Teams on the rise usually set a modest goal: making the final four. In the upcoming season, there are a lot of teams that have a realistic shot at making the semifinals. Many of the coaches agree that this will be an exciting, unpredictable year where everything is up for grabs, and anybody can beat anybody.
Last year: 7-11, 5th
Coach: Chito Victolero
Roster: Michael Abad, Gabriel Banal, Jonathan Banal, Mark Brana, Jumel Chen, Joseph Eriobu, Andrew Estrella, Kenneth Ighalo, Raphael Layug, Darrel Magsigay, Josan Nimes, Mike Parala, Jesse Saitanan, Andretti Stevens
Mapua was looking a little like it would be sporting one of the stronger lineups this year, a team that would easily make it to the playoffs. But the last minute omission of center Yousef Taha (11.6 points, 9.5 rebounds), who returned to the US to sort out problems with his green card, from the official roster will be a huge a hit to the Cardinals’ campaign.
They will retain Rookie of the Year Josan Nimes, though, who averaged 15.8 points and 4.7 rebounds last year. They also get the services of former DLSU player Gab Banal, who is expected to make up a bit of the scoring they lose with the graduation of Allan Mangahas from last year.
Many of the veterans returning for the Cardinals are defense-oriented guys like Mike Parala, Jumel Chen, Kenneth Ighalo and Andretti Stevens. With the unexpected loss of Taha for the year, though, they’ll all have to find a way to contribute offensively and ease the load off of Nimes and Banal. They won’t be as strong as expected, but with some effort and a little bit of luck, they could still end up sneaking into the playoffs.
Lyceum of the Philippines Pirates
Last year: 7-11, 6th
Coach: Bonnie Tan
Roster: Shaquille Alanes, Joseph Ambohot, Arwin Azores, Chris Cayabyab, Moyabin Edding, Mark Francisco, Daniel Garcia, Floricel Guevarra, Shane Kho, Vence Laude, Gian Mallari, Jerome Martinez, Nelson Mendoza, Faustine Pascual, Dexter Zamora
The Pirates surprised a lot of teams with their performance in the NCAA last year, notching upset wins en route to a sixth place finish in their first year in the league. They’ll be entering this season in a rebuild of sorts, as many of their players from last year’s run are gone, including the mercurial Allan Santos, who averaged 9.6 points and 10 rebounds per game.
But they will be returning their two top scorers, Chris Cayabyab (14.9 points) and Floricel Guevarra (13.7), meaning the new players will likely just have to fit in as role players based around the two. Shane Kho has also emerged as a possible third scorer for the team, giving them several options to rely on.
Lyceum didn’t have a particularly encouraging preseason, winning just one game. But last year, they lost all of their preseason games but won seven games in the NCAA anyway. The hope is that they peak during the NCAA season like they did last year, and find a way to improve on their successful maiden campaign.
Perpetual Help Altas
Last year: 5-13, 9th
Coach: Aric Del Rosario
Roster: Justine Alano, Evan Allen, Harold Arboleda, Jaycee Asuncion, Adefemi Babayemi, Mark Bitoy, Michael Genita, Chrisper Elopre, Joville Garcia, Joel Jolangcob, Nick Omorogbe, Anthony Paulino, Michale Roman, Earl Thompson, Jet Vidal
The Altas are in position to break out of their NCAA slump this year. With new coach Aric Del Rosario taking over the helm, they’ll have a coach with plenty of big-game experience. They’ll have a solid returning core of vets returning led by leading scorer Jet Vidal (12 points per game), the gritty Justine Alano (8.3 points, 5.7 rebounds) and Chrisper Elopre (4.6 assists, 2nd best in league).
And they’ll also have some new recruits who can surely help their campaign. Femi Babayemi proved himself as a prolific rebounder in the preseason, something the Altas have been sorely lacking in the past. Nigerian wingman Nick Omorogbe has also been cleared to play for Perpetual, and he can provide a different dimension for the Altas.
There is no assurance that Perpetual will climb out of the cellar. But as some have noted, there will likely be a lot of parity in the league this year, and the Altas will certainly have a shot at pulling off a couple of wins here and there.