THE year 2014 has gone up and down for basketball teams backed by top sports patron Manny V. Pangilinan.
Except for the NLEX Road Warriors who dominated in their farewell season in the PBA D-League, all other teams teams identified with MVP have either floundered or gone on roller-coaster rides.
Talk 'N Text, the flagship team of the MVP group in the PBA, went without a championship in a season for the first time since 2009 - a stretch that saw the Tropang Texters bag a total of five championships.
The Texters' sister team, Meralco, did worse in a campaign that ended with a coaching shuffle that led to the exit of Bolts coach Ryan Gregorio and the transfer of Norman Black to Meralco.
Weeks ago, the Ateneo Blue Eagles, of which Pangilinan is the top supporter, suffered a stunning Final Four loss to fourth seed National University Bulldogs despite holding a twice-to-beat edge in the semifinals.
And then, there was Gilas Pilipinas.
Its campaign started on the wrong foot with the cancelled tuneup game with NBA stars, but the national team soon soared to new heights with an inspiring performance in the Fiba World Cup in Spain.
But the high soon turned into turmoil in the Asian Games where everything that can go wrong for Gilas went wrong, from the disqualification of naturalized player Andray Blatche to a heartbreaking loss to rival Korea that summed up a woeful seventh place finish - the worst for the Philippines in the quadrennial event.
Worse, disturbing events in Incheon soon fanned simmering anger that led to calls for the resignation of Gilas coach Chot Reyes.
As the college basketball season hits its final stretch, it is now down to San Beda, Pangilinan's high school alma mater, to put a glorious finish to what had been a trying year for MVP-backed teams.
But it doesn't look easy.
San Beda goes to the NCAA Final Four as the top seed after beating vastly improved Arellano in a playoff on Friday, but the Red Lions have looked less dominant than they have been in past seasons.
San Beda team manager Jude Roque acknowledged the Red Lions faced a stiffer challenge this season, not so much because they have taken a step back but more because the other teams have improved.
“Siguro, nag catch up rin talaga `yung ibang teams, kasi mas alam na nila laro namin. Kaya we need to work on some minor adjustments sa laro namin,” said the red Lions team manager.
“Syempre, may pressure rin talaga. Kasi 'yung season ngayon… balance talaga eh. Ngayon five losses kami. Lahat yun, iba-ibang teams yun. Ibig sabihin lima na ang tumalo sa amin,” he added.
“Anybody can beat us.”
Roque, however, is optimistic the team is still capable of pulling off another championship.
“We’re still optimistic. We just have to play our A-game,” he said.
Roque insisted there is no extra pressure for the team to win this season, either from the school or for its most famous supporter.
“Wala namang pressure coming from boss MVP. He just wants the team to play its best. Saka ganito rin kami last year, nag struggle pero we were able to pull it through. We’re expecting the same this year although alam namin hindi magiging madali,” added Roque.
“There’s no pressure from boss MVP. He just wants to make sure everything is okay with the team, we play our best and we give our all and whatever the outcome, it’s okay,” he said.