UAAP Final Four Preview: Which Team Will Soar Higher?

The Road to the Final Four

Ateneo Blue Eagles

“We are not limited by what we can do. We are limited by what we think we can do.” – Tab Baldwin

It has not been an easy ride for the Ateneo Blue Eagles this season. For a team that shouts excellence, one could say that this is their worst season yet (even if they are the number one seed) since coach Tab Baldwin built the Blue Eagles dynasty.

After winning their first two games against the then-struggling FEU Tamaraws and NU Bulldogs, they would only win three of their next six games bowing out to their arch-rivals De La Salle Green Archers, the defending champions UP Fighting Maroons, and then the rising NU Bulldogs. 

With the doubts and vulnerability surrounding the Blue Eagles, they reminded us of what they are capable of. What felt like the daunting Ateneo third quarter, they would win their next six games, settling the score against the Green Archers and the Fighting Maroons to clinch the number one seed.

Adamson Soaring Falcons

“Adversity is the first path to truth.” – Lord Byron

And the truth is, the Adamson Soaring Falcons deserve to be in the final four, and can outright compete with the best the UAAP has to offer.

This season was a literal ‘climb’ for the Adamson Soaring Falcons as quoted by Toby Pavon. They would lose their season opener in an upset by the UST Growling Tigers, which would end up as UST’s lone win this season. After that, they would only go 3-3 in their next six games before disaster struck them.

In their game against the defending champions UP Fighting Maroons, King Falcon Jerom Lastimosa was sidelined after dislocating his right foot. To make matters worse, fellow starter Vince Magbuhos also sustained a right knee injury.

A turning point of their season however was their second game against the Growling Tigers, that win got rid of the pain of the season opener, and it is the game where Cedrick Manzano reintroduced himself to the UAAP.

They would go on to win four of their next six games, including the playoff win against the De La Salle Green Archers to clinch the number four seed in the UAAP Final Four.

The Tale of the Tape

Ateneo Adamson
48.5 (14.5)REBOUNDS (OFF)47.5 (18.5)
37.50%FREE THROWS17.36%

A look at Dean Oliver’s Four Factors shows how Ateneo dominated in almost every aspect of the game. They are better than Adamson in terms of shooting (using Effective Field Goal %) and getting to the free throw line more (using Free Throw Rate) while they are slightly better in terms of handling the ball (using Turnover Rate).

But one aspect that Adamson has the upper hand in is rebounding where they are better (using Rebounding Rate) by about a percent.

The X-Factors

On the Adamson Side Of Things …

Everything can go right for Adamson but it may still not be enough to defeat the juggernaut that is the Ateneo Blue Eagles, however, they do happen to have a Jerom Lastimosa in their hands.

The point guard from Dumaguete will have to turn on his A-game if they want to have any chance of getting not just one, but two upset wins against the Blue Eagles to book themselves a finals ticket.

In two of their matchups, the Ateneo Blue Eagles won both of them by a total margin of 26 points. But the Soaring Falcons that Ateneo faced in round one (where they won by 21 points) was different to that of round two (where they won by only five points).

The biggest difference for Adamson then was the rise of AP Manlapaz. In Adamson’s first game against Ateneo he did not play a single second, but in their second matchup he scored 22 points on 84.6% True Shooting. 

On the Ateneo Side of Things …

A consistent performer for the Blue Eagles when facing Adamson is Kai Ballungay who He currently averages 19.5 points and 9 rebounds when facing the Soaring Falcons this season. From a matchup perspective though, this makes sense. There isn’t anyone on the Adamson roster who can stop Ballungay. Manzano is too slow while Magbuhos is too small. 

But if there’s anyone who can lead Ateneo back to the promised land, it’s Ange Kouame. Unlike Ballungay though, Kouame has had a tougher time when facing Adamson.

When facing Adamson, Kouame just shot 37.5% from the field in contrast to shooting 57.8% vs the rest of the UAAP. He also turned the ball over more (2.0) vs Adamson than the rest of the UAAP (1.25).

Our Take

If Adamson’s playoff game versus La Salle was any indication of what may transpire in the Final Four, then we’ll bet on Adamson to get a game off against the Blue Eagles. But in the end, Ateneo should be winning the series easily.

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