Saturday, July 19, 2014

Blue Eagles v2014 - New Possibilities (Part 2)

The coaching staff has also seen a number of changes...

Coach Ricky Dandan was brought in as a defensive coach, but it is his intimate familiarity of the other teams in the league that is his prime asset. Defense has always been one of the cornerstones of the Blue Eagle way of life on the court and this year will be no different. The fact that the teams average height has increased will add to its ability do protect the basket.

Coach Ronnie Magsanoc, a very affable person, is the coach on offense. His experience being one of the Philippines premier point guards will surely benefit the back court as Ateneo looks to employ a guard oriented offense. This team will still rely on speed and passing to distribute the rock and get an open shot. There are more options on offense this year and any number of players on the team can step up and score. Because of his busy schedule, the team was very fortunate to have landed "The Point Laureate".

Coach Xavi Nunag who also brings in expertise from coaching in the pro ranks rounds out the new faces.

Coach Sandy Arespacochaga will still be cast as the able lieutenant. His years with the Blue Eagles are unmatched by anyone. Gene Afable, Gabby Severino, Joe Silva and Yuri Escueta round out the tactical team.

Possibly, there may be less pressure on Coach Bo Perasol as he has a better group of players and less injuries (knock on wood) this year. There are whispers going around that the team may have too many coaches and the old saying about too many cooks spoiling the soup comes to mind. I think that just like with the players, their roles are pretty well defined and at any rate decisions are still made as a group. Being the head coach still brings a heavy burden since he has command responsibility for anything and everything that goes on with the team. 

Sometime in March, I had a chance to talk to Coach Bo about developments with the team. At that time there were around 24 candidates for the 16 slots available. In essence, it was like an open try out with everyone vying for a seat on the bench. Everybody had a chance and inclusion was based on merit and past experience with the system.
The status of Hubert Cani and Koko Pingoy were still up in the air but there was some confidence they would be able to suit up. Babilonia and Porter just got clearance to play. Apacible, Doliguez, Tolentino, Javelosa and Isaac Go were still not training with regularity. One good thing tough was that everyone was healthy entering training camp.
Coach also recounted how profound the effects of Kiefer's ankle injury was when the season started. The lay off caused him to lose some conditioning that were peaking after the FilOil Games. There was some loss of mobility and leaping ability which made it easier for opposing teams to collapse their defense on him. Other players also had not fully healed from past injuries and there may have been confidence issues that still prevailed. Partly because of this, there were less offensive options available and scoring was not consistent. To say the least, those were trying times.

Although the line-up had increased it's ceiling this year, the presence of imports still casts an imposing predicament. How do you neutralize that kind of height? By running, and running and not slowing down. The team has undergone vigorous conditioning this year and although they begged off from the pre-UAAP tournaments the workout they got was far more intense. Their transitions from both ends of the court should be unrelenting. Suffice to say that the summer months have been most productive and intense.

I expect the team to win at least 8 to 10 games. The initial goal is to get a seat among the final four. The first round will indicate how the team develops and gels together. This is going to be a big factor in determining how far they can go. It would be advantageous to end up in 2nd or 3rd after the eliminations. Assuming DLSU performs as expected and ends up in front of the pack, I wouldn't want to go against them from 4th place. 
Kiefer Ravena, Newsome, Elorde and Pessumal will be replacing the four (Buenafe, Golla, Erram and Tiongson) who have played out their eligibility. In terms of scoring and assists they should be fine and with taller reinforcements this year, rebounding shouldn't be a problem. Here are some numbers based on their stats from last years UAAP games:

                    2013 (RB, FG, JPE, JT)      2013 (KR, CN, NE, VP)

POINTS                    31.2                                  43.28

REBOUNDS               18.8                                  14.97

ASSISTS                     6.13                                  9.41

STEALS                       2.46                                  2.32

BLOCKS                      1.78                                  1.1

It's going to be up to the rest of the players to take up the slack. A deep bench will always be a huge advantage to a competitive team. Coach Bo summed up his four expectations: Scoring, Rebounding, Speed and Mental Toughness. I would also include remembering to box out and cornering those offensive rebounds.

I had a theory regarding fouls that were called. I felt that somehow the calls were biased and did a little research and the numbers surprised me. DLSU got the most fouls called on it's players. The 13 players on the team got a cumulative 357 fouls during its 14 elimination round games. This rounded out  to an average of 27.46 fouls per player. In fact, the top four ranked teams were in the top five positions with the most fouls. UP was the exception. Ateneo was 7th with an average of 17.5 fouls per player. Interesting, to say the least.

UAAP Season 76


          1. DLSU          1. DLSU (27.46)         1. FEU    (15.37)
          2. UST            2. UST   (24.37)         2. DLSU  (14.20)
          3. NU              3. FEU   (23.43)         3. UP      (13.00)
          4. FEU             4. UP     (20.40)         4. UST    (12.13)
          5. ADMU          5. NU     (20.00)        5. NU      (10.10)
          6. UE               6. UE     (17.63)        6. UE      (10.10)
          7. AdU             7. ADMU (17.50)        7. ADMU  (9.90)
          8. UP               8. AdU    (16.00)        8. AdU    (8.10)


Another hypothesis I wanted to test was if the number of free throws awarded to each team had any bearing on the outcome of the game. Ateneo had a 7-7 record at the end of eliminations. Of the 7 games that the team won, Ateneo had an average of 23.43 free throws (from 18.29 fouls) and opposing teams had 18.57 (from 19.71 fouls). That's a difference of about 5 free throws in favor of the Blue Eagles. The fouls called were about even. Honestly, I wouldn't know if the difference is statistically significant.
Of the 7 games Ateneo lost, the team was awarded 17.4 free throws (from 22.1 fouls) and opposing teams had 24.1 free throw attempts given (from 20.3 fouls). That's a difference of 6.7 free throws against Ateneo. Consider that of the 7 losses, 4 games were lost by 5 points of less. Ok, it may only be the breaks of the game, after all there is a certain level of uncertainty. That's what makes basketball so exciting. Imagine tough how close things were and how the outcome of last season could have been different.
What I'm saying is let's look at the positives. The Blue Eagles had a competitive year despite all the challenges it faced. There was hope until the very last game of the elimination round; up to the last few minutes there was hope.
Well, now things are different! Things can only get better...lot's of possibilities...good ones at that!

For Part 1:

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