Who’s out: Josh Torralba, Larry Muyang, Renzo Navarro, Andrew Langston, Jboy Gob, Daryl Pascual
Who’s back: Jeron Teng, Prince Rivero, Thomas Torres, Andrei Caracut, Jason Perkins, Julian Sargent, Abu Tratter, Jollo Go, Kib Montalbo (missed S78)
Who’s new: Justine Baltazar, Mark Dyke, Ben Mbala, Aljun Melecio, Brent Paraiso, Ricci Rivero
Season 78 Record & Finish: 6-8, 5th place.
2016 Filoil Record & Finish: 7-0, 1st seed in Group B, beat FEU in the Quarterfinals, beat Ateneo in the Semifinals, and Arellano in the Final.
What should work in S79:
Pretty much everything. I mean, there’s no worth in understating anything when it comes to the S79 Green Archers. This team has been built to be the best collegiate team in the country by year’s end, and all indications point to that seemingly inevitable outcome.
Reason 1 – Ben Mbala. The 6’8 Cameroonion seems to have been chiseled from the finest rock, and he knows how to use every muscle and iota of skill he has to practically embarrass whichever unfortunate soul is tasked to guard him. He’s a double-double machine and would easily be MVP if imports could be MVPs.
Reason 2 – Jeron Teng. Robocop Jr. (Let’s face it — Jeric just isn’t Robocop) is a man on a mission in his last playing year in college. He’ll be a spitfire on offense, and will be the chief beneficiary of opposing teams’ efforts to primarily contain Mbala. It’s almost unfair to have the most physically imposing collegiate import paired up with the the most physically imposing local collegiate forward, but that’s exactly what DLSU has in its wheelhouse this season.
Reason 3 – Depth. I’ve heard people saying that the Archers can go three-deep in every position and that their 16th guy (Brent Paraiso) may even be good enough to start for, say, UP. How deep exactly is DLSU? Let’s put it this way — last season’s 2nd and 3rd leading scorers, Prince Rivero and Thomas Torres respectively, are bound to be much lower on the team’s scoring rungs this year. With Mbala and Teng expected to carry much of the scoring load, veterans like Rivero, Torres, Abu Tratter, Jason Perkins, Andrei Caracut along with rookies like Justine Baltazar and Mark Dyke will be scrounging for the occasional open jumpers, clean-up points, and fastbreak leak-outs.
What will be tough in S79:
On paper, this is pretty much as perfect as it can get for a team in the UAAP. They have a dominant big man in the middle coupled with a much-improved 6’6 Fil-Am power forward. They have the leading MVP favorite with a revolving door of shooters on the wings. They have a mature playmaker at the PG spot backed up by two hyped prospects with a ton of upside. Sweep-worthy is what I call this team, but that may also prove to be their undoing.
Pressure can do a lot of things. In the right quantity, it can push anyone to unprecedented levels of success. Too much of it, however, can cause ill-advised decision-making, and that can lead to unexpected stumbles. I’m still not sure if the kind of expectations he has been meted is something coach Aldin Ayo can carry on his broad shoulders. Last season with Letran, he had practically zero expectations and won a title. Now, he has the weight of the entire La Salle system, and he’s also under the UAAP spotlight. It’ll be crazy entertaining to see if the Archers actually ascend to glory or descend into tragedy.
The plain and simple is this — DLSU should win the championship, and convincingly, too. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least bit if they sweep, though with the proverbial targets on their backs for the entire Philippine Christmas season, they’ll really have to be on their toes every single game. If there is no let up for these runaway title favorites, they’ll definitely run away with their ninth UAAP men’s basketball crown. – By Enzo Flojo
Follow this writer on Twitter: @hoopnut
Enzo Flojo writes opinion pieces for FOX Sports related to basketball