UAAP Season 78 preview: FEU Tamaraws

ue-feu r2 pic 3 by roy afable

Additions: Monbert Arong, Wendel Comboy, Kevin Ebona, Ken Holmqvist, Steve Holmqvist, Prince Orizu, Joe Trinidad

Subtractions: Anthony Hargrove, Carl Cruz, Jason David, Joel Lee Yu, Jeson Delfinado, Reeve Ugsang, Augus Denilla

Holdovers: Mark Belo, Ron Dennison, Richard Escoto, Russel Escoto, Achie Inigo, Raymar Jose, Roger Pogoy, Francis Tamsi, Mike Tolomia

Season 77 result – Prior to last season, a common prediction was that FEU would struggle. From having RR Garcia and Terrence Romeo play “your turn, my turn,” the team was suddenly left without both of them, plus key contributors like Gryann Mendoza and Christian Sentcheu.

As it turned out, there was nothing to worry about. Mike Tolomia and Achie Inigo blended seamlessly together in the backcourt, while Mark Belo took a quantum leap in the front court, emerging as a versatile threat and the new face of the team.

FEU wasn’t flashy, but they were efficient, boasting of the top field goal percentage (42.0 percent) and the number one percentage inside the arc (48.7 percent). Combined with a solid enough defense, especially considering their lack of rim protection, FEU easily outperformed expectations, and went all the way to the Finals.

By then, the Tamaraws were the popular pick to win the UAAP Championship, and they were halfway there after taking game one against the NU Bulldogs. Unfortunately, National U finally figured out Far Eastern’s offense, and held them to a 29.5 percent shooting clip in games two and three. The Bulldogs finally snapped their 60-year title drought, while FEU’s stretched out to year nine.

Achi Inigo and Mark Belo

Season 78 outlook – Heading into this season, FEU retains a lot of their core, including Belo, Tolomia, Inigo, Roger Pogoy, plus local big men Russel Escoto, Raymar Jose, and Richard Escoto. Just keeping the Belo-Tolomia pairing for another season is already a big deal, especially with Belo probably picking up more than a few tricks during his international stint with the Gilas cadets.

The two major rotation pieces exiting are Hargrove and Cruz, who played a large chunk of FEU’s front court minutes last season. Cruz, an undersized big with a decent jump shot and a willingness to do the dirty work will be missed. Hargrove on the other hand, vastly underachieved during his stint with the team. Tellingly, he fouled out in all three Finals games, with a total of just two points to his name in games two and three.

Knowing that needing someone to guard Alfred Aroga (and Troy Rosario) was their key deficiency in the S77 Finals, FEU made sure to boost their center spot, with the 6’8” African Prince Orizu and 6’9” Fil-Euro Ken Holmqvist. If either pan out, FEU would likely have the best front court out of all of last season’s Final Four teams.

FEU also made sure to add more scoring options, just in case defenses turn their eye on the Belo-Tolomia pairing. Former SWU Cobra Monbert Arong gives them another scoring wing, rookie and SLAM PH Rising Star Wendell Comboy is likely the next big Tam at guard, while the rangy Steve, brother to the aforementioned Ken Holmqvist could give other teams problems as well.

Mike Tolomia

Prediction – FEU is going to the Finals, but if they don’t, then it’ll be a failure of a season.

That may sound harsh, but it’s the truth, considering the amount of veteran firepower on this team, which conversely means, a ton of those guys will be exiting following this season. That list includes Tolomia and Pogoy, and reserve guard Francis Tamsi. Belo and Arong might opt to forgo their final playing years too.

So, with the most well-rounded roster, another trip to the Finals is the bare minimum for this team. And while we’ve seen well-rounded, powerhouse FEU teams trip up in the Finals, sometimes to lesser teams too, last season’s squad was pretty drama-free (we mean that in a good way), and their one major weakness looks to have been solved. Barring injuries or other spectacularly devastating unforeseen calamities, these guys are the favorites to win Season 78.