THE first UAAP finals showdown between Far Eastern University and University of Santo Tomas in 36 years begin on Wednesday, 3:30 p.m. at the Mall of Asia Arena. Spin.ph talks to a few coaches from the country’s premier collegiate league to get the key posts to ponder in this best-of-three series.
‘Stark contrast in styles’
Ateneo coach Bo Perasol said the FEU-UST match is a battle contrasting styles. “Mas maraming firepower and FEU. When I say firepower, ‘yung perimeter firepower. Ang opposite naman ‘yan, ‘yung UST, the way I see it, nage-enjoy sila dumepensa. Meron din siyang offensive threat pero ang nag-bring sa kanila sa dulo, the way I see it, is ‘yung depensa nila at ‘yung paniniwala nila na, 'Gawin natin ‘to para manalo ‘to.' They are a startling contrast,” said Perasol.
NU coach Eric Altamirano agreed, saying the best-of-three series is a good old-fashioned Offense vs Defense affair.
“I think it will boil down to execution and being able to assert themselves. Alam naman natin na ang FEU is an offensive team and UST loves to use their length to play defense. It’s going to be an interesting series. They both deserve to be in the finals,” he said.
Adamson coach Mike Fermin said FEU is so deep that almost all players can contribute at any given time.
“Talagang from 1 to 14, beterano eh. Halos lahat ng position, hanggang 14th man, meron ang FEU eh. They have a deeper bench,” said Fermin.
“Mas deeper ang FEU,” Perasol admitted. “Solid ‘yung five ng UST pero ‘yung bench ng FEU, may experience din.”
UST’s ability to dictate the pace
The Growling Tigers swept their elimination round series against the Tamaraws, giving UST the No. 1 spot in the Final Four over FEU after they ended up tied on 11-3 win-loss records.
Perasol said UST was able to sweep FEU in their elimination round series because they were able to dictate the tempo during those two games.
“’Yung pace na deliberate, pabor sa UST ‘yan kasi alam ni coach Bong (Dela Cruz) na ‘yung bench niya, hindi masyadong malalim. Kaya kapag tumakbo naman ng todo ‘yan at naka-dictate ng pace ang FEU, dun mahihirapan ang FEU."
Length of the series
After the series opener, Game Two is set on Saturday, November 28 at the Araneta Coliseum but if the series goes the full route, the rubber match will immediately be played on Wednesday, December 2 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Fermin feels that it will be favorable for the Tigers to have a short series, due to FEU's advantage in depth.
“Kapag full route, FEU ako because of their deeper bench pero kapag short series, UST kasi hindi nila afford na umabot sa Game Three kasi baka masunog sila,” said Fermin.
Game of adjustments
With the series spanning only a week and only a few days in between to prepare for games, Fermin feels adjustments in the course of the finals will dictate the outcome.
“Kung sino ‘yung makaka-adjust on the fly na impromptu, malaki ang pag-asa. Knowing the two coaches, seasoned na rin sila sa ganyan,” said Fermin.
Teams are ‘dead even’
The coaches were hesitant to hazard a guess, saying the series in simply too close to call.
“Dead-even ‘yung dalawa because they are both veteran teams,” Altamirano said.
In the end, Fermin said the series will boil down to who wants it more.
“Pagdating sa playoffs, balewala ang stats. Laban lang kung laban. Parehong gutom eh,” said Fermin.