Sunday, December 25, 2011

NBA 2011-12: Christmas Opening Day

IMG source

12pm ET: Boston Celtics at New York Knicks

Spotlight on: the Celtics bench. It's a motley crew that's half-veterans who might not have any juice left (Marquis Daniels, Keyon Dooling, Sasha Pavlovic, Chris Wilcox) and half-young guns who have yet to see significant NBA minutes (Avery Bradley, JaJuan Johnson, E'Twaun Moore). Boston usually starts the season on fire, but with Pierce hurt and an abbreviated training camp, the aging Celtics are crossing their fingers that their reserves will be able to keep them in playoff contention.

Spotlight on: the Knicks point guards. With Baron Davis out for six to eight weeks, the point guard position, Mike D'Antoni's extension on the court and the engine that makes his run and gun system go, will fall on the shoulders of shooting guard in point guard's garb Toney Douglas, the zombie-like Mike Bibby who is far removed from his glorious Sacramento Kings days, and rookie sparkplug Iman Shumpert. It used to be that defense was the over-scrutinized aspect of this squad, but now, even their offense will be put under the microscope, especially if turnovers become a problem.

Pick: Boston +5

2:30pm ET: Miami Heat at Dallas Mavericks

Spotlight on: the Big Three's growth. After coming within two games of a championship trophy, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Lebron James spent the offseason working on their games. Bosh has extended his range, Wade worked on his durability and James finally, supposedly, added a post game to his arsenal. The excuse all of last season was that these three needed time to gel together and get their games in synch after being individual strs for so long. Now that more than a year has passed by, it's put up or shut up time for the NBA's super-villains. 

Spotlight on: the Dallas defense. They say defense wins championships, and the Mavericks took that to heart a season ago, with Tyson Chandler dominating the paint, DeShawn Stevenson emulating a pitbull on the perimeter, and Shawn Marion filling in the gaps. Fast-forward to now, and both Chandler and Stevenson are gone, and Marion is a year older. The additions of Vince Carter and Lamar Odom make this squad harder to stop, but will they be able to stop anybody, let alone Wade and James?

Pick: Miami -4.5

5:00pm ET: Chicago Bulls at Los Angeles Lakers

Spotlight on: Richard Hamilton. The Bulls jettison Keith Bogans in favor of Rip Hamilton, former NBA champ with the Detroit Pistons, to finally fill in their hole at the two-guard spot, but it doesn't quite look like the most ideal fit. Yes, even at his advanced age, Hamilton is still extremely adept at running his defender through multiple screens, freeing him up for open mid-range shots, but the Bulls were looking for more triples, which he's good but not great at. Chicago might have been better off too with someone who could create his own shot in a pinch, to give them a safety valve when Rose is doubled, I'm sure the coaching staff would have wanted someone who is at the very least, an above average defender. That's three strikes against him, but will his scoring make up for all that?

Spotlight on: the non-Kobe Lakers. Could this be the worst supporting cast the Lakers have had since the days of Smush Parker and Kwame Brown? On the brink of being cast out as Los Angeles' premiere team, the Lakers braintrust are backing an aging Bryant up with holdovers Matt Barnes, Steve Blake, Luke Walton, Derek Fisher and Metta World Peace, while adding the whitebread trio of Jason Kapono, Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy. Pau Gasol will need to work his way back from a mediocre playoffs run, while Andrew Bynum needs to be healthy, and get through a four-game suspension. There's hope that draftees Devin Ebanks and Darius Morris can give the team something, but it's hard to imagine them as game-changers.

Pick: Chicago -4

8:00pm ET: Orlando Magic at Oklahoma City Thunder

Spotlight on: Dwight Howard. In their two preseason games, Howard was a disinterested non-factor in their first match against Miami, before bouncing back in the second outing. While everyone in the Magic camp is saying D-12's trade demands aren't bothering the team, it's hard to imagine that it's not there in the back of everyone's mind, waiting for an extended losing streak to push it to the forefront. And if Howard continues to play lackadaisical, he was the only one keeping them alive versus Atlanta in the playoffs after all, that pie-in-the-sky losing streak might come sooner rather than later.

Spotlight on: the Russell Westbrook-Kevin Durant connection. The Thunder return basically intact from last season, and so too returns the interior drama about whether or not the team's best two players can co-exist. The two get another year to prove that they can get along, that Westbrook can continue to mature as a point guard and that Durant can improve on his shot selection and ability to get open. However, if the same issues from their playoff series versus the Mavericks persist, or heaven forbid, even get worse, I wouldn't be surprised if general manager Sam Presti bites the bullet and unloads his All-Star guard.

