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. 

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