The UAAP Season 73 finals begins this weekend, unfortunately for us it doesn’t involve our Green Archers. The FEU Tamaraws, which topped the eliminations, take on 2nd placer and 2-time defending champion Ateneo in a best of 3 series.
You can now throw away the stats and records. When the UAAP men’s basketball title is on the line, it all boils down to who wants it more. One team is ready to cement their place in the record books as a dynasty while the other is hoping to finally fulfill their promise after years of disappointment.
FEU may have defeated Ateneo twice in the eliminations but I’ll still give the Blue Eagles the edge in this series because of their experience of playing in a championship setting. Despite losing their top 3 players from last season, the defending champions have proven time and again that they can rise up to the challenge and get the job done when it counts the most. When their game is clicking, they are a very hard team to beat. And their game is premised more on team play, which reduces the reliance on individual performance in contrast to FEU, which leans heavily on the individual talents of its players line MVP RR Garcia, ROY Romeo, and frontliners Ramos and Cervantes. Ateneo’s veterans Salamat, Long, Buenafe, Salva and Monfort expected to lead the team. Ateneo’s game strategy is similar to ours in that they rely on their defense more than their ability to outshoot the opponents to win games. FEU, on the other hand, is a high scoring squad which uses its superior firepower to win.
For the Tamaraws, their ability to win in big games remains suspect. In last year’s final four, they blew a twice-to-beat advantage to UE. This year, it had to take a grueling overtime win over the Green Archers to reach the finals. FEU also lost in the finals of both the PCCL and the Fil-Oil Flying V Preseason tournaments in between seasons. In the last 3 years, FEU has underperformed despite having very strong lineups because of internal issues. This year, there were no apparent internal rifts, and the team has shown some grit in coming from behind twice to edge our Archers. However, our ability to give them a close match will have been carefully studied by the Blue Eagle braintrust.
The last time these two teams clashed in the finals was in 2003 when the Tamaraws overwhelmingly swept the Blue Eagles and denied them the back-to-back. Being the last team (on record only folks) to win a triple-crown, can FEU thwart Ateneo’s attempt to achieve a similar feat? The scouting and strategies of both will be exposed on center stage. Let’s see who can execute better.
It sure sucks not to be in the finals again. Nevertheless I bet many of us would still be interested on the outcome of this championship match. Let’s enjoy the show.
Fearless forecast: Ateneo in 2; FEU in 3