It’s a great time to be a basketball fan. The PBA is still ongoing and nearing the playoffs while the NCAA is on their 2nd round of the eliminations.
For fans of the UAAP, the basketball season will open this coming Sunday at the Araneta Colisuem. While DLSU is a clear favorite to win the title, there are a lot of and questions and predictions surrounding the other 7 teams.
The initial power rankings for this season will try to evaluate where each team stands before the season begins. Of course, things could look a lot different after the first week of games are played.
Well, let’s take a look at the first edition of FOX Sports UAAP Season 79 Men’s Basketball Power Rankings.
1. DLSU Green Archers
The Green Archers are the favorites to win it all. Most pundits even feel that DLSU will sweep the elimination round. Heck, even the UAAP board modified the final four and finals format (probably) in anticipation of a La Salle sweep. Well, DLSU is definitely stacked. Jeron Teng and Jason Perkins will man the frontcourt together with super rookie Ben Mbala. They also have Prince Rivero, Abu Tratter and new recruits: Mark Dyke and Justine Baltazar to field the biggest and tallest frontline. Oh, their back court isn’t that bad either. They have Andrei Caracut, Aljun Melecio, Jolo Go, Kib Montalbo, Thomas Torres and Ricci Rivero. Just wow. One big question: Is everyone willing to sacrifice minutes and opportunities?
2. FEU Tamaraws
The defending champions are expected to give DLSU all they can handle. The Tamaraws also have a budding rivalry with the Green Archers. FEU is generally regarded as the best team to challenge DLSU and at least prevent a sweep. Their upcoming game on Wednesday will definitely be worth watching. The last time they faced each other during a preseason exhibition, the game was cancelled because the players and the coaches started to lose their cool. Anyway, a lot of FEU’s key players from last season are gone (Belo, Tolomia, Pogoy, Escoto) but they still have important holdovers like Monbert Arong, Raymar Jose, Prince Orizu and Ron Dennison. One big question: Who is their best player?
3. NU Bulldogs
The Bulldogs are heading into this season with the hopes that they can help Alfred Aroga play in the finals once more. Aroga is in his final year and he will receive help from J-Jay Alejandro, Med Salim and Rev Diputado. Gone are Gelo Alolino, Kyle Neypes and Pao Javelona and the new guys include Matt Aquino and Matt Salem. Aside from the two “Matts”, the Bulldogs have a lot of new players and it might take some time for them to adjust to the rigors of the Men’s Senior circuit. Fortunately, champion Coach Eric Altamirano is still around and he can guide this team to the final four (or beyond). One big question: Who will be their 2nd best player after Aroga?
4. ADMU Blue Eagles
The Blue Eagles lost a lot of potential key players (CJ Perez, Arvin Tolentino, Hubert Cani and Jerie Pingoy) during the offseason due to various reasons. These developments definitely weakened their lineup but not their overall resolve. ADMU still believes that they have enough firepower and talent to at least reach the final four. The Eagles will be led by Thirdy Ravena, Aaron Black, Adrian Wong, Vince Tolentino and Chiz Ikeh. In addition, they have new guys coming in like Anton Asistio, Shaun Ildefonso and Jolo Mendoza to provide spark off the bench. ADMU also hopes that the presence of Coach Tab Baldwin can deliver extra wins for the Eagles. One big question: Can Ikeh deliver better numbers this season?
5. ADU Soaring Falcons
The Falcons no longer want to be near the bottom of the standings. They ended last season as the last place team. Thus, new coach Franz Pumaren will not tolerate a poor showing by his team this season. He made sure of that by bringing in a lot of new recruits to change the mentality and environment of the Falcons. Their team is composed of mainly new guys like Jerrick Ahanmisi, Terrence Mustre, and Robbie Manalang, among others. They will assist holdovers Papi Sarr, JD Tungcab and Dawn Ochea. Coach Franz wants his guys to be in tiptop condition because he will most probably use the full-court press often and he will instruct his team to run at every opportunity. One big question: Can the Falcons control the pace on both sides of the court?
6. UST Growling Tigers
The hosts for this season no longer have their Big 3 of Kevin Ferrer, Ed Daquioag and Karim Abdul. They also lost the services of PG Jamil Sheriff after he was ruled ineligible due to age restrictions. Moreover, they have a new head coach, Rodil “Boy” Sablan, who will try to steer the Tigers past their tumultuous offseason. Luckily, the Tigers still have veteran Loiue Vigil to lead the charge. Vigil is their team captain and together with Marvin Lee, Kent Lao and Mario Bonleon, they will try to give the host school something to cheer about. The Tigers also have a new reinforcement from Ghana, 6’6” William Afoukwah, who is still raw offensively but very athletic and energetic. One big question: Can Afoukwah play meaningful minutes?
7. UE Red Warriors
The Red Warriors will go to battle this season without any foreign reinforcement which was similar to how they competed last season. That formula gave UE six wins last year and they hope that more wins can be obtained this season. The Red Warriors believe that they have a solid core with better chemistry. That’s great because Chris Javier is no longer with them and he led them in scoring last season. Thus, someone else needs to step up. Among their key returnees are Paul Varilla, Bonbon Batiller, Clark Derige, Ronnie De Leon, Nick Abanto and Philip Manalang. One big question: Who will lead them in scoring?
8. UP Fighting Maroons
The squad from Diliman finally ended a 27-game losing streak last season. In fact, they finished with 3 wins which showed massive improvement. The Fighting Maroons are optimistic of their chances this season. New coach Bo Perasol has been credited for improving the system and changing the mindset of his players. The Maroons believe that they can win more than 3 games this season. Hey, maybe they can even compete for a final four spot. That goal seems achievable because they have returning players who can score like Diego Dario, Jeff Manuel, Kyles Lao, Paul Desiderio and Henry Asilum. One big question: Can they play team defense? – By Rolly Mendoza
Follow this writer on Twitter: @rollzter