With half of the regular season over, Season 81 of the UAAP is shaping up to be one of the wildest in history. What have been the biggest takeaways from the season so far?
This season is DRUNK.
There are no winless teams, no undefeated teams, and there have been numerous upsets, and we still have a full round and the playoffs to look forward to. Three teams – Adamson, Ateneo, and FEU – are tied at the top of the standings with 5-2 records.
To recap: UST defeated UP, UP defeated UE, UE defeated FEU, FEU defeated Adamson, Adamson defeated Ateneo, Ateneo defeated La Salle, La Salle defeated NU, and NU defeated UST. It’s like an elaborate version of rock-paper-scissors.
The FEU Tamaraws are perhaps the embodiment of this drunkenness. They lost to both the last-placed UE Red Warriors and the rebuilding UST Growling Tigers within a three-game span only to bounce back by defeating the top two teams – the Adamson Soaring Falcons and the Ateneo Blue Eagles – to close out the first round.
As stressful as this unpredictability is for each school’s supporters, you cannot deny that it definitely makes for a more compelling and fun season.
Mayhem has fixed the UST mess
After two consecutive miserable seasons, including a school-worst 1-13 record last year, the UST Growling Tigers seem to have found the right formula to fix their basketball program in former De La Salle Green Archers head coach Aldin Ayo and their youth-filled roster led by super rookie CJ Cansino.
Although still currently at sixth-place, the Growling Tigers already have a 3-4 record with impressive wins against Final Four contenders UP and FEU. They still have an outside shot of crashing into the Final Four. And if they do, one can argue that it is going to be coach Ayo’s most impressive feat in the UAAP, even more than the championship he won with the Ben Mbala-led Green Archers.
Whether or not the Growling Tigers make the Final Four or not, it is safe to say that they are way ahead in their rebuild than many thought. Things are definitely looking up for the proud UST basketball program.
A slower game
After a frenetically-paced Season 80, teams seem to have decided to take it slow for this year, and it has thus resulted into lower scoring games in Season 81. Last season, UP was fifth in points per game with 77.6 points per game while Ateneo was last in pace with an average of 81.69 possessions per game. If we were to impose those numbers into Season 81, both figures would rank first among all teams.
Efficiency is down this year as well, but not too much. Most defensive statistics don’t stray away much as well. It is like all the teams agreed to just take the speed down a notch for this year.
Epic Rookie of the Year race
Much has already been said about these two this season, so I won’t say much. I am just looking forward to seeing these two battle it out for the rest of their careers.
The future of the UAAP is as bright as ever. Need proof? Nine out of the top 10 players in scoring – Alvin Pasaol, Juan Gomez de Liano, Jerick Ahanmisi, Aljun Melecio, Bright Akhuetie, CJ Cansino, Dave Ildefonso, Sean Manganti, and Justine Baltazar – are all either only in their third playing year or younger. Henri Subido (fifth) is in his fourth playing year. It is definitely a good time to be a UAAP fan.
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