Ateneo De Manila University

Ateneo De Manila University Blue Eagles

UAAP Season 78 Preview: Ateneo Blue Eagles

Coach: Bo Perasol, who played for the UP Maroons in the late 80s. He's in his third year at the Eastern end of Katipunan.

Season 77 record: 11-5 including Final Four

Losses: Anton Asistio, Clint Doliguez, Nico Elorde, Jay Javelosa, Isaac Lim, Chris Newsome, Kris Porter and Thirdy Ravena.

Holdovers: John Apacible, Gboy Babilonia, Gwyne Capacio, Ponso Gotladera, Von Pessumal, Kiefer Ravena, Arvin Tolentino and Vince Tolentino.

Newcomers: Aaron Black, Hubert Cani, Chibueze Ikeh, Matt Nieto, Mike Nieto, Jerie Pingoy, Adrian Wong.

Team breakdown

Okay, they are arguably a better team that last season. For one, there's more talent and they improved themselves in every position.

Lots of ifs for their frontline that is still suspect. If six-foot-nine Nigerian Chibueze Ikeh can rebound and provide lane defense, that would plug a gaping hole in the middle. If Ponso Gotladera can reprise his fireman's role last year, that's going to be huge especially now that he will slide back and forth from the five and the four. If Arvin Tolentino learns to play some defense, that would help immensely. If Big John Apacible can be a little more sure with his under goal stabs and if he is allowed to work inside, then he could live up to the promise of his high school days.

There's a disparity between the experience of the veterans like Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal and the other holdovers and newcomers. Of the veterans, mention must be made about Gwyne Capacio, who has yet to have that breakout season. This is his last chance to do so. Stymied by injury and inconsistent and poor play due to a roller coaster ride of emotions and confidence, he is finally healthy and raring to go. If he can bring consistent scoring and defense to the three-spot, then Bo Perasol will have another reliable player.

However, the Blue Eagles' basketball IQ went up with Hubert Cani, the Nieto brothers and Jerie Pingoy in tow. If Pingoy and Cani can solidify that point guard position with passing savvy, creativity, and scoring, not to mention perimeter defense, they could be the best point guard tandem in the league. How they mesh with their teammates is of great interest since they are players who need to handle the ball in order to be effective. Obviously, you have to give Kiefer the ball. Arvin too, lest he get into a funk. So ball and shot distribution is something a lot of people will keenly follow.

This team can shoot from the outside as well. If they find the range early on, it will give their inside operators room to apply some surgery.

If the Blue Eagles want to win it all this year, they have to get past NU, who they have not beaten in six consecutive outings. During the last Blue Eagle dynasty, NU was tugging at their cape. Now it's on the other way around.

The Final Four loss to NU last year especially after losing a twice-to-beat advantage is something that sticks in their craw. And that serves as a lot of motivation to not only get back at their new tormentors that has emerged as their new rival but also to serve as a nice send off for their veteran players.

Lineups Ateneo De Manila University

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