Pick: Oklahoma City -8

10:30pm ET: Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors

Spotlight on: Blake Griffin's offensive repertoire. We all know Griffin can throw down some vicious dunks, and the addition of Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups will likely boost the frequency of those jams, but for the Clippers to take the next step, LA's new poster boy will need to be more than just someone who throws it down. We saw some flashes of that during the preseason, including extended range on his jump shot, and a few up and under moves. Consistency will need to be the key. If Griffin can mix it up enough, teams will be hard-pressed to stop him, and his fellow dunker, DeAndre Jordan, and that means the playoffs will come to "Lob City."

Spotlight on: the Warriors' defense. "Hand up, man down," is the philosophy Golden State's new head coach Mark Jackson constantly espouses, but the last time someone tried to make a run and gun team try to force a couple of stops, Terry Porter in Phoenix, it was a complete failure. The chances of it happening could have improved drastically had they signed Tyson Chandler or DeAndre Jordan in the off-season, but the team was forced to settle for Kwame Brown, definitely not the best portent. Toss in the fact that you still have the sub-par defender trio of David Lee, Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry in the starting line-up, and that raised hand might be more of surrender, than stoppage. 

Pick: Los Angeles Clippers -5.5

Friday, December 23, 2011

5 Ways to Improve the PCCL

1. Add provisions for suspending players
The PCCL likes to pride itself on values such as sportsmanship, camaraderie, and the like, but that does not always work out in practice, especially in this year's tournament. Between the San Sebastian-San Beda brawl that came right on the heels of the two schools' incident during a volleyball game at San Beda College, Calvin Abueva's intentional bump of a referee, and DLSU's Jovet Mendoza getting hit with two unsportsmanlike fouls within minutes of each other, there were plenty of times when the league ought to have cracked down on poor behavior, but couldn't because they had no rules about it.

2. Synch up the start times for all the member leagues
The reason why the PCCL only started in November? A lot of the provincial leagues were still unfolding while the NCAA and UAAP teams were sitting idle. Why not create a rule that will make all leagues have their opening tip no later than say the second week of July so that regional tourneys can begin on the last week of October, around the time the Unigames end? That also means teams, especially top-ranked ones, won't have the problem of weeks of downtime, which leads to rusty performances.

3. Synch up the schedule with the PBA Developmental League
While this is a pipedream, given that the two leagues are aired on different networks, there ideally should be more communication amongst the two groups, to prevent instances of players having to either choose which of their two teams to play for, or playing both games but arriving late to one of them. This victimized the Adamson Falcons the most this year, what with their squad forming the core of the PBA-DL Freego Jeans squad. Though Coach Leo Austria was able to get concessions from the PCCL to have their games begin half an hour earlier, he still had to send players off earlier to their PBA-DL game, leaving him with fewer options on the bench, not what you want when you're forced into overtime. Given how the PBA-DL isn't even aired live on TV, can't they be a bit more flexible with their schedule? Surely they can find a way to divide up the seven days in a week.

4. More viewing options
The PCCL has actually gotten better at this, as they managed to get some of the provincial games on the air, albeit on a delayed basis, but every hoops junkie's dream is of course, to have all of the games live. As an example, I'm sure lots of DLSU fans would have wanted the Metro Manila regional to have aired as those were the first few games of the Archers under Gee Abanilla's management. While TV time is understandably at a premium, why not livestream those games online, or have them up on their website on a same-day basis? Or at the very least, have the PCCL Facebook page put up live updates of what's going on in the games.

5. Better stats
As a stats junkie, I was disheartened that the Metro Manila regional had the stats being done by hand, with just points and fouls being identified (and even then, they got stuff wrong, such as in one of the La Salle games). While we eventually got computerized stats a week before the Final Four, a supposedly prestigious tournament like the PCCL ought to have computerized stats to pour over right at the get-go. 

PCCL 2011 - Finals Game 2: SSCR vs ADMU

Three Up
  • After a nondescript offensive performance in the first Finals game (nine points on 4 of 11 shooting), Ian Sangalang took advantage of an Ateneo frontcourt rotation that saw Greg Slaughter play just 20 minutes, allowing him to pump in 19 points on 50 percent shooting, along with a perfect 5 for 5 stint at the line. This performance was basically what earned him the tournament MVP honors. 
  • Jonathan Semira made a surprise reappearance for the Stags, after tearing one of his ACL's in their fourth regular season NCAA game. The bulky guard gave the short-handed Stags a big boost emotionally, but he also was a huge help on the court, with his one make of the game being a clutch triple that doused an Ateneo rally in the fourth quarter, keeping his team ahead. 
  • Ateneo head coach Norman Black has quietly done a good job turning trigger-happy guards (Jai Reyes, Emman Monfort) into more than capable floor generals, and his latest project will be third-year player Juami Tiongson. While we will see that play out next season, the exciting part is that Tiongson may be an even better scorer than his two predecessors. In the third quarter, Tiongson singlehandedly kept his team in the game by dropping 11 points in five minutes, hitting 5 out of his 6 attempts, while also dishing out an assist in the process. 

