats
- Scored the fewest points per game on average (66.5) and was dead last in scoring in each of the four quarters (15.39, 15.61, 16.33, 17.44)
- Made the fewest 2-pointers (17( and free throws per game (12.33) of any team, contributing to a league-worst field goal percentage (34.86)
- Led the league in three pointers made (6.72) and attempted (24.5)
- Committed the fewest turnovers per game (15.72) and gave up the fewest turnover points (11.72)
- Tied with Emilio Aguinaldo for most fouls per game (19.72)

Season in a Glance
If the Altas thought things couldn't get any worse compared to last season, they were wrong. Despite sitting out a season already, Paul Nuilan was once again denied eligibility by the NCAA MANCOM. Then Perpetual Help itself decided to remove Marlon Gomez from the line-up for vague reasons about an "unwritten gentleman's agreement." That led to head coach Boris Aldeguer resigning in disgust, leaving the host school without their two main big men and a mentor. As if that wasn't enough, they then lost Jeorge Allen in their season opener.

It was probably no surprise that the Altas won just a single game in the first round of play, needing a triple-overtime affair against JRU to notch their sole victory, but as the season progressed, new head coach Jimwell Gican was able to instill some fight in his boys. Heady play allowed them to stay in the thick of things in round two, winning four of their last nine, including a big win over the Letran Knights. That surge also lifted them from the cellar, 5-13, an accomplishment, given all that they went through.

Highlight: The San Sebastian Stags picked the wrong game to experiment in, switching to a slow-it-down style of play in an attempt to cut down on their turnovers versus Perpetual Help. Not only did the Stags still turn the ball over at their usual rate, the pace was to the Altas' liking as they stuck like glue to the then-tournament leaders. With Abueva missing on game-sealing charities, the Altas got the ball back with 14.8 seconds left, allowing Scottie Thompson the opportunity to snatch the win with a hook shot in the post over Ronald Pascual. Though it bounced off the rim, giving SSC-R the 77-76 win, it showed that teams underestimated the hosts at their only peril.

Lowlight: After watching their schoolmates put on an impressive opening ceremony, the Altas came out for the first game of the NCAA season versus the reigning champs, San Beda Red Lions, and then promptly fell flat, as the Red Lions roared to a 20-4 start. When the dust settled, not a single Alta finished in double digits, and they also suffered injuries to Jeorge Allen and Anthony Paulino in the process of the 82-52 rout.

Off-season Questions

1. Who's coaching this team?
Jimwell Gican clearly worked some coaching magic down the stretch of the season, motivating his hard-luck squad and putting them in a position to win in round two. After taking four of the last nine games, with only one of the five losses by double-digits, Gican joked that if there were a third round of play, his team probably could have snuck into the Final Four. He probably wasn't far off.

But there are rumors that the school is thinking bigger for their next head coach, with the possibility of tapping alumnus Bong Hawkins. Hawkins had a stint as one of Tim Cone's assistant coaches and was recently an assistant of Luigi Trilio for the Cebuana Lhuillier D-League squad so he does have some coaching experience. His name could also attract a few recruits so it's easy to see why he would be a strong candidate if he was interested in the job.

Answer: It's Aric Del Rosario. Surprise!

2. When will the Altas be a Final Four team again?
In 2003, the Altas were 3-11, but then jumped up to 10-4 the next year, where they were the top seed after the elimination round, getting all the way to the Finals before losing to PCU in two games. They missed the Final Four by a game in Season 8`, and have been slumping all the way down the standings since then. One recruiting class can make a huge difference, but does Perpetual Help have the scouts to look for untapped talent and the resources to attract said talent?

Team Needs
- Lots and lots of height

Sunday, November 27, 2011

PCCL 2011 - FEU vs CSJL

Three Up
  • Letran's team defense deserves a huge round of applause for their 25-7 fourth quarter shutdown of FEU. All in all, the Tams went 3 for 19 from the field, with two made shots by Russel Escoto and one by Carl Bryan Cruz, and 1 of 7 from the stripe, also by Cruz. The UAAP runners-up got nothing from their explosive trio of guards, as RR Garcia, Terrence Romeo and Mike Tolomia combined to go 0 of 9 on field goals, and 0 of 2 from the line. 
  • Mark Cruz simply knows how to play in big moments, helping to fuel the Knights' rally in the final period. Playing eight of the last ten minutes, Cruz had a point for each minute and dished out all four of his assists in that span. Overall, the rookie floor general had 25 markers, enough to offset his nine turnovers.
  • An Aldrech Ramos versus Raymond Alamazan match-up would have been fun to watch, but alas, Ramos was off practicing with his ABL team already. That left Almazan to dominate the interior to the tune of 14 points, 16 rebounds and six blocks, as the likes of Escoto, Cruz, Foronda, and Bringas were unable to match-up with the big man. Makes you wonder why the FEU braintrust didn't roll with Christian Sentcheu for longer than his one minute of play. 

