Welcome to the Brightside

Bright Akhuetie of Perpetual Help

As I was enjoying my favorite the day of the week - which is Saturday - because I get to spend it with family, someone called me telling me that Season 91 of the NCAA is already abuzz with so many news even though we're just more than a week into the tournament.

He also told me this has got to be one of the best, if not the best, seasons he'd seen.

I have to agree.

You see, after nine seniors games in four different playdates, we were already treated with so many plots and subplots as well as angles and rivalries that us sportswriters and bloggers could use as storylines as the season progresses.

I also have thoughts. And here are some of those.

1. San Beda is no longer the defense-first, grit-and-grind team that we got used to the past decade when it captured eight of the last nine championships, including a rare five-peat feat. Since Jamike Jarin took over, he had molded the Lions into a well-oiled, high-scoring team reminiscent of the Phoenix Suns' Steve Nash era.

2. Perpetual Help's Bright Akhuetie has got to be the best foreign student-athlete cager on this side of the planet after entertaining us with a 44-point, 19-rebound performance in the Altas' win over the St. Benilde Blazers recently. His 44-point output is the highest among all non-Filipino players who walked our soil, including the UAAP. And he is just 18 years old.

3. Mapua's Allwell Oraeme has got to be ranked up there just a little below Mr. Brightside (Akhuetie) after an 18-point, 22-rebound effort in the Cardinals' triumph over the San Sebastian Stags. And he is just 19 years old.

4. San Beda's Ola Adeogun will need some waking up and remind us that he isn't a third banana to Akhuetie and Oraeme. In fairness, Ola has some hamstring issues that caused him to miss a game, so we'll give the guy a little leeway for him to prove that he is still the alpha dog of this league.

5. The best Filipino player distinction is a toss-up between Perpetual Help's Earl Scottie Thompson, who had posted his first triple-double (14 pts, 12 rebounds and 10 assists) this season and fourth overall, and Arellano U's Jio Jalalon, who dished out a season-high 14 assists. San Beda's Arthur dela Cruz has been filling up the stat sheets and should be somewhere at No. 3. San Sebastian's Jamil Ortuoste, Mapua's Josan Nimes and St. Benilde's Jonathan Grey are somewhere behind. And I'm waiting for San Beda's Baser Amer to make a run at this as soon as his shoulder completely heals.

6. Aldin Ayo and the Knights are no pushovers. After they slew the Jose Rizal Bombers - one of the teams to beat this year - Letran deserves the apologies of many who wrote the team down in the preseason, including yours truly. So I'm sorry from the bottom of my heart. Aldin Ayo has just introduced himself.

7. Manny Pacquiao is now part of the NCAA family thanks to his involvement in the Letran team, where he was reportedly serving as its manager. So can we call the Knights the "People's Team" since they are managed by the People's champion?

8. Speaking of Letran, the trio of Kevin Racal, Mark Cruz and Rey Nambatac has got to be the best backcourt rotation in the country. Watching them is like watching Smaug, only its' a three-headed dragon. If I were a player not wearing the blue and red, I will be scared and eviscerating on my pants right now.

9. ABS-CBN did an excellent job of bringing the show to everyone via its Sports and Action channel with replays on Balls. So congratulations.

10. We sportswriters are benefitting from this fantasy-friendly season since 13 of us brave souls put up the very first NCAA fantasy league. Reuben Terrado of Spin.ph and Mark Escarlote of ABS-CBN online are leading the way while yours truly is running third, thanks to Bright.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

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Joey Villar is a contributing sports columnist for Philstar.com. The views expressed in this article are personal and do not reflect those of Philstar.com.

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