Three Down
  • The phrase "pick your poison" has often been used to describe Ateneo's offense, as no team can realistically defend Slaughter, Nico Salva and Kiefer Ravena all at the same time, but in this game, San Sebastian didn't have to pick anything. The big man played just 20 minutes for 10 points, while the UAAP Finals MVP and the UAAP Rookie of the Year combined to go 3 of 25 from the field for 12 points, missing seven triples in the process. 
  • Once again, San Sebastian's zone defense stymied Ateneo, keeping in check what is supposed to be a prolific offense. The Eagles wound up attempting 31 triples against the zone, making just eight. For some perspective, Ateneo had never attempted more than 20 in the UAAP. Also, the main disadvantage of the zone is that it makes the defending team have to work harder to get defensive rebounds, but the Stags killed the Eagles on the glass, outworking them 54-33. On the offensive end, Ateneo got only 12 repossessions, versus the 18 of the NCAA runners-up. 
  • After doing a reasonably good job of limiting their turnovers (in the Final Four game) and then limiting the amount of turnover points conceded (in the first Finals game), San Sebastian fell back to their old ways, making 22 errors, which led to 22 turnover points by the Eagles. Calvin Abueva of course, led the way with seven of those miscues. 

Random Notes
  • San Sebastian became the first NCAA team in the PCCL's existence to win the national championship. In doing so, they prevented what could have been a banner year for the Eagles, as Ateneo had won the Fil-Oil Preseason tournament, the UAAP tournament, and the Unigames crown.
  • UAAP teams might want to look at how San Sebastian dominated Ateneo all year long. Combining the Fil-Oil and the PCCL, the Stags are 3-1 against the Eagles in 2011.

PCCL 2011: Finals - SSCR vs ADMU

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

PCCL 2011 - Finals Game 1: ADMU vs SSCR

Three Up
  • UAAP Finals MVP Nico Salva scored four points in the first half, but made up for it with 14 in the second, 10 coming in the third quarter to help Blue Eagles seize and keep the lead. The fourth-year player not only drew defenders like Calvin Abueva and Michael Miranda, and still scored, on the flipside, he also had stretches where he had to guard those two guys, and even some stints versus Ian Sangalang. With the offense stuck in neutral against the zone of Baste, no Salva would have meant an easy ADMU loss.
  • After giving up nine unanswered at the start of the fourth quarter, the Ateneo defense managed to shut San Sebastian down when it mattered, allowing just a single point in the final 3:50 of the game. Sure it helped that Calvin Abueva threw himself out of the game with 1:04 left, but even before that incident, Oping Sumalinog seemed to have gotten the handle on "The Beast," resulting in the steal that led to Abueva's last foul. 
  • Stags head coach Topex Robinson unveiled his latest defensive wrinkle to stop Ateneo: instructing his players to aggressively play for the steal out of their zone. The ploy worked, and the Eagles coughed the ball up a grand total of 26 times. They had 16 turnovers already by the first half, in the UAAP, Ateneo had six games where they finished with less than that number, which led to 13 of San Sebastian's 23 markers in the 20 minute span. 

Three Down
  • Calvin Abueva giveth, and Calvin Abueva taketh away. After missing most of the first half due to what seemed like an early case of cramps, Abueva returned for 11 in 13 second-half minutes, taking over the scoring duties for the Stags. As good as he was though, Abueva also turned the ball over 10 times, four in the final quarter, and none more costly than the one Sumalinog came up with, leading to the ref whistling the NCAA MVP for his fifth. Then on the way off the court, Abueva intentionally bumped that same referee, leading to a technical foul that was charged to his head coach, and free throws that sealed things for Ateneo.
  • How effective was San Sebastian's zone? The Eagles could barely get the ball into the post and Greg Slaughter's hands at times, forcing them to rely on lower percentage shots. Coupled with the arm-bar antics of Michael Miranda and Anthony Del Rio (yes, Anthony Del Rio managed to successfully guard Slaughter several times), and the big man was held to just seven points on 3 of 10 shooting. 
  • Ateneo had an off-day for them at the foul line, shooting just 13 of 20 from the stripe, including missing a few that could have closed the Stags out earlier, but luckily for them, San Sebastian was even worse, with a 5 for 13 clip. They had managed better than 50 percent in the entire NCAA tournament. 

