UP is Strong Because UP is Strong: Why You Should Trust the Fighting Maroons

I had some jokes to make after that required UP-Ateneo classic.

Ateneo lost not because Ateneo lost. Ateneo lost because UP won.

It’s a joke format that’s been repeated ad nauseam, and it’s probably growing tired already at this point. But allow me to use the format one more time.

UP is strong not because Ateneo is weak. UP is strong because UP is strong.

Is it an oversimplification? Yes. But it’s an oversimplification that perfectly captures why among the teams in the field, the Fighting Maroons are the smartest group to bet on to be UAAP champions.

Season 85 has been extremely unpredictable, with shades of the deep field the league had during Season 77. During that season, there wasn’t an undisputed favorite. Upsets were aplenty, perfectly emulated with how the 4th seed NU Bulldogs went from barely scraping past the UE Red Warriors in a do-or-die playoff, to winning it all against a talented FEU Tamaraws team.

Unpredictability bears fruit excitement. But it also creates distrust.  Fans, for the sake of their mental health and heart rates, need some form of trust and comfort with their sports teams. Quite frankly, the UP Fighting Maroons have all the qualities of a team that you shouldn’t believe in.

“I expected Ateneo to win,” said a good friend who happens to be a UP fan. He checked out the numbers, and the numbers said the Blue Eagles were a really good team who you should favor to beat the Fighting Maroons.

First in offense. Second in defense. Defense wins championships and offense wins games. Ateneo happened to have both in check. Along with UP’s tendency to have close games and the Fighting Maroons’ own offense being sub-par, it was understandable why this friend of mine had his apprehensions about how UP would perform against the Blue Eagles.

But he was also willing to question his own gut feel.

Maybe I’m just a pessimist though,” he said. Despite their tendency to get into close games, and their lack of consistent offense outside of their close-to-generational talent, there’s a reason why the UP Fighting Maroons are the defending champions.

UP is strong not because Ateneo is weak. UP is strong because UP is strong.

Their strength starts with having that close to generational talent. Carl Tamayo. His strengths cover up a lot of what UP lacks with their scoring. He’s developed into an offensive hub of himself.

This was best shown during the first two possessions UP had at the start of the second half.

Possession 1: Carl backs down Kai Ballungay, scores off a turnaround fade

Possession 2: Carl posts up Ballungay again, he attracts the double and kicks out a pass to Gerry Abadiano for a three

He can score buckets on his own because he’s that damn good, but he can also use the gravity he pulls in to create opportunities for his teammates. Truth be told, his teammates aren’t the best at completing these opportunities, but they’re good enough. In a UAAP field this deep, good enough is a luxury. None of the UAAP teams are perfect, including UP.

What you can’t call just good enough is the game of the rest of Carl’s supporting cast. They may not be A+ scorers, but they make up for it by providing the correct qualities that UP needs to be a championship team.

Terrence Fortea does just enough heating up to supplement Carl’s work in the post. JD Cagulangan’s playmaking helps UP steady the ship during turbulent moments. James Spencer glues everything together, and games when he heats up turn the Fighting Maroons into a different beast. Malick Diouf, Zav Lucero, and Henry Galinato, all with unique qualities as big men, present such different looks on defense that they make scoring against UP a nightmare.

Long story short, UP’s talented. And talent is the one thing that raises ceilings in an instant. UP has that championship-level ceiling because of the pieces that they have.

What provides this team their floor is their coaching. Goldwin Monteverde not only teaches the right principles and implements the correct schemes to maximize this roster, but he’s also helped build a culture within this group that’s made them the most mentally tough basketball team in college basketball.

This team thrives under pressure. They don’t get into close games because of carelessness, it’s just the nature of how they play. And they love dragging teams into those moments of discomfort. Others falter when put under pressure. UP doesn’t, for the most part. But even when they do falter, they just rise back up and live to fight another day.

Life isn’t about how many times you get knocked down; it’s how many times you get up. And UP gets up. They f**king get up. That’s why last Sunday, at MOA, they fought the Ateneo Blue Eagles, and reminded everyone of who they are.

Close to generational talent + deep supporting cast + holistic coaching = a strong basketball team you can trust

You can trust these UP Fighting Maroons. They’re going to get you into a roller coaster and make sure you get to vomit for the fun of it, but at the end of the day, they’re going to kneel on one knee and get you a ring.

A championship ring.

This was Diliman, where the weak were killed and eaten. The Fighting Maroons weren’t weak. They were strong. Damn strong.

UP is strong not because Ateneo is weak. UP is strong because UP is strong.

One response to “UP is Strong Because UP is Strong: Why You Should Trust the Fighting Maroons

  1. I am envious of this piece: it’s poetic diction is thumbs up 👍
    more so because it’s an apostrophe to the UPMBT !


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