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UAAP first round wrap-up: AdU, FEU, ADMU, UST

August 27, 2012 1:46pm

With each team’s first seven games of UAAP Season 75 in the books, it’s now time for squads to maneuver themselves into position for the Final Four, or if they’re on the other end of the spectrum, accumulate enough wins to avoid the cellar position.

Is your team capable of continuing their winning ways? Or have opponents figured them out? Maybe now is when they turn things around? Part two of a two-part series takes a look at the AdU Soaring Falcons, the FEU Tamaraws, the ADMU Blue Eagles and the UST Growling Tigers, and examines what has been making them tick after the first round.

Part one featuring the NU Bulldogs, the UE Red Warriors, the UP Fighting Maroons and the DLSU Green Archers can be found here.

Alex Nuyles' injury (left, versus UP's Mike Gamboa), robs Adamson of their most dynamic player. KC Cruz

Adamson University Soaring Falcons
It’s been a downward spiral since the Falcons’ Final Four perch last season. And as if it couldn’t get any worse, Alex Nuyles, the team’s marquee wingman, has retired from college ball after opting to undergo surgery for his ailing right shoulder.
Without his explosiveness and daredevil drives to the rim, it was obvious that Nuyles was not himself in the four games he played. Though he was a limited scorer, he was at least a serviceable decoy for drive-and-kicks and drop passes to open teammates (3.8 assists). Without that threat, the Falcons’ offense is all the more limited. As a result, they’re norming only 61.1 points per game.
The Falcons have also disappointing on the defensive end. While they were a top-three defensive team during the last couple of years, this season has been the opposite. They’re conceding 42.1 percent field goal shooting, 49.4 percent from inside the arc, both league-worst marks.
It’s always nice to have options; a roster with a slew of wingmen can give you that. But what Adamson lacks though, is a consistent end-game scorer. The team has been hoping Roider Cabrera can be that guy, but he’s shot just 23.5 percent from the field, and 13.6 percent on triples, making 6 out of 44 three-point attempts. In any case, there’s just one round left, before the Falcons can set this nightmare behind them and train their sights on UAAP Season 76.

Terrence Romeo (center) draws a DLSU triple-team. KC Cruz

Far Eastern University Tamaraws
In contrast to Adamson, the Tamaraws have transitioned better from losing their key players to graduation. At the start of the season, critics worried to varying extents about the departures of Aldrech Ramos, JR Cawaling, Jens Knuttel, Ping Exciminano and Pipo Noundou. So far though, they haven’t been exactly missed.
What’s happened is the emergence of former Rookie of the Year Terrence Romeo, who has put together an impressive all-around game, averaging 16.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.7 steals. He’s had to step up, because former MVP RR Garcia has been hobbled with an ankle injury, though Garcia’s still putting up 12.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists.
But these Tamaraws will only go so far as Romeo is willing to share the ball and get his teammates involved. He has the weapons at his disposal—Anthony Hargrove, Arvie Bringas and even Mac Belo—but he has to better discern when the ball is better off in someone else’s hands.
This isn’t to say, however, that FEU is a lock for a Finals berth. The Tamaraws have struggled against the elite big men of UST, ADMU and NU. In the first round, Greg Slaughter, Karim Abdul and Emmanuel Mbe notched above-average performances against FEU’s front line. Overall, their interior defense is middle-of-the-road, conceding 30.3 points per game. Matching-up against DLSU in the Final Four might give them some relief, but eventually they’ll have to devise a way to limit those low-post threats.

Kiefer Ravena (center), always deadly in transition, blitzes past the UE defense. KC Cruz

Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles
No one predicted this season would be a cakewalk for the defending champions, but they’ve given a good account of themselves so far. Suffering just a close loss to UST (whom coach Norman Black identified as a legitimate threat before the season began) is probably still one of the better case scenarios for the Eagles after seven games.
The point guard combination of Juami Tiongson and Nico Elorde has been useful to Black whenever he wants to switch gears on offense. Tiongson (7.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists), has also been a superb ball-handler for the Eagles this season.
Where Ateneo has trailed off notably is in their perimeter shooting. They weren't anything spectacular last season, but this year, the Eagles are dead last in all three-point shooting statistics (16-of-71 from downtown, for fewest makes and attempts). Individually though, some players deserve recognition. Tiongson, as well as Oping Sumalinog, has kept opposing defenses honest. And while Ryan Buenafe isn’t the Finals MVP that everyone remembers, he’s come up big for his team (5.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists) when they’ve needed him to.
Of their Big Three of Kiefer Ravena, Nico Salva and Greg Slaughter, the 7-foot behemoth is still the key to making this offense work (14.9 points, 47.6 percent shooting). Ateneo has weathered through bad games from Ravena and Salva, but keeping Slaughter on the floor is crucial. Get him into foul-trouble, like UST did, and Ateneo is a completely different team. But that’s something easier said than done.

Jeric Fortuna (left) takes it strong to the hole against UP's Diony Hipolito. KC Cruz

University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers

Barring a last-minute collapse against FEU on opening day, the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers could easily have kept a clean slate after the first round. Their rise may have come as a surprise to some, but it’s nonetheless well-deserved.

Karim Abdul's (17.6 points, 13.6 rebounds) growth as a player is a big factor in their performance. From an unpolished specimen, he's learned a few tricks in the post and has a knack for finding the bottom of the basket . Aljon Mariano (12.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists) is also a huge asset to the Espana-based squad: he's too big for most wings, too quick for most bigs, and can score from almost anywhere on the floor.

One of their biggest concerns moving forward is the health of their lead gunner, Jeric Teng (averaged 16.0 points in four outings). UST benefited from their schedule by going up against the other Final Four contenders first before allowing Teng to take it easy against UP, Adamson and UE. But only time will tell if Teng can still make a meaningful impact on the team or if his injured state throws a wrench in their Finals aspirations.

Though they've gutted out close wins, UST is not a team to shut opponents down defensively--they allow 69.0 points per game (second-worst) and tally the least blocks (3.0). Rather, they have a knack for mounting a series of rallies within games, often backed by Clark Bautista's exploits from downtown (30 percent from three-point land). Keeping step with them on offense is going to be a chore, but if opponents can chase UST off the arc, then they're going to find other ways to win. - AMD, GMA News
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