Random Notes
  • As previously mentioned, Ateneo is no stranger to winning two in a row for a PCCL title. They did that against FEU and Adamson in the last two years. 
  • Luckily for Abueva, the PCCL has no provisions for suspending players (something they ought to look into for next year), so he'll be able to make up for his antics on Thursday.  


PCCL 2011: Finals - ADMU vs SSCR

PCCL 2011 - Battle for Third: SBC vs UC

Three Up
  • With Garvo Lanete out the entire PCCL with a shoulder injury, it's been Rome Dela Rosa taking charge of the scoring, show a preview of the next NCAA season. He closed out his team's four-game stint with a 21 point, seven rebound performance, contributing to his strong tournament averages: 34.25 minutes, 18.25 points on 55.36 percent shooting, 4.75 rebounds, 3.25 assists, 0.5 steals and just 0.75 turnovers. While odds are he won't ever have to log that much playing time come Season 88, but it will be much easier for him to score, with Ola Adeogun attracting so much attention and Julius Armon helping to get him the ball. 
  • San Beda head coach Frankie Lim calls it "San Beda basketball," and what that is is run and gun, up and down the court fast attack. In their losses to Ateneo and San Sebastian, the Red Lions normed just 7.5 fastbreak points and 12.5 turnover points. It's the complete opposite of how they thrashed University of Cebu. The Webmasters conceded 21.5 fastbreak points and 22.5 turnover points in their two losses to the NCAA champs, providing rival coaches plenty of "What not to do" footage for next year. 
  • We finally got a glimpse of the Junemar Fajardo that was the subject of so much hype. Not the gimpy, injury struck version that played versus Ateneo, but the real deal. Fajardo went off for 24 points and 24 rebounds, while blocking three shots and looking dominant the whole afternoon. Sadly, his efforts were for naught as he was unable to get support from his teammates. 

Three Down
  • After getting a game-best 25 points, aided by 7 of 12 outside shooting versus San Sebastian, Edward Pao registered no points in this game, missing all six of his shots, five coming from downtown. What made it so head-scratching was the fact that despite his inability to connect from anywhere on the field, Pao still played 39 minutes, and it's not as if his defense was solid (see what Rome Dela Rosa put up, above). 
  • The number one thing for UC head coach Roel Gomez to work on when they get back to Cebu? Getting back on defense in transition. The Webmasters were scorched by the running game of the Manila teams, giving up on average, 20.75 fastbreak points and 19.25 turnover points (off an average of 15.75 turnovers). With Fajardo graduating, that means they'll have an even harder time getting offensive rebounds, which means more opportunities for teams to run on them.
  • Maybe I just overestimate Dave Marcelo, but with the lack of minutes, I would have expected him to get a ton more touches in the low post. Instead, the NCAA Finals MVP managed just 25.25 minutes, 5.5 points on 37.5 percent shooting, though he did norm three assists per game. Defensively, he was solid: 6.75 rebounds, 2.75 blocks, but being the smallest center of the four teams clearly prevented him from establishing himself down low. 

Random Notes
  • This is the best finish for the Red Lions in the history of the PCCL. (They made the Finals versus UE in 2006) History has not been kind to San Beda in the tournament, as injuries and graduation have often hit them the hardest, preventing them from flashing the depth that makes them so potent in the NCAA. Last season they were upset by La Salle in the Elite Eight, playing without their main point guard Borgie Hermida.  
  • UC held constant at fourth place, which is where they finished last year. They were dropped by Ateneo in the Final Four as well, and then lost to La Salle in the battle for third. 

PCCL 2011: Third Place - SBC vs UC

Friday, December 9, 2011

PCCL 2011 - ADMU vs SBC

Three Up
  • After a fourth quarter that produced just a single point, the trio of Greg Slaughter, Nico Salva and Kiefer Ravena made sure that this time, their lead was not going away, dropping 16 of their team's final 21 points. Ravena, the Rookie of the Year in the UAAP, led the charge, scoring eight points in eight minutes, including a sick, mid-air put-back of a Greg Slaughter miss that started a 6-0 blast to finally put San Beda away. 
  • Ateneo's big men sometimes forget to play up to their size, but they didn't in this game, scarfing up the caroms like they were going out of style, 37 to 21, 13 to 7 on the offensive glass, for a 14 to 4 advantage in second-chance points. Slaughter and Salva, the starting frontcourt, hauled down eight each, while guards like Tonino Gonzaga and Kirk Long got four a piece, plus an additional five courtesy of reserve big Justin Chua. 
  • Sticking Tonino Gonzaga on the primary ball-handler was a stroke of genius by head coach Norman Black, as the shut-down defender harassed the likes of Anjo Caram and Baser Amer to no end. On several possessions, the Red Lions would only get into their set plays with 12 or 10 seconds left on the clock. Resulting in a 24-second violation or rushed shots. Towards the latter part of the game, San Beda was forced to resort to leaving two ball-handlers on the court, just to work around Zags.