 Three Down
  • RR Garcia rushed over from his PBA-DL, getting onto the court in the second quarter, but he was clearly winded, playing 20 ineffective minutes for eight points on 2 of 9 shooting, plus a rebound, two assists, a steal, three turnovers and four fouls. 
  • After a season in the UAAP trying to learn the point guard position, Terrence Romeo dishes out a assists in 36 minutes. Though he's listed as the point guard, Romeo, especially early on without Garcia, seemed to relish dominating the rock. To a certain extent, he was successful, with a team-best 17 points on so-so 7 of 18 shooting, but he failed to come up with anything in the final quarter when they needed him to make something out of nothing. 
  • Jam Cortes can't seem to get going against UAAP teams, putting up sub-par numbers once more. After a 25-minute, six point, 3 of 9 performance against DLSU, Cortes managed a pitiful four points on 2 of 10 shooting in 34 minutes in this affair. Maybe he'll snap out of his funk when they play SSC-R in the province? 

Random Notes
  • Star player of the Knights Kevin Alas and his father, Coach Louie Alas both missed this game and will be out until the second week of December due to Kevin's ABA training. 

PCCL 2011: FEU vs CSJL

PCCL 2011 - SSCR vs ADU

Three Up
  • Ronald Pascual's production simply dropped off a cliff in the latter part of the NCAA season, going from averaging nearly 20 points in his first 17 games to a pathetic 11 when his team needed it the most: the post-season. Well, the former Adamson Falcon Team B member clearly had something to prove, scoring a game-high 29 markers while grabbing an incredible 16 rebounds (we'll overlook the 33 percent shooting and the seven turnovers)
  • The other two members of the Pampanga Trio were pretty good as well - Calvin Abueva finished with 24 points, 22 rebounds and four blocks, despite playing a game-high 40 minutes, while Ian Sangalang added 18 and 13, with three more rejections. When everyone in the Golden Stags Big Three is rolling, they're simply hard to stop. 
  • At one point in UAAP history, Jerick Canada was considered the man at Adamson, prior to Lester Alvarez being added to Team A. Canada gracefully became a back-up from that point on, but like his last Final Four game versus FEU, "Air Canada" has shown that he can take over a game. In this example, the point guard narrowly missed a triple-double, with a team-best 21 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists in just 31 minutes. He also shot 5 of 11 from downtown. 

Three Down
  • After carrying the team versus the JRU Heavy Bombers, Janus Lozada and Austin Manyara both regressed to the norm, unable to sustain their superb efforts. Lozada managed just six points on 2 of 13 shooting, while Manyara had just three points, missed all but one of his four free throw attempts, and didn't even come up with a single rebound in his 23 minute long stint. Yes, the 6'6" big guy didn't touch a rebound. 
  • At halftime, the Falcons had shot 6 of 15 from downtown, with 13 turnover points off 13 San Sebastian turnovers. What happened after the break? Their outside shooting worsened to 5 of 30, and they scored just five more turnover points, as the Stags tightened up their execution, to commit only 12 mistakes in the 25 minutes left. For some strange reason, Adamson loves the three-ball when they play San Sebastian but this time, they could not convert when it mattered.
  • Anthony Del Rio looked lost on the court, unable to stay in front of his man and forced to foul on nearly every other possession. That meant he was sitting on the bench early, playing just 16 minutes before getting number five, contributing a rebound and two assists in the process.

Random Notes
  • For the second straight game, the Falcons had to play early and then hightail out of the Arena to go to their PBA-DL match, which they lost too, making it a double whammy for them.
  • On the other hand, the Pampanga Trio were excused from their PBA-DL game, which is a good thing for them, as they accounted for all but 14 points of their team. 

PCCL 2011: SSCR vs ADU

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

PCCL 2011 - CSJL vs DLSU

Three Up
  • Like the Adamson game, Letran was able to get clutch performances from two role players on route to the win, namely Kevin Racal and Mark Cruz. After scoring 13 and 12 points in the first two quarters as a team, the dynamic duo combined for 15 of their team's 22 points, two more than the entire Green Archers' team output of 12. Racal went 7 of 8 from the line in that period, finishing 10 of 12 from the stripe, the first time he broke double-figures in that stat in his Letran career. Cruz on the other hand, was simply on fire, making 4 of his 6 shots in the period, making up for a 0/5 first half start. 
  • The other big piece of the Letran puzzle? Mythical Five big man Raymond Almazan. The Most Improved Player of 2011 pulled down 17 rebounds, dished out 3 assists and blocked 7 shots in 29 minutes as he protected Letran's shaded lane. To wit, no Archer had more than 9 rebounds or more than 2 assists, and the team as a whole blocked just 3 shots.
  • To La Salle's credit, the Archers did not back down from the physical nature of the Knights, in fact, I think they actually out-toughed them in the game's first half, with multiple Letran players hitting the floor and shooting daggers at the refs who swallowed their whistles. Almond Vosotros certainly took the lead in this, getting into the heads of Mark Cruz and Kevin Alas early. Too bad, they couldn't adjust to the more aggressive play of their opponents in the second half. 

