By Gio Gloria
The UP Fighting Maroons are by and large, the best team in the UAAP this season. The Fighting Maroons have thus far absorbed the best punches of their league peers from a talent and schematic standpoint and yet still sit at the top of the UAAP Season 85 standings at 10-1.
UP’s championship run in Season 84 was a product of years of struggles and small wins along the way. Naturally stability in terms of team management has helped make them an appealing destination for prospects, but the biggest element to success has perhaps been the addition of head coach Goldwin Monteverde.
A bevy of recruits is well and good, but what good is it if it doesn’t translate to championships? Monteverde becoming a part of the Fighting Maroons proved to be the last piece needed to secure a title that had eluded UP for more than three decades. Of course, his familiarity with the likes of Carl Tamayo, Terrence Fortea, and Gerry Abadiano to name a few helped make the transition seamless, but how he has helped his players adjust to developing situations on the court is commendable.
Having finally overcome the hump of breaking a title drought, what’s next for the Fighting Maroons?
Obviously it’s a quest for another one, but the circumstances are far more distinct.
For one, UP has fully shed the underdog label not just with the resources they have, but also with their play this season.
Four Fighting Maroons are currently averaging double-figures in terms of points, but as we’ve seen in parts this season, a different player has usually answered the call. This depth was on display in UP’s most recent win against the FEU Tamaraws, where James Spencer scored a career and game-high 19 points to lead UP to its seventh consecutive victory.
If there’s anything the Fighting Maroons have to worry about, it’s themselves. Being more than a game ahead of the next team certainly gives UP some breathing room with three more games left to play. The Fighting Maroons also pretty much locked up a spot in the Final Four and the coveted twice-to-beat advantage is a win (or two) away.
However, these last three games should help UP prepare for those times when the shots aren’t falling and things just seem to be coming together for the opponents. Moreover, the Fighting Maroons turn the ball over a lot and these will matter especially when the games get together. Making the most out of their depth is one way of working on these, especially with Tamayo still recovering from an ankle injury. Even at this stage, experience is the best teacher.
Comfort is the enemy of progress and the UP Fighting Maroons currently find themselves in a snug spot with less than a handful of games left to play in the preliminary round of Season 85. The tactics and the tools are there, but games are won on the court, where it matters the most.