Three Down
  • San Beda's big men were once again held in check by their larger counterparts. Kyle Pascual was 3 for 5 from the field for six points, along with four boards and two assists, while Dave Marcelo had the unenviable task of trying to guard Greg Slaughter, though on the other end, scored seven, to go with three boards and three dimes. With the offense centered on the San Beda shooters getting free for open looks, it's no wonder the big men vanished from time to time. 
  • With the Eagles shooting 0 for 5 from beyond the arc, it's surprising the Red Lions didn't opt to try a zone defense, which is what threw Ateneo off against San Sebastian. Since the first Final Four match against UC, the outside shooting of Ateneo has been sorely lacking (5/23 combined in those two games against NCAA teams).
  • The more I see of the Gonzaga/Ravena backcourt, the more I like it. Many assumed that we'd have either Juami Tiongson or Nico Elorde at the point with Ravena at the two-spot, and while we haven't seen Elorde yet, Tiongson has been horrible this entire PCCL. He simply hasn't fully grasped the offense yet it seems, forcing Black to go with either Austria or Long at the point guard spot in crunchtime. 

Random Notes
  • When Ateneo plays San Sebastian on Monday, they'll have to beat the Stags twice, if they win on December 12, they'll need one more victory on the 14th to be the PCCL Champs. This isn't the first time they've needed two straight to clinch the crown however. Back in the last two years, when the Finals was a best of three affair, Ateneo dropped the first game of series versus FEU (2009) and Adamson (2010), before bouncing back to raise the trophy. 

PCCL 2011: ADMU vs SBC

Thursday, December 8, 2011

PCCL 2011 - UC vs SSCR

Three Up
  • It took three games, but the 6'10" Junemar Fajardo finally blocked a shot. That's right, Fajardo had not registered a swat in his first two games against Ateneo and San Beda, but was able to record three today, along with 20 points and 12 rebounds. More importantly, Fajardo didn't have to be the main cog of the UC offense, which made it tougher for the Stags to defend the Webmasters as a whole.
  • The Webmasters are pretty reliant on their three-point shot going in. In their first game against Ateneo, they were only 8 of 29 from downtown, a stat that increased to 11 of 30 versus San Beda. Versus San Sebastian, they attempted a whopping 41 triples, converting on 16 of them. Their outside shooting was highlighted by the duo of Edward Pao and Mohammad Robinson, who combined for 45 points, shooting 13 of 26 from outside the arc. 
  • Point guard Brian Heruela has continued to impress, threatening to post a triple-double in each game. His combination of speed, heft, and shooting ability, lead to averages of 11.33 points, 9.33 rebounds, 7.67 assists and 1.33 steals, and he's been probably the team's most consistent player. 

Three Down
  • Once again height did not exactly lead automatically to more rebounds, as the Stags managed to out-do the Webmasters on the boards despite the loss. They tallied 46 rebounds, 16 on the offensive end, versus the production of the Webmasters, 35 rebounds, 9 offensive. 
  • After a record 10-low turnovers versus the Blue Eagles, San Sebastian went back to their old ways, making 23 miscues, closer to their 21.33 mistakes per game in the NCAA. 
  • Save for a 28-point second quarter, the Stags were a mess on offense. They made just 16 of their 49 field goal attempts in the first, third and fourth quarters, scoring less than 20 points each time. They also managed just 16 free throws in that time, making only half. 

PCCL 2011: UC vs SSCR

PCCL 2011 - SBC vs UC

Three Up
  • A day after getting held to a mere two transition points, San Beda exploded for 27 in this game versus the University of Cebu, trampling them into the ground. That was important because the Webmasters were in a zone defense for most of the game, which they couldn't set up when they were lagging behind the run and gun Red Lions.
  • As the game went on (and the minutes piled on for the Webmasters on the short end of their tight rotation), the UC zone began to loose its effectiveness, as the NCAA champs adjusted and began to find the gaps where they could hit outside shots. After the team went 3 for 14 in the first half, they rebounded by hitting 9 of their 18 outside shots in the last twenty minutes.
  • After an abbreviated performance versus Ateneo in the previous day, Junemar Fajardo logged 38 minutes and produced a 24-point, 14-rebound assist, as the Red Lions were powerless to stop the big guy down low (save for a few stray blocks, that is). Despite not having the same lift and explosiveness he possessed in the CESAFI tournament, Fajardo showed some nice footwork, although he could have used a few more touches late in the game.