Three Down
  • Of course Joshua Webb has a poor game after I gave him props for his improved play in the entire PCCL tourney. Hampered by foul trouble (he fouled out) and a shot that wouldn't drop (0/6) from the field, Webb had to settle for attacking the rim, which he was able to do (6/8 FT). Interestingly, twice the Archers had Webb far above the top of the three-point line before driving into the lane, drawing a foul both times. I don't think his first step is going to beat anyone, but if you allow him to build up a head of steam, his defender sagged off him both times, he becomes hard to stop. 
  • With La Salle's big men in foul trouble, the guards needed to bail their team out. Unfortunately, LA Revilla and Almond Vosotros were a combined 5 of 20 from the field, though they managed a 6 for 6 clip from the line between them. They definitely felt the absence of Luigi Dela Paz, who was watching from the sideline with his fractured elbow. 
  • Conversely, Letran's big men, save for Almazan, underperformed. Jam Cortes finished with 6 points on 3 of 9 shooting with no free throw attempts, and just four rebounds. Jonathan Belorio went scoreless with just one shot attempt, but at least had seven boards. 

Random Notes
  • With Kevin Alas gone for the US and the ABA for a month, the team is down their best scorer headed into their next PCCL game. They're already playing without Franz Dysam, who is concentrating on his studies, so the backcourt, especially at the point guard spot, is thin. Letran had to make do with Carlo Lituania (5 points, 1 steal, in 8 minutes) but is he ready for more minutes?  



PCCL 2011 - ADU vs JRU

Three Up
  • The Falcons drew strong play from two guys who were often criticized for their tendency to disappear in games in their win against JRU, namely Janus Lozada and Austin Manyara. Lozada's long arms did a good job harassing Nate Matute, preventing him from catching fire, and they also allowed him to haul down 11 rebounds, impressive because he's never hauled down double-digit boards in his UAAP career. Manyara on the other hand, could not be stopped by the JRU bigs, as he was sent to the line a whopping 15 times where he converted 12. To put that into context, Manyara hit just 40 percent of his free throws in the past UAAP season, and has only gone to the line at most, six times, which happened twice in his rookie year.
  • In Season 73, the Falcons were masters of the swipe, norming 7.2 steals and forcing 19.8 turnovers per game. Those numbers dropped considerably in Season 74 (5.69 and 16.63, respectively) as they somehow morphed into the slowest team in the league, but Adamson tapped into that past identity versus a sloppy JRU team (third-most turnovers in the NCAA). Without really pressing, instead relying nearly exclusively on a zone defense, the Falcons were able to get 8 steals and force 22 turnovers for 25 turnover points.
  • Jeckster Apinan was the lone bright spot for the Heavy Bombers, as the undersized big man used his athleticism to score on the taller, stronger Falcons frontline. His 17 points off the bench in 25 minutes was a team-best. 

Three Down
  • After playing an insane 38 minutes, Alex Almario got the start for JRU and looked and played like he was exhausted. Almario logged nine minutes in the first half, good for an assist, two turnovers, and not much else. By the final buzzer, the total was 24 minutes, 3 points, 6 assists and 4 turnovers. Do you think Coach Meneses regrets riding his point guard so much versus NU? 
  • John Lopez went through an 8-game stretch in the middle of the NCAA season where he scored in double-digits just once in that span. Unsurprisingly, the team was 2-6 in that same time. This looked like a game from that stretch as the power forward was just 2 of 7 from the field with no free throws, as Jan Colina and Eric Camson split time shutting him down. Though he managed 10 rebounds and 4 assists, he also gave it back just as much with 6 turnovers.
  • Going back to the topic of poor performances by a point guard, Lester Alvarez came off the bench for a nine-minute stretch where he tallied a mere two points, an assist, and two turnovers before getting his foot trampled on by a JRU player, forcing him to be subbed out. Definitely underwhelming from this explosive player. 

Random Notes
  • Alex Nuyles was suited up but was not fielded in. At first I thought it was to save him for their PBA-DL game, but then he's not listed on their roster online. He must be injured then right? 

