National University

National University Bulldogs

UAAP Season 78 Preview: NU Bulldogs

Coach: Eric Altamirano, who once played for UP and is on his fifth year with the team.

Season 77 record: 14-6 including Finals

Losses: Raph Atangan, Henri Betayene, JP Cauilan, Glenn Khobuntin, Tristan Perez and Troy Rosario.

Holdovers: Gelo Alolino, JJ Alejandro, Alfred Aroga, Reden Celda, Rev Diputado, Pao Javelona, Jeff Javillionar, Kyle Neypes, Meds Salim, Ralph Tansingco and Dave Yu.

Newcomers: Nico Abatayo, Kevin De Castro, Ronnel Lastimosa, Reggie Morido  and Tzaddy Rangel.

Team breakdown

Nothing like starting the year as the defending champions, and the Bulldogs are favorites to defend the crown. Their manpower losses aside, they have four things going for them: the confidence of a champion, talented newcomers, a very competent coaching staff and Alfred Aroga.

Many of their players came of age last season: Gelo Alolino, JJ Alejandro and Reden Celda, who previously was in and out of the lineup for the previous seasons. Alolino went from the verge of being cut from the team to a dependable and important piece of their championship puzzle. Alejandro finally made his presence felt with his timely bombs from the outside.

Kyle Neypes had his moments too. Rev Diputado was a solid pickup for mightily contributed especially from trifecta country.

If they had ceiling last season, this year they don't. Rookie Tzaddy Rangel, who is as tall as Aroga at 6'7", will play backstop at the slot. Neypes, at 6'4", could slide in or even Salim, who stands 6'3".

Over at the backcourt, the Bulldogs are solid at both guard positions. There's Alolino, Diputado, Celda, Pao Javelona and Alejandro.

Their concern is on the wing. It is hoped that rookie Nico Abatayo could reprise the role of Khobuntin the year before where he was a slasher who could also hit the outside shot.  Khobuntin's plus side too was his ability to rebound and play great defense. The returning Jeff Javillionar, who is back after missing last season with a knee injury, will be counted on to also fill that role (aside from being a defender on the opposing team's top scorer).

I say that another title will heavily depend on Aroga's ability to stay on the floor for crucial stretches and to provide a lot of scoring and defense. If he does so especially if he attacks the opposing center and gets him in foul trouble, NU will be tough to beat.

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