Three Down
  • San Beda's big men turned in a sub-par game, with Kyle Pascual and Dave Marcelo combining for six points and 12 rebounds. A combination of the zone and the intimidating Fajardo definitely played a role in the game, but you would have liked them to try to assert themselves down low, possibly by attacking Fajardo's defense and getting him into foul trouble.
  • Despite having the size advantage thanks to Fajardo (who played 38 minutes), UC oftentimes settled for the long-ball, attempting 30 triples and making just 11 of them. While Fajardo got 20 attempts, he only had one look at the foul line the entire game which says a lot about the aggressiveness of this UC squad.
  • Playing a depleted San Beda team, the University of Cebu opted against showing their depth by playing point guard Brian Heruela 40 minutes, and Fajardo and Edward Pao 38 minutes each. Ultimately, you could say the fatigue got to them, especially the outside shooters, as the Webmasters' percentage from outside fell from 9 of 20 in the previous three quarters, to just 2 of 10 in crunchtime. 

Random Notes
  • The win over UC keeps San Beda alive, while eliminating the CESAFI champs from the Finals. If San Beda can upset Ateneo on Friday, it will forge an all-NCAA PCCL Finals, which would result in the first NCAA National Champion. 

PCCL 2011: SBC vs UC

PCCL 2011 - ADMU vs SSCR

Three Up
  • Head coach Topex Robinson came into the game knowing how much Ateneo relied on their fastbreak offense and made sure his troops were prepared to stop it. The San Sebastian Stags allowed just five fastbreak attempts for four transition points, both numbers equal to the Blue Eagles' UAAP Season 74 lows. As a result, they scored just 69 points overall, a far cry from the 100 they put up versus UC. 
  • When Ronald Pascual went down with his injury, Anthony Del Rio took over his role of outside sniper, knocking down clutch back to back triples to keep his team ahead of the San Beda Red Lions. In this game however, Del Rio played the role of quarterback to the hilt, playing a game-high 35 minutes and finishing with seven assists. More importantly, the Stags turned it over just 10 times in the game, an amazing stat considering they had never notched less than 13 errors in this past NCAA season.
  • Reserve big man JP Erram of Ateneo continues to make his case for more minutes come next year. The 6'7" shotblocker recorded eight points, four rebounds and three blocks in just 15 minutes of play, and did not seem to mind getting into it with the Baste big men. 

Three Down
  • Ateneo's troika of scorers, Greg Slaughter, Kiefer Ravena, and Nico Salva were all inconsistent in the game. Each had standout quarters (Slaughter had eight in the first, Ravena six in the second, and Salva nine in the third), but in the key fourth period, the trio combined for just a single point, while going 0 for 8 from the field. 
  • Despite having the biggest guy on the court, the Blue Eagles were out-rebounded 41-35, as well as beaten on the offensive glass, 12-7. How did the Stags do it? Of their eight players that got onto the court for at least 10 minutes, all of them pulled down at least two rebounds. 
  • While the coaching staff is waiting for a second opinion, it is almost a certainty that Ronald Pascual tore his left ACL completely, meaning he'll be out for an extended period during the off-season. Robinson and company are optimistic he'll be back for the start of the NCAA season (June, seven months away), but that means a lack of preseason, and the additional training he would have received in the PBA-DL.

Random Notes
  • By virtue of beating Ateneo and San Beda, and with the Red Lions dispatching UC in the second game of that day, San Sebastian was able to clinch the twice-to-beat advantage in the Finals, with today's game against the Webmasters becoming a non-bearing game.   


Monday, December 5, 2011

PCCL 2011 - SSCR vs SBC

Three Up
  • Good things happen when the San Sebastian Stags involve Ian Sangalang in the offense. With the Red Lions having just two legit big men on their active roster (Kyle Pascual and Dave Marcelo), the NCAA runners-up went down low in the second and third quarters, similar to what they did versus Letran in the Luzon-Metro Manila regional finals. The results were of course, positive. Sangalang scored 16 of his 20 points in that 20-minute stretch, coinciding with the stretch when the Stags seized control of the game. Now if only they can remember to start going to him in the fourth quarter...
  • By the same token, good things happen when San Sebastian becomes more than just the Big Three, like they were in this game. Jovit Dela Cruz made it four Stags in double-digits, finishing with 13. Anthony Del Rio bounced back from an invisible showing against Letran with eight points, six rebounds and five assists, six of those eight points coming off two big momentum saving triples in the fourth. And much-maligned big men Michael Miranda and Dexter Maiquez had some pretty productive outings as well. 
  • I wish Dave Marcelo had put the ball in his side's basket a bit more often (3/8 from the field, just one free throw attempt), but the NCAA Finals MVP did as best a job as he could in 29 minutes to stop San Sebastian from doing the same. The big guy got 10 rebounds and seven rejections in 29 minutes, a big deal, considering how he had just come from a PBA-DL game. 