PCCL 2011: ADU vs JRU

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

PCCL 2011 - DLSU vs UST

Three Up
  • So why was Joshua Webb benched last UAAP season? The most senior member of the Green Archers team, now that Simon Atkins and Maui Villanueva have graduated, finished with 16 points on 7 of 10 shooting, and has averaged 13.75 points in DLSU's four PCCL games so far. Webb can't quite create for himself, but he's lethal in transition, and when cutting baseline, so as long as the point guards are getting him involved, he's a legit threat.
  • DLSU's offense in the PCCL and in the last UAAP is like comparing night and day. There's simply more fluidity and better ball movement, as seen in their 19-11 edge in assists. Their zone offense, the team's Achilles heel in Season 74, has improved by leaps and bounds, with more ball rotation and less standing around and then taking a contested jumper. 
  • Kim Lo personified the hustle of UST that kept them in this game throughout the 40 minutes. Lo's adjustment from high school big man to college wing has been bumpy, but he put up 9 points on 3 of 5 shooting, 5 rebounds and 2 steals in this game in a 20 minute stint. Those are similar figures to what he produced the only time last season he was given more than 20 minutes of playing time.

Three Down
  • Kevin Ferrer carried the Tigers with 23 points on 7 of 16 shooting, but it was a tale of two halves. In the game's first 20 minutes, Ferrer was on fire: 16 points on 5 of 10 shooting. That dropped to 7 points on 2 of 6 attempts as DLSU began crowding him every time he touched the ball, taking away the open catch and shoot looks he was getting early on. One thing he definitely needs to start learning how to do is posting up smaller defenders. It's the reason why Ateneo can get away with sticking Kiefer Ravena on him, and in this game, guys like Luigi Dela Paz and Joseph Marata were able to frustrate him into going back out to the perimeter. 
  • At one point, a frustrated UST head coach Pido Jarencio turned to his coaching staff and said, "Masyado atang nag-gigimick itong si Karim." Abdul was horribly off in this game: 5 points in 19 minutes on 1 of 7 shooting, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 turnovers, and multiple attempts being rejected by Papot Paredes and Norbert Torres. Most egregious was the way he got his fourth foul: needlessly overhedging on a screen with seconds remaining in the game while in the penalty, allowing Jarelan Tampus to hit two free throws and make their lead 10, going into the fourth quarter. 
  • The Archers lose the services of sharpshooter Luigi Dela Paz after he fell hard on his right arm in the third quarter. Though it looked like he landed on his wrist, later examinations revealed it to be a fractured elbow that will keep him off the court until January. They'll need Marata, who only played his first game with the team yesterday due to PBA-DL commitments, to fill in the void. 

Random Notes
  • Louie Vigil, still missing point-blank open layups. 
  • Jovet Mendoza has three unsportsmanlike fouls in the Archers' four games (two in the first game, resulting in his ejection), but he easily could have gotten number four in this game, thanks to his errant elbows. 
  • Unfortunately, the big man for DLSU who could most use more playing time to refine his game, Arnold Van Opstal, is out with a knee injury, explaining his presence in the audience, watching the games.

    PCCL 2011 - DLSU vs UST

    PCCL 2011 - NU vs JRU

    Three Up
    • JRU knew exactly what to do on defense, sending guys sprinting back down the court after made shots, while keeping an eye out to intercept any outlet errant outlet passes. It didn't always work, NU still got 13 transition attempts and 14 transition points, but in comparison to the Bulldogs' first three games, it was enough for the Bombers to get the win. 
    • The big men of JRU also did a good job on Emmanuel Mbe for most of the game. In the first half, the Cameroonian center was held to just 4 points, 3 rebounds and 1 block on a team-high 14 minutes of play and had accumulated 2 personal fouls. Mbe would explode in the third quarter for 4 minutes, before foul trouble sat him down again, but in the final period, he had just 2 points in 8 minutes.
    • Balanced scoring on the part of JRU meant they were difficult for NU to stop. Though only John Lopez finished with double-digit points, 10, the fourth placers in the NCAA then had two players with eight points each, four players with seven, and then one with six.

    Three Down
    • NU had gotten back to back easy drives into the lane by Jeoffrey Javillonar to cut NU's lead down to 63-62, but after Nate Matute's split at the line made it a two-point game, the Bulldogs coaching staff made the curious move of subbing in Reden Celda, who had not played at all in the fourth quarter up to that point, and letting him attempt the game-tying layup. Celda's move wound up being short, and JRU was able to win. Perhaps they were going for the element of surprise there, but Celda was coming in ice cold, while Javillonar had already scored 8 in the period. It just strikes me as an odd move, though had it gone in, it would have obviously been a huge deal. 
    • Talk about your bad shooting days. JRU's star rookie John Villarias was a miserable 3 of 15 from the field for 8 points. It wasn't as if he were shut down too, Villarias simply missed a lot of shots he normally makes. 
    • Alex Almario played a game-high 38 minutes, the only player in fact, to log more than 30. Think it affected his play? Almario played the entire fourth quarter and had nothing to show for it, zeroes in every stat, except for turnovers, where he had two.   

