With the Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup coming to a close last June 30, 2018, we finally got a better sense of how the teams are doing entering the collegiate basketball season. Here are some things we can takeaway as we bid adieu to the Filoil tournament:
The Gilas Cadets have plenty of work to do, but have potential to do great things
There were plenty of disappointed fans when the Gilas Cadets failed to make it to the postseason of the Filoil tournament. For a team filled with some of the best college players in the country to perform that badly felt wrong. But the tournament was never about performing well. It was always about building themselves as a team for the future.
Having an established system and identity are important for a basketball team to operate. The Gilas Cadets don’t have that yet. That’s one of the reasons they joined this tournament in the first place, to make sense of who they are as a team moving forward.
There’s plenty of length and positional versatility with this team, as we’ve seen Ricci Rivero play point guard in multiple occasions. Kobe Paras showcased his pure athleticism by playing all the wing positions including some power forward. Abu Tratter showed that he’s a glue guy who can do the dirty work on both ends of the floor. There’s talent in this team, it just hasn’t led to results. That’s fine. They have five years to go before 2023, plenty of time before this team figures out who it is as a whole.
The UAAP will be a bloodbath from top to bottom
Ateneo may have won the tournament while the FEU Tamaraws turned some heads in the postseason, but the rest of the UAAP also deserves some love for how they played during the course of the preseason. Next year’s UAAP class is one of the deeper ones we’ve seen in quite some time.
It all starts with the La Salle Green Archers, who many projected to barely scrape past the Final Four come the UAAP season. That’s not looking like the case, as Justine Baltazar and crew have emerged as a united group ready to wreak havoc with their size and skill. Scary thing is, there’s still plenty of untapped potential with that group.
The same can be said about other teams. The UP Fighting Maroons have plenty of room to grow, boasting of one the most talented teams in the country led by Gilas Cadets Juan Gomez de Liano and Paul Desiderio, and freshly minted foreign student athlete Bright Akuhetie. Adamson and NU continue to be in the mix with considerable amount of talent from all fronts, while UST and UE have loaded up not just with new coaches, but also added talent.
Ateneo and FEU are certainly the favorites coming into the season, but the other teams deserve some love too. By the end of it all, things might get crazy as we try to make sense of Final Four seeding.
The SBU Red Lions remain elite and deep
If you told me that the SBU Red Lions were playing without Robert Bolick for most of the tournament, I would have predicted that would struggle for the most part. That was far from the case, as San Beda continued their excellence throughout the tournament. They lost just three times, twice to the Ateneo Blue Eagles and once to the UP Fighting Maroons. Other than those games, they remained one of the best teams in the tournament, evidenced by their march to the Finals.
A big part of why they played so well over the course of the FilOil tournament was their depth. Javee Mocon emerged as the team’s main guy while Donald Tankoua continued to be a strong big man for the team. But there were other players that emerged out of the shadows to help the team out. Clint Doliguez is starting to show promise as the Energizer Bunny type of player many projected him to be coming out of High School. Even rookies Evan Nelle and Fil-Canadian James Canlas helped the team out, contributing in ways you wouldn’t expect from newcomers.
Robert Bolick will likely be healthy come the NCAA season, but even without him, the Red Lions will be fine. They have depth, and the top level type of talent that can help them retain the crown their captain helped them grab last season.
Don’t sleep: The FEU Tamaraws are legitimate championship contenders
FEU lost out of the UAAP Final Four in the worst of ways last season. They could have won with the ball held by Arvin Tolentino during the final seconds of regulation. Instead, the ball slipped out of his hands. That tough loss in the UAAP continued to loom as preseason came closer and closer.
They came out in the preseason with a bang, and it culminated with an impressive performance during the postseason of the FilOil tournament. The team remains deep with talent. Even more impressive was how they seemingly used their demons from last season to fuel their improvement and growth. Tolentino played with much better flow in the tournament. Prince Orizu moved a lot better in the post with better control of the ball. Hubert Cani was back to making dagger plays, which reminded some of his performance in Season 76.
The talent has always been there for FEU, but now they added some polish to their game. That wouldn’t have happened without the failure they experienced last season. They’re legitimate title contenders, and it would be ridiculous to think otherwise.
CSB Blazers and Letran Knights would like to barge in the NCAA championship race
Don’t let Lyceum’s subpar FilOil tournament fool you. They’re still favorites to win the championship along with San Beda, putting together an inspired performance during their PBA D-League Aspirants Cup championship run. If you were to bet on who would be squaring off in the NCAA Finals, you bet on San Beda and Lyceum. They both have the talent and experience to get to that stage.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any other teams to take note of as contenders. One such team that surprised many were the CSB Blazers, who won just four games last season with new head coach TY Tang. In the preseason, the Blazers impressed by not just showcasing players who were more polished now (Unique Naboa), but also potential superstars such as Justin Gutang. They’re the kind of athletic, fun group that’s must-watch basketball.
Then there’s the Letran Knights, who have one of the biggest teams in the league led by Gilas Cadet Jeo Ambohot. JP Calvo and Bong Quinto continue to be as steady as ever, but it’s the newcomers such as Bonbon Batiller, Larry Muyang, and Christian Fajarito who truly give the Knights the kind of punch they lacked last season. Sprinkle in rookies Fran Yu, Jason Celis and EJ Agbong, and you have a group that’s ready to contend not just in the present, but also for the future.
San Beda and Lyceum will are still the favorites. But don’t sleep on CSB and Letran. They’re two teams with a ton of length, and who could surprise opponents that aren’t careful with their sneaky talent.
The Ateneo Blue Eagles and their #FirstWorldProblems
Ateneo came out of the Filoil tournament looking absolutely un-fuck-withable. They didn’t lose any game, won most of their games by double digits, and had three players in the Mythical Team along with MVP. What kind of problem does such a talent group face?
It’s a simple, petty problem: finding out who to cut.
Any coach has to go through such a dilemma, but for the Blue Eagles, it’s particularly difficult because of the level of talent the individuals in the team has. Specifically, Ateneo has plenty of guards in Jolo Mendoza, Tyler Tio, SJ Belangel and Gian Mamuyac, but no one’s particularly a lock among those players. They have forwards like Will Navarro and Pat Maagdenberg who have to improve their all-around games to lock-in their spots.
That’s not a knock on their skill, they’re all splendid ballers who provide so much positives to their teams. It’s just that… there’s only 16 slots in a UAAP roster, and Ateneo’s choosing from a rather talented group of players. Whoever gets cut, it’s going to hurt not just for the player, but even for the fans themselves.
Aside from that? It’s looking good for Ateneo. The preseason has always served as a training ground for the team, so it’s reasonable to think their system will be more polished come the UAAP season. Just #FirstWorldProblems for a team with plenty of talent from top to bottom.