LA SALLE’s big men will make a big difference but University of Santo Tomas is expected to even things with heart and experience, according to UAAP coaches polled by Spin.ph ahead of the Season 76 men’s basketball final.
The best-of-three series starts on Wednesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The prevailing sentiment among coaches is that La Salle has the advantage in terms of frontline behind its tall trio of Mythical Five member Jason Perkins, the well-built Arnold Van Opstal, and senior Norbert Torres.
“Base sa lineup, mas loaded ang La Salle,” said University of the East coach Boycie Zamar. “Mas malalim ang rotation nila at mas steady sila.”
Both teams are coming off winning streaks going into the final series but for former Adamson coach Leo Austria, the nine-game winning run by the Green Archers stands out.
“Mas may advantage sila sa height,” said Austria, who recently decided to step down as Adamson coach to take time out from basketball. “Malaking bagay rin ’yung nine straight wins nila. Well-motivated sila.”
Austria also believes La Salle is the hungrier team, with Jeron Teng blossoming into a leader for the Green Archers.
“Na-define na ’yung role nila. Even Jeron Teng, he is a leader now. Mas kita mo talaga na gutom na gutom sila,” said Austria, adding that the Archers have embraced coach Juno Sauler’s system just in time for the playoffs.
“After nung first round, naniwala na sila sa system nila,” he added.
Far Eastern University coach Nash Racela, however, said the title series will be tough to call.
“It will be a tough series between a dominating team and a team that plays with all heart,” said Racela.
Racela, whose team lost to the Green Archers in the Final Four, believes La Salle’s big men can be contained by the Tigers’ frontliners led by Karim Abdul - so long as the Cameroonian center stays out of foul trouble.
“La Salle has the size advantage which I think can be neutralized if Abdul finds a way to stay on the court,” said Racela.
Zamar said UST remains dangerous mainly because of its experience, which showed during the Final Four when it handed top-ranked National University two straight defeats to become the first No. 4 seed to enter the championship round.
“Mas may experience ang UST sa finals. Ilang players may experience,” said Zamar.
Austria said UST has the advantage in head coach Pido Jarencio, who has twice steered the school to a finals slot as the lower seed — the Tigers won the 2006 crown as the third-ranked squad in the Final Four.
“Magaling si coach Pido dahil alam niya kung ano gagawin sa ganung sitwasyon,” Austria said, referring to UST’s Final Four romp. “’Yung experience nila, malaking factor dahil alam nila kung ano ang gagawin nila.”