    Random Notes
    • This up-tempo NU squad played a lot better than the half-court oriented team we saw in the UAAP (they were ranked 6th in the league in fastbreak attempts and points), but unfortunately, they didn't survive long enough for us to see them try to integrate Bobby Ray Parks in the mix.
    • There's a rumor that these players, plus Parks, will form the core of the NU team next season, meaning Joseph Terso, Spencer Eman, Jul-Ashri Ignacio, Robby Celiz, and Marion Magat are all off Team A. That's certainly more believable than the similar rumor that had every NU player on a D-League roster being off the team. 
    • JRU's Ralph Monserrat was productive in the time he spent on the floor, though he did accumulate four fouls in 16 minutes. With John Montemayor graduating, Monserrat will likely see an uptick in minutes next year. He'll need to bulk up though, because he lacks a lot of heft compared to Montemayor.


    PCCL 2011 - NU vs JRU

    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    The Indon camera crew for the SINAG games started out horrible (Phil. versus Cambodia was a mess) but has gradually improved to "passable." One horrendous lapse though was showing a highlight while this play was going on in yesterday's match between the Philippines and Thailand:

    Unfortunately, Ravena was whistled for a travel on the play, thus the reaction from the coaching staff in the bottom part of your screen.

    In case you forgot, he's about 5'10"

    Saturday, November 12, 2011

    Semerads Transfer to Ateneo

    File this one under the category: "News that comes out of nowhere." 

    Anthony and David Semerad, Fil-Australian twins who played key roles down the stretch of San Beda's recent back to back championship season, have reportedly traded in their Red Lion unis for the blue and white of Ateneo de Manila. 

    According to a source close to the Red Lions, the duo left earlier this week and will sit out the remainder of the second academic semester to enroll at Ateneo in March, starting with the summer sem of 2012. 

    News of the twins' move took the San Beda coaching staff by surprise, adds the source. 

    Anthony Semerad was in and out of the line-up this season, but came on strong towards the tailend. His most memorable game of the season came against San Sebastian in the second round, when he exploded for 10 points in six minutes against the zone of the Golden Stags. Overall, he averaged 6.4 points in 15.7 minutes, while shooting a team-best 39 percent from outside the arc.

    David Semerad was San Beda's third-string center, providing additional toughness behind Kyle Pascual and Dave Marcelo, but he strutted his stuff on the largest stage possible: the second game of the NCAA Finals this year, with San Beda already having won the first match. In a defensive grinder of a fourth quarter, David scored seven of his team's nine points, finishing with 15 markers, three rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block in 22 minutes. 

    In addition to the Semerads, San Beda will lose Dave Marcelo, Garvo Lanete, Mar Villahermosa and Sudan Daniel to either graduation or eligibility. They do however, have a stacked Team B, that features names like Ivan Ludovice (transfer from NU), Art Dela Cruz Jr. (transfer from ADMU), Jaypee Mendoza (former Team A), Fil-Am Julius Armon, and Nigerian Ola Adeogun, plus a champion San Beda Red Cubs team that graduates all but four players. 

    One hold-up to the integration of the Semerads to the Blue Eagles is how long the two will have to sit out and serve their residency. 

    Normally, a transfer from a non-UAAP team to a UAAP team will have to sit out a year. That means they become eligible in 2013 or Season 76, when the likes of Nico Salva, Justin Chua, Tonino Gonzaga, and Greg Slaughter and Oping Sumalinog, should they return for their last year of eligibility. Having played two seasons in the NCAA, they can play a maximum of three more years before they turn 26. 

    The problem though is the fact that the two Semerads played in the inaugural conference of the PBA-Developmental League for the Maynilad team. In the NCAA, this was not a problem because players are allowed to play for a minor league after just one season. The UAAP however requires one to have played at least two seasons before becoming eligible for minor leagues. It thus becomes very possible that the UAAP board might enforce a penalty on the two, such as sitting out an additional year. 

    Monday, November 7, 2011

    Point Forward: Season 74's Best Point Guard is...

    The difference between Steve Nash and Russell Westbrook is a subtle one, when talking about point guards. The former will look to pass first, and if all passing lanes are closed, will then try to take the best shot possible. The latter on the other hand, will try to take the best shot possible, and if he's held in check by the defense, will then look to get the ball into the hands of an open teammate.

    In the UAAP, you get more Russell Westbrook's than Steve Nash's, most of the time, out of necessity, not design.

    It's easy to be Steve Nash when you have a ton of weapons around you, an Amare Stoudemire to dunk the ball, Joe Johnson and Quentin Richardson on the wings, a do-it-all player like Shawn Marion to fill in the gaps. Russell Westbrook has to be Russell Westbrook because aside from him and Kevin Durant, who's a reliable option? Thabo Sefalosha? Kendrick Perkins? Serge Ibaka? Those are good defensive options, but on offense, you're basically playing 2 vs 5.

