CESAFI Basketball 2017
Rico Navarro (The Freeman) - August 12, 2017 - 4:00pm

CEBU, Philippines - The biggest basketball show of Cebu is back and from the looks of it, it sure looks like it’s going to be one competitive and unpredictable tournament. Just when everyone thought that the University of the Visayas would stand out as pre-tournament favorites in the college division, they lose to last year’s runner-up University of San Carlos in the first round battle of last year’s finalists. And when others were saying that it would take some time before Coach Yayoy Alcoseba can create an impact at the University of Cebu, UC beats Coach Yayoy’s former team Southwestern University-PHINMA on opening day. With this as a curtain raiser, I think we’re in for a long, rough and uneasy ride that will present a number of surprises and an interesting season.

USC has been the surprise with their 2-0 start, winning both games in convincing manner, both against teams that had impressive pre-season achievements and that paraded imports. The Warriors are going to contend this season and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make it bask to the finals. The addition of a host of key players has worked wonders for USC and they’re playing with cohesion and maturity. ArGee Araw-araw has been added to the point guard rotation along with new recruits John Aranas and Kurt Trangia. Also coming in to contribute in their first seasons are frontliners Julius Cadavis, Kenn Oguis, John Reel Saycon and Kent Michael Cabañog. The entry of these players makes up for the loss of Ian Tagpan and Catapusan. They have all jelled with veterans Victor Rabat and holdovers Malcolm Tan, Bryan Divinagracia and Lucky Ecarma. It’s a deep bench that gave UC problems last Sunday, making the Warriors a serious threat. If there’s a flaw in the Warriors, this could be the way they’ll react to pressure as a unit in the tough must-win and playoff games.

UV, despite the loss to USC, is still the favorite primarily due to their intact line-up that brings back the core of last year’s team. 2016 MVP Rey Suerte is back with backcourt partner Toto Segumpan, Monic Soliva, Sheldon Gahi, Tristan Albina, Jerome Napao, Jayson Balabag, Michael Maestre and import Bassieru Sackor. Rookies Jancork Cabahug and the much-talked about Jossier Hassan will get their share of the limelight, but they’ll learn to grow with the UV system and Coach Gary Cortes’  program. It’s also a deep bench but one that tends to give in to complacency and take teams lightly. The loss to USC was surely a wake-up call for the Lancers. I can’t even remember UV losing its first assignment of the season in CESAFI history. They’ll surely bounce back with more fire and hunger. The loss of Alfredo Codilla could expose UV’s lack of a point guard who can control the half-court offense with patience and maturity.

The other two places in the semifinals will be contested by UC, USJR, USPF and SWU-PHINMA. Of the four, UC will be under pressure due to the entry of Coach Yayoy. Expectations immediately doubled with the entry of one of Cebu’s winningest coaches, but then again, he’s up to the task as he has always been in all his coaching stops, especially where he won championships (USJR, Cebu Doctors’ University and SWU-PHINMA). I sense a tinge of excitement in the UC camp, although they should stop thinking about bringing back the days of June Mar Fajardo. With an import for the very first time, UC’s chances to make it to the Final Four has been boosted, but they’ll need their Pinoys to step up to get more wins. USJR will rely on RJ Dinolan, Tricky Peromingan, Miguel Gastador, Nelvin Navarra and Jaybie Mantilla, but they need their bench to step up big time. SWU-PHINMA is in for an identity crisis as they learn how to play without Coach Yayoy. I thought that the loss to UC and Coach Yayoy was more of a “fear factor” phenomenon that not even they could explain. It’s still a formidable team with Shaq Imperial, Jovanie Luz, Mark Racho, William Polican and Anton Pardo coming back. They also added Daryl Nazareno and big men Reeve Ugsang and Edmundo Bayhonan. We must all remember that Coach Mike Reyes was a big assist to Coach Yayoy as they complemented each other very well as a coaching team. Now that he’s on his own, Coach Mike is expected to “re-level up” after having had a coaching stint with USC before SWU-PHINMA. USPF has always been the hardest-working team in the league and are hoping that the addition of an import will help their chances crash into the top four. But it will take more than hard work to get the job done. This is where they don’t really have a superstar or “go to” guy. But a semifinals appearance is not an impossible target to achieve and they should go for it.

I know it’s still early, but it looks like UV and USC will steer themselves clear of the pack while all games between them and any of USJR, UC, SWU-PHINMA and USPF will result into a “nice” mess in the fight for the top four places in the team standings. With a double round-robin classification phase, anything can, and will happen. And since the semifinals is now adopting the 1 vs 2 / 3 vs 4 format, we can expect a very tight battle for the third and fourth spots. And anything can happen.

So who’s your pick for CESAFI 2017?


Time-out: Check out the new statistics program of CESAFI. The league is now recording statistics, storing this, and providing coaches, players and fans access to the stats of all players. You can see this in the Facebook page CESAFI Official.

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