ATENEO and Far Eastern University begin their own Final Four series in Season 79 of the UAAP on Saturday.
The Blue Eagles clinched a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four after a closing six-game winning streak gave them a 10-4 win-loss slate at the end of the elimination round.
In contrast, the Tamaraws went 8-2 only to lose three straight games before finishing with a 9-5 win-loss record - just enough to hold on to the No. 3 spot.
Historically, the 2-vs-3 series has always been close, and SPIN.ph expects more of the same for the Ateneo-FEU series.
SEASON SERIES REVIEW
September 14: ATENEO 76, FEU 71
November 9: ATENEO 74, FEU 59
KEYS TO THE SERIES
The Blue Eagles’ success in the Final Four will definitely ride on the performance of Ravena. He was a spark for the Blue Eagles in the sweep of the Tamaraws in the elimination round, averaging 16 points and seven rebounds for the two games. In comparison, Ravena averaged 9.9 points and 7.8 rebounds for Ateneo all season long.
Raymar Jose and Prince Orizu posted big numbers for the Tamaraws in the two games against the Blue Eagles. Jose and Orizu averaged 13.5 points each in the season series with Orizu grabbing 16 boards a game and Jose 12.5 per outing, proving a big thorn in the side of the Blue Eagles' suspect frontline.
Sophomores stepping up
In both wins by the Blue Eagles, a second-year player stepped up for the team - Adrian Wong in the first game and Isaac Go in the next. Wong had 13 points in the first-round win while Go pumped in 14 markers in the second Ateneo victory.
Arong posted averages of 10.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, and two assists for the Tamaraws in Season 79, but the graduating guard from Cebu was a non-factor in FEU’s match against Ateneo in the first round, playing in just six minutes.
The Tamaraws may no longer have their top players from last year’s champion squad in Mac Belo, Roger Pogoy and Mike Tolomia, but the holdovers like Wendell Comboy, Richard Escoto, Ron Dennison, and Joe Trinidad are still rich in playoff experience.
Tab Baldwin is largely credited for Ateneo’s rise this season, with his vast experience in coaching (including Gilas Pilipinas) being one of the keys to the Blue Eagles’ success. On the other hand, Nash Racela has enjoyed a lot of success himself and is quite familiar with the style of Baldwin, having served as his assistant with Gilas Pilipinas.
We expect the series to reach a thrilling conclusion, but don't be surprised if the veterans of FEU weather the storm and overcome the youthful Ateneo side to set up a clash with La Salle in the best-of-three finals.