    The same thing applies to the UAAP. The reason why there are a ton of scoring point guards ("points" guards in local slang) is because it's hard to assemble a five-man unit where everyone is a threat to score, be it through the design of a coach (needs defense on the floor) or because recruitment has gotten so much better (the "great" players have been scattered across the league).

    This is a long-winded way for me to say that the numbers have Emman Monfort as the best overall point guard from Season 74 of the UAAP. The keyword there is "overall."

    A look at the basic stats makes it easy to see why some fans have guys like Jeric Fortuna or RR Garcia (aside: you do know that he's played shooting guard for the majority of this season right?) at the top of their point guard rankings. The thing that immediately jumps out is the disparity in points, with most of them averaging at least 10 per game. They're also better pure three-point shooters and come up with about the same number of rebounds and steals, though at the expense of more turnovers. Monfort's advantages however are first, he dishes out more assists, and by a wide margin over the next closest player (LA Revilla). He's also far better at shooting free throws than the rest of the guys on that list. Finally, he's tied for most steals along with two other point guards.

    On the surface, the Nash-Westbrook comparisons ring true. Monfort doesn't need to shoot a whole lot, not when he has so many excellent finishers on his squad (Greg Slaughter, Kiefer Ravena, Nico Salva). When he does shoot, he's not very good at it (this is deceiving however, and we'll get to that later on), though he can kill you from the line. On the other hand, guys like Fortuna and Lester Alvarez shoulder a lot more of their team's offense, and thus, put more points on the board at the expense of passing off (or not passing off, as it is) to players who aren't great finishers (think: Fortuna jumper or pass to Paolo Pe? Alvarez jumper or pass to Jan Colina?). At this level, it's like comparing apples to oranges.

    How pass-first is Monfort? A whole lot, according to advance statistics.

    • The first number, AST% or Assist Percentage, is a close estimate of "the percentage of teammate field goals a player assisted while he was on on the floor" and can be solved for with the formula: 100 * AST  / (((MIN / (Team MIN / 5)) * Team FG) - FG). 
    • The second number, A:FG or Assist to Field Goal Ratio, is pretty self-explanatory
    • The third number,  USG% or Usage Percentage, "is an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor" or in other words, the percentage of times a player is the one attempting a shot or turning the ball over. It can be solved for with the formula: 100 * ((FGA + 0.44 * FTA + TO) * (Team MIN / 5)) / (MIN * (Team FGA + 0.44 * Team FTA + Team TO)) 
    • The fourth number, A:T or Assist to Turnover Ratio, is pretty self-explanatory as well
    What those numbers mean is Monfort is much more likely to assist than shoot (31.81 AST%, 0.76 AST:FG ratio, 15.28 USG%), and he does so at the most efficient rate (2.87 AST:TO ratio). That supports our earlier belief that Monfort is an excellent pass-first point guard. But what about when it comes to scoring?

    More interesting is the latter two stats.
    • EFG% or effective field goal percentage "adjusts for the fact that a 3-point field goal is worth one more point than a 2-point field goal" with the formula (FG + 0.5 * 3PM) / FGA.
    • TS% or true shooting percentage does EFG% one better by incorporating free throw percentage, with the formula PTS / (2 * (FGA + 0.44 * FTA))
    With these two in play, we see that only Jelo Montecastro (who doesn't take three-pointers) and LA Revilla have higher EFG% than Monfort (His teammate, Kirk Long, has a higher EFG% as well). And when you factor in free throw shooting in TS%, Monfort jumps way ahead of the pack, three percentage points better than Revilla, the next-best on another team.

    What that means is that Monfort truly looks to set up his teammates first and foremost before anything else. However, in the 15.28% of possessions in which he looks to score or make a play, he does so at a better percentage than just about any other comparable point guard. While his individual components (2P% and 3P%) are nothing to get excited about, it is the combination of the two stats, plus FT% for TS%, that make him a better overall shooter, be it from the field or at the line. It is for that reason that I have to conclude that he is the best "overall" point guard this past season.

    The journey of Monfort is an interesting one, going from instant offense off the bench to floor general in his final playing year. We often talk about how Ateneo head coach Norman Black is perhaps the best big man coach currently in the UAAP, but he's certainly making a case for transforming score-first players into pass-first guys as well, as seen in the improvement of the likes of Jai Reyes, Eric Salamat, and now Emman Monfort.

    With Monfort's graduation, the trend may continue, with shoot-first guard Juami Tiongson presumably assuming the starting point guard position in Season 75. If Black works his magic on him as well, then it's safe to say that this is no fluke and the player development out of Katipunan is simply astounding, whether you're a guard or a big man.

    All of this is not to say that guys like Fortuna, Alvarez and Garcia are bad players. However, if we are to go by the strictest definition of what a point guard is, the numbers have Monfort as being the cream of the crop.