Three Down
  • I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the numerous near-fights and then the one actual fight towards the end of the game. A few unsportsmanlike fouls aside, the two teams came very close to being civil for the most part, until Kyle Pascual's forearm shiver turned Calvin Abueva into a whirling dervish that soon sucked in even people off the bench. Talk about giving the crowd what they wanted, right?
  • With so many unavailable players, most notably Garvo Lanete, San Beda needed outside shooting to keep the defense honest. And while Melo Lim delivered, he was the only one, as Rome Dela Rosa, Mar Villahermosa and Baser Amer were a combined 3 of 12 from downtown, with the team shooting 6 of 20 overall. 
  • Ronald Pascual's injury was a gruesome one, landing on his left knee. Pascual had previously suffered an ACL injury, so when he heard a sound, he feared the worst. Odds are, no matter what the injury is, he's likely going to miss tomorrow's game versus Ateneo. If he's unlikely, he'll be missing a whole lot more.

Random Notes
  • Head coach Topex Robinson's post-game comment about being aware that the team gets branded as "squatters" is remarkably self-aware, but his multiple apologies for not being able to control his players showed that he's a supremely classy guy. 
  • Su Daniel sat on the bench in street clothes. Asked before the game by Chris Soler if he would play in the PCCL, Daniel said he hoped so, and that he was being saved for "bigger games." Because Baste versus San Beda is a mere footnote, right? 

PCCL 2011: SSCR vs SBC

PCCL 2011 - UC vs ADMU

Three Up
  • Ateneo's offense was simply astounding, hitting 100 despite not having their starting point guard to run the show. The Eagles shot 59.7 percent from the field, making 40 of 67 shots, while scoring 27 on the break (on 14 attempts) and 20 off 16 University of Cebu errors. They also made it a habit to attack the rim, getting 20 free throws and canning 15, a huge step up from the 3 of 5 line the Webmasters posted. When Ateneo's posting those kind of numbers, they're damn near impossible to stop, with or without a 6'10" big man. 
  • Greg Slaughter heard all about the comparisons to Fajardo, and how some have Fajardo as the superior CESAFI-born big man, so the 7-footer decided to put his offensive arsenal on display, scoring 18 points in 21 minutes on a variety of hooks, jumpers, and post up moves. More importantly, with the big man in a groove early (seven points, four rebounds, in eight first quarter minutes) the rest of the Blue Eagles quickly fell in line, resulting in the first quarter storm they pulled off.
  • Remember when people used to fear that Kiefer Ravena could not make the transition to point guard? The Phenom dished out eight assists while assuming the one-spot with Emman Monfort balling for NLEX, while still scoring 12 points on 5 of 7 shooting. Ateneo's wings did a good job of moving the ball around as well with Tonino Gonzaga finishing with 10 points and seven dimes, and Kirk Long tallying seven markers and five assists. All in all, Ateneo had 28 assists, more than doubling UC's 12. 

Three Down
  • If you went into this game jazzed about Junemar Fajardo and Slaughter going at it like Godzilla versus King Kong, then you probably went home disappointed. Thanks to his knee injury, Fajardo played just 14 minutes off the bench, though he had 12 points and nine rebounds in that span. "The Kraken" had no lift though, failing to create any offense and relying heavily on his teammates to find him when he was open, and even then he still was off on some of his shots. Without a good performance from Fajardo, the Webmasters will be hard-pressed to win games.
  • UC's starting five produced a measly 14 points, eight from Brian Heruela and six from Edward Pao. That's a big step down considering each scored 14 versus SWU in the game for the Southern Islands championship. 
  • The confident Juami Tiongson we saw in game two of the UAAP Finals was nowhere to be found in this game. Given major minutes and the chance to strut his stuff, Tiongson looked lost at times, and couldn't get the offense going, which is why the Eagles stumbled out of the gates in the second quarter. 

Random Notes
  • In reference to this tweet by Charles Tiu...did you know that 7 feet = 2.13 meters?   
  • Ateneo needed Fajardo to get his fourth foul at the beginning of the fourth quarter to go from a 50-43 end of the third quarter lead to a 74-54 final score last year in the PCCL. This time, the blowout came early. 

