A bunch of surprising results turned the NCAA Power Rankings inside-out this week, with top teams dropping and middling teams making big leaps forward. If this week was any indication, then the rest of the NCAA season should be a wild ride, and that only means good news for fans of the league.
1. San Sebastian Stags
(Overall record: 3-1; Previous rank: 4th)
There’s nothing like a Ronald Pascual explosion to send the Stags right back where they expected to be: on top of the standings. It’s been hit-or-miss for the recovering Pascual this season, but a 26-point, seven-rebound game in San Sebastian’s mauling of erstwhile unbeaten JRU sure bodes well for the Stags, who are suddenly looking beastly behind big games from their Pinatubo Trio of Pascual, Calvin Abueva and Ian Sangalang. Pascual was scoreless in two of their four games, but is averaging 23 points in the other two — both of them wins.
2 Perpetual Help Altas
(Overall record: 3-1; Previous rank: 6th)
Perpetual is starting to make believers out of us after a big overtime win over defending champion San Beda. They had every reason to be deflated after watching Baser Amer sink a miracle shot from beyond the halfcourt line, but they powered through the extra period to get another win in what’s looking like a breakthrough season. The Altas have had one of the toughest early season schedules, going back-to-back-to-back against Letran, San Sebastian, and San Beda in their last three matches, but have come out with a 3-1 record and a share of the top spot in the NCAA standings.
3. San Beda Red Lions
(Overall record: 3-1; Previous rank: 1st)
A little hiccup against Perpetual will send the Red Lions crashing down the Power Rankings, but San Beda shouldn’t feel too bad about their week. A one-point loss in overtime is tough, but they continued to play at a high level even in that game, coming back from 14 points down to tie the game on Amer’s heave. They maintain a scoring margin of 7.5 points — the second-best mark in the league — and that speaks well of their level of play. And they bounced back strong against Saint Benilde four days later to grab a share of the lead. All that without Nigerian center Ola Adeogun, who should be ready to debut after sitting out a four-game suspension to start the year.
4. Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers
(Overall record: 3-1; Previous rank: 2nd)
Their loss to the Stags showed the danger of being a top-heavy team, with star guard Nate Matute coming through for them with 27 points, but the Heavy Bombers falling behind by as much 30 points anyway. Matute’s league-high average of 25.5 points per game is nice, but JRU coach Vergel Meneses will need to get more out of the rest of his team if they hope to keep up with the rest of the leaders especially with the rest of their schedule looking very dangerous with games against Perpetual, Saint Benilde, San Beda and Letran coming up.
5. Arellano Chiefs
(Overall record: 2-3; Previous rank: 9th)
The Chiefs have looked like a different team of late since the emergence of Filipino-Canadian James Forrester, who is averaging 18.5 points in their last two games. Forrester missed the start of the season, but has been key in leading Arellano to two straight wins, both by double-figures. It remains to be seen whether he can keep up his production when the rest of the NCAA starts to gameplan for him, but for now, the Chiefs are riding high, and making a serious run up the Power Rankings.
6. College of Saint Benilde Blazers
(Overall record: 2-3; Previous rank: 5th)
Blazers star Carlo Lastimosa was his usual stellar self in their 59-53 loss to San Beda this week, but his 21 points weren’t enough to tow his team to the win. Backcourt mate Joel Tolentino scored nine points, but they still need more consistent play from the rest of their teammates. Paolo Taha, Mark Romero and the struggling Jonathan Grey all proved that they have the ability to score last year, and the Blazers will need those guys to show up every game if they want to accomplish big things this year.
7 Letran Knights
(Overall record: 2-3; Previous rank: 7th)
The Knights finally broke out of a three-game slump with a near-complete lineup against Mapua. Jam Cortes and Jonathan Belorio, two guys who have missed some time in the past few games, scored 12 points apiece against the Cardinals to back up the 21-point, nine-rebound, seven-assist performance of the prolific Kevin Alas. If they can get big man Raymund Almazan back sometime soon, they could start to look like world-beaters (or at least league-beaters) and will be very dangerous moving forward.
8. Mapua Cardinals
(Overall record: 2-3; Previous rank: 3rd)
Mapua sees a huge drop in this week’s rankings following two tough losses to Lyceum and Letran. The defensive-minded Cards still generally score as many (or more accurately, as few) points as they give up, so there shouldn’t be a major concern in terms of quality of play. But they’ll need a second scorer to ease the load on Josan Nimes, who scored just seven points against the Knights. The addition of their four rookies, including Gab Banal who debuted against Letran last Monday but scored just two points, should help in the long run.
9. Lyceum Pirates
(Overall record: 2-4; Previous rank: 8th)
The Pirates split their two games this week, picking up a nice upset win over Mapua but dropping a shocking 31-point loss to resurgent Arellano. Chris Cayabyab and Rich Guevarra scored in double-figures in both games, but third scorer Shane Ko, who lit the Cardinals up for 23 points, was noticeably absent against the Chiefs, finishing with just four. Lyceum is a team that needs all three players to show up if they want to be competitive, and that just didn’t happen this week.
10. Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals
(Overall record: 1-3; Previous rank: 10th)
The idle Generals will need to add a win to their record if they hope to move up the Power Rankings, but that’s no easy task for them this week with a solitary assignment against the Red Lions waiting for them. San Beda’s Ola Adeogun, a tough matchup for any team, could be making his debut against the Generals this week but EAC will have Cameroonian center Cedric Happi Noube, who is averaging 19 points and 12.5 rebounds, to bank on in the game.