    Further Reading:

    Friday, November 4, 2011

    PCCL 2011 - Metro Manila Knockout Games Primer

    November 8:

    2pm: NAASCU Champion University of Manila Hawks versus ISAA Champion Technological Institute of the Philippines Engineers

    UM Hawks TIP Engineers
    #4 Rivera, Andrew #18 Acebo, Leonard Ray
    #5 Torres, Eugene #11 Banez, Jaime Jr.
    #6 Bonleon, Alvin Andrew #9 Dela Punta, Darwin
    #7 Ruiz, Clemente #5 Espanola, Ramon Angelo
    #8 Garcia, Jose Luis #12 Gonzales, Runel
    #9 Flores, Amante #16 Martinez, Vergel
    #10 Ancheta, Jerry #6 Medina, Kimley
    #11 Viernes, Jeff Alvin #15 Morillo, Jefferson
    #12 Manuel, Jay-Ar #17 Namocatcat, Jemuel
    #14 Gonzales, Jayson #13 Osicos, Khenn
    #15 Guti-Ay, Salvador #5 Paulo, Sean Francis
    #16 Eneria, Michael #14 Perez, Paulo
    #17 Ibay, Jayson #7 Uy, Alistine
    #18 Castro, Sherwin #4 Viernes, Mark Jesus
    #19 Serrano, Jerald
    Head Coach: Ferdinand Castillo Head Coach: Bong Arroyo

    4pm: NCAA Fifth Placer Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates versus UAAP Fifth Placer National University Bulldogs

    LPU Pirates NU Bulldogs
    #14 Anacta, Aaron #4 Alolino, Gelo
    #4 Azores, Arwin #13 Celda, Reden
    #9 Cayabyab, Chris #8 Celiz, Robby
    #6 Francisco, Mark #12 Eman, Spencer
    #12 Guevarra, Floricel #7 Ignacio, Jul-Ashri
    #17 Ko, Shane #5 Javillonar, Jeoffrey
    #7 Lacap, Jan #17 Khobuntin, Glenn
    #13 Laude, Vence #11 Labing-isa, Cedrick
    #10 Lesmoras, Tirso #10 Magat, Marion
    #11 Mallari, Gian #14 Mbe, Emmanuel
    #18 Napiza, Onofre #16 Neypes, Kyle
    #5 Ong, Jerome #15 Parks, Bobby Ray
    #16 Pascual, Faustine #19 Rono, Robin

    #9 Singh, Ajeet

    #6 Terso, Joseph

    #18 Villamor, Denice
    Head Coach: Bonnie Tan Head Coach: Eric Altamirano

    November 9:

    2pm: MNCAA Champion Centro Escolar University Scorpions versus UCLAAI Champion St. Francis of Assisi Doves

    CEU Scorpions St. Francis of Assisi Doves
    Magbitang, John Paul #4 Guevarra, Ronoel
    Paralo, Mark Jerwin #5 Castro, Lawrence Paolo
    Chua, Kim Dernard #6 Santiago, Paul Jordan
    Akpa, Thankgod #7 Paday, Joeseph
    Gallardo, Ryan #8 Parcero, Lance Kervin
    Garcia, Axl Jeff #10 Melano, Jayson
    Navarro, Jan Sebastian #11 Castanos, Jonathan
    Anain, Aldreen Lorenz #14 Soriano, Jorel
    Tuazon, Lester John #15 Martin, Francis
    Babad, Leymund #17 Rote, Denver
    Lobaton, Leeward #19 Milo, Joseph
    Bernardo, John Andrew #20 Pranillos, Seron
    Banua, Carmelito #21 Monzon, Ephraim

    #22 Sabad, John Paul
    Head Coach: Mon Jose Head Coach: Gabby Velasco

    4pm: UAAP Sixth Placer De La Salle University Green Archers versus NCAA Sixth Placer Mapua Institute of Technology Cardinals

    DLSU Green Archers MIT Cardinals
    #6 Torres, Norbert #7 Abad, Michael
    #7 Van Opstal, Arnold #8 Banal, Jonathan
    #8 Mendoza, Jovet #9 Nimes, Josan
    #9 Sara, Roldan #10 Stevens, Andretti
    #10 Webb, Joshua #11 Taha, Yousef
    #11 Reyes, Martin #12 Magsigay, Darel
    #12 Revilla, LA #15 Parala, Mike
    #15 Gotladera, Ponso #16 Chien, Jumiel
    #16 Marata, Joseph #17 Ighalo, Kenneth
    #17 Vosotros, Almond #18 Cantos, Jeson
    #18 Paredes, Papot
    #21 Dela Paz, Luigi
    #22 Tampus, Jarelan
    Head Coach: Tyrone Bautista Head Coach: Chito Victolero

    The winners of each game will play the other same day winner on November 10 with the November 8 teams facing off at 2pm, and the November 9 squads at 4pm. The winners there will move on to Sweet 16 spots in the Luzon-Metro Manila bracket.