PCCL 2011: UC vs ADMU

Saturday, December 3, 2011

2011 PCCL Final Four Preview

Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles

Pedigree: Winners of the last four UAAP titles, reigning back to back PCCL champions
Players to Watch:  Greg Slaughter, Kiefer Ravena, Nico Salva

Key Points:
  • Of all the Manila teams in the Final Four, Ateneo has the fewest PBA-DL players with a conflicting schedule, namely Emman Monfort who is seeing time with the NLEX Road Warriors. Even if he was free, it's entirely possible that the graduating Monfort would have played just a handful of minutes, with head coach Norman Black giving more time to Juami Tiongson, the projected starter next season. 
  • The Eagles relied heavily on their starters during the last title run, but the bench was given a lot of quality minutes during the Unigames tourney, as guys like Tonino Gonzaga, JP Erram and Gwynne Capacio got starters' minutes with the starting five and the veteran players unavailable. If they continue to play up to that level, this will be a deadly team.
  • By the same token, Ateneo will be the deepest of all the teams in the Final Four, a huge asset given the punishing three games in five days schedule that they'll be playing. Head coach Norman Black has the luxury of switching up his line-up and rotation in every game, should he choose to.

San Beda Red Lions

Pedigree: Back to back NCAA titles, PCCL Elite Eight team last season
Players to Watch: Baser Amer, Dave Marcelo, Jake Pascual, Sudan Daniel

Key Points
  • This will be a very fired-up San Beda squad, with axes to grind against Ateneo (due to the transfer of the Semerads) and San Sebastian (the recent volleyball brawl). Coupled with the fact that this team is looking to become the first NCAA titlists of the PCCL, and you have a scary motivated team. 
  • The Red Lions have been dominant in the NCAA due to their immense bench depth, but that asset has taken a huge hit, with the Semerads leaving San Beda and Garvo Lanete's shoulder injury, suffered during the SEA Games campaign. Toss in the fact that a handful of players may be unavailable due to PBA-DL commitments (Dave Marcelo with NLEX, Mar Villahermosa and Jake Pascual with Dub Unlimited, and Melo Lim and Rome Dela Rosa with PC Gilmore) and we could in theory see a shorthanded SBC team.
  • It's been unclear if Sudan Daniel will suit up for this tournament, after missing the NCAA proper with an ACL injury, but his presence would be a huge lift for this squad. Even if his explosion will be limited, Daniel can be a decent to good post defender, and he provides the necessary height to battle Greg Slaughter and Junmar Fajardo. 

San Sebastian College-Recoletos Golden Stags

Pedigree: Metro-Manila/Luzon Regional Bracket winners, PCCL Sweet 16 team last season
Players to Watch: Calvin Abueva, Ronald Pascual, Ian Sangalang

Key Points:
  • The Pinatubo Trio is the best scoring triad in collegiate basketball, and when they're on their game, they're nearly impossible to beat. Versatile enough to thrive in both transition and half-court sets, as well as on defense, a coherent Stags squad is tough to match up with. 
  • While Monfort and Marcelo are but complementary pieces on NLEX, the Trio form the core of the D-League squad. Luckily, playing on Monday-Tuesday-Thursday means they'll only miss/arrive late to one game, if anything.
  • Conversely, San Sebastian drew the short end of the scheduling stick, playing three games in four days. They could deal with that if they had a deep bench, but they don't, leaning heavily on the Big Three to account for the majority of their production. I wouldn't be surprised if fatigue led to a drop-off in quality play by the time they play University of Cebu. Head coach Topex Robinson might have to gamble by giving his reserves more minutes, but that hasn't worked out well the few times he's tried it against some of the lesser NCAA squads. 

University of Cebu Webmasters

Pedigree: Visayas-Mindanao Regional Bracket winners, PCCL Final Four team last season
Players to Watch: Junmar Fajardo, Luigi Bercede, Brian Heruela

Key Points: 
  • The Webmasters entered the Final Four last year of the PCCL by going through several provincial squads. The buzzsaw came to a grinding halt however when they went up against two UAAP teams, dropping assignments to a doughnut of an Ateneo team and falling versus a DLSU team that was still lacking in "trees." In past iterations of the tourney, UC has also fallen to the Letran Knights (led by Dino Daa) and the UE Red Warriors (fronted by Elmer Espiritu and Pari Llagas), so they'll be looking for a breakthrough this time. 
  • 6'10" Junmar Fajardo is the name on everyone's lips but a one-man show will not cut it against the other three Final Four teams, especially with the likes of Slaughter and Daniel playing across the court from him. Guys like the aforementioned Bercede and Heruela, as well as Edward Pao, will need to contribute as well. It's interesting to note that Fajardo suffered a knee injury in the Southern Islands Final, though he did come back into the game afterwards. If he's less than 100 percent, Fajardo may not have a choice but to help set up his teammates instead of dominating the ball. 
  • Between their three games in four days schedule and "jetlag" (the excuse given by the team for their poor showing last season), we'll need to see if UC can flash some solid play away from Cebu and avoid issues of fatigue.