    NCAA S87 Autopsy: EAC Generals

    Outgoing Players
    - Claude Cubo (28.8 minutes, 11.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1 assist, 0.8 blocks)
    - Dhan Diolanto (11.8 minutes, 0.9 points, 2.4 rebounds, 0.6 assists)

    Win/Loss Records
    - Season 87: 4-14 (10th out of 10)
    - Season 86: 2-14 (9th out of 9, due to quotient)
    - Season 85: 6-12 (7th out of 10, due to quotient)

    Key Stats
    - Attempted the fewest free throws per game (20.33)
    - Had the fewest assists per game (12.94) while committing the most turnovers (21.5)
    - Allowed the most points per game (82.61), thanks in part to allowing the most two-point makes (25.67) and attempts (52.5), and as a result, the most field goal makes (29.94) and attempts (69.22)
    - Gave up the most rebounds (47.33) and tied Perpetual Help for the most fouls per game (19.72)
    - Finished last in transition defense (10.94 attempts and 14.83 transition points)

    Season in a Glance
    An early 2-1 start to the season had many thinking the Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals were on an upswing after landing in the cellar prior. Though they were just 2-6 in the Fil-Oil Preseason Tournament, the Generals seemed poised to buck a lot of projections by virtue of three players whom they "hid" during the summer games: former FEU-FERN Baby Tam Jolas Paguia, and the one-two Fil-Am punch of Joshua Torralba and Igee King.

    As it turned out, that start was to be the high point of the Generals' campaign. In succeeding games, EAC looked lost on both ends of the court, relying too much on isolation plays and finding themselves lost or late on defense, forcing them to give up fouls. Most notably, they were roundly squashed by the eventual champion San Beda Red Lions on both occasions, losing by 41 in round one, and then by a season-worst 54 in round two. Making things worse was a combination of suspensions (Claude Cubo, Paguia) and injuries (three games for Torralba, four games for King) that limited their ability to stay competitive against lower-tier teams. A 3-4 record at the seven game mark gave them some hope that they could sneak into the playoffs, but they would go on to win just one more match, sandwiched between two five-game losing streaks.

    Highlight: Down 59-45 late in the third quarter in their season opener against the Arellano Chiefs, Jolas Paguia led a furious EAC rally that saw them explode for a 19-2 run fueled by three consecutive triples to snatch the lead away, 69-61 with five minutes left to play. From then on, the Generals successfully played keep-away, before winning 84-77.

    Lowlight: Still without Torralba and King, EAC had to line-up against the SBC Red Lions and the result of the second round meeting was overkill. San Beda never scored less than 25 points in each quarter, and led 55-36 at the break easily. The worst was yet to come however, as the Generals seemingly threw in the towel by the end of the third quarter, leading to a 36-8 fourth quarter scoring spree by the defending champs, exploding their margin of victory all the way up to 53.

    Off-season Questions

    1. Who's their main man?
    Jan Jamon was their best offensive weapon, leading the team with 13.7 points a game, while shooting a team-best 37.14% from outside the arc and 84% from the line. Milan Vargas was supposed to be their veteran leader, but he never looked right after knee surgery, though he did norm 8.5 points and 2.4 rebounds, the latter figure being the most on this squad. Rookie Remy Morada showed he could explode for a ton of points when given the minutes and the ball. Joshua Torralba was perhaps their best creator on offense (though he usually created shots for himself). Head coach Gerry Esplana will need to establish a pecking order and make sure his guys stick to it come Season 88.

    2. Will their African big men produce?
    EAC will be banking on Noube Happi and Jaques Manga forming a potent one-two punch at the center position next season, to replace the Diolanto-Cubo tandem. Happi looked competent during the summer, averaging 8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1 block in 20 minutes, but whether that translates on to the court during the actual NCAA tournament is still up in the air. They have one more offseason to work out the kinks because they're definitely going to need them come next year.

    Team Needs
    - Legit 6'5" or taller big man who can play defense
    - Pass-first point guard

    Wednesday, November 2, 2011

    16th PSC-Unigames Basketball Championship

    Without their starting five of Greg Slaughter, Kirk Long, Emman Monfort, Kiefer Ravena and Nico Salva, plus reserves Bacon Austria and Oping Sumalinog, a Team-B reinforced Ateneo Blue Eagles team reclaimed the Unigames title, beating the West Negros University Mustangs 76-62 in the Finals.

    Should Greg Slaughter decide not to return to play out his final year of eligibility, the strong play of Justin Chua and JP Erram in this tournament are encouraging signs coming out of the five spot. Similarly, Juami Tiongson continued to show that he's capable of taking on the lead point guard role that Monfort will vacate.

    Unlike last season, when NU claimed the Unigames crown, no other UAAP team played in the basketball tourney this year.