Who has the edge: San Beda or Letran?
Migs Bustos on Oct 22, 2015 05:03 PM
San Beda goes for an unprecedented sixth straight NCAA men's seniors basketball crown while Letran is eyeing its first crown in ten years.
It’s another San Beda-Letran final in NCAA Men’s Basketball. The Letran Knights were counted out of the final four during the pre-season, then surprised everybody by leading the pack for most of the way. The San Beda Red Lions had a new coach in Jamike Jarin, and their new system generated both buzz and criticism on how rotations and defensive plays were ran. Nearly four months since we began the season, these two elite teams are almost on top of the mountain. Question is: Who will be the first to get there?
Letran’s identity this season has been a mixture of the UST Growling Tigers’ 3 P’s: Puso, Pride, Palaban and the classic Pumaren method of defense which will give their opponents “40 minutes of hell”.
Meanwhile, San Beda has always been San Beda. Very uncharacteristic that they only notched 13 wins, and they still came out on top. Even the Ateneo Blue Eagles’ five-peat should be compared with how San Beda has dominated collegiate basketball over recent years.
The classic rivalry goes way back, and each of their three meetings this season has been a grind-out. Let’s break down the advantages of each team.
1. Offensive Rebounding
Rebounding is a key tool for any team and a good indicator of who’s going to win. More rebounds lead to more possessions and thus, a bigger chance of winning.
Compare Letran’s 72 attempts to San Beda’s 63 in their last three games. The Knights have been successful in this aspect in their three outings against San Beda, averaging 20 offensive rebounds, five more than the Red Lions. The hustle of their intangible bigs Apreku, Sollano, Publico and Quinto have proven their worth and cannot be underestimated by the bigs and imports of Coach Jamike’s team. This goes to show that the size element can be negated by the heart and desire of the undersized big men of the Knights.
2. Points in the Paint
Size is (obviously) an advantage for the Red Lions. Art’s versatile play, Ola’s beast-like dominance and his protégé Donald Tankoua’s emergence have proven to be a challenge for the Knights. In their three meetings, 55% of the scoring for the Red Lions has been inside the paint. They outmatched Letran in the playoff game, scoring 50 of their 83 points and Letran finished with only a dismal 20 points inside. Tankoua has been the most promising for the Red Lions, has been very efficient (68.5% for a Rookie) and was also the player of the game during their round two meeting.
Advantage: San Beda
3. Turnover Points
Letran’s “Mayhem” defense made waves during this season, giving opponents a difficult time (big understatement here), and has helped their team make late game runs to win. With their defensive system, they forced the Red Lions to 32 turnovers in round two. Credit that to the four steals of Rey Nambatac during that game and the never-ending hustle of guys like Mcjour Luib, Jerick Balanza and Bong Quinto.
Their individual defense has been off the charts, sticking like glue to their men as much as possible and avoiding help defenses. After all, this is what the Visayan defensive principles are known for, and Sorsogon-born Coach Aldin did not fail in making his players embrace the system.
San Beda ranks third overall in sharing the wealth in the league with 20.8 assists a game and leading the way is MVP candidate Art Dela Cruz, who averages close to seven per game. This plays a big factor as it involves ball movement, finding the open man, getting better and open shots.
True enough, the Red Lions are number one in field goal shooting in the league, averaging 47.3% in their 20 games played. During the course of the season, San Beda’s fast breaks involved at least three guys running down the floor, spearheaded by the versatile big man in Art. He makes sure that he involves his teammates often and making them look better.
When Baser Amer came back from a two-month recovery period, he did not focus on his scoring. Instead, he let his game come to him by involving his younger teammates more in the offense. In fact, he only averages 7.9 points in his 11 games played. His assist tally may not show it in his 3.3 dishes per game, but his presence and leadership are key factors as his teammates get more and more touches each game.
Advantage: San Beda
We all know it: San Beda has been number one heading into the post-season for 10 straight years and is gunning for its 6th straight ring. Letran was last seen in the finals in two years ago with Raymond Almazan being the league’s MVP.
Baser has been a winner for all of his basketball career (twice in the juniors, four times in the seniors and the 2012 Finals MVP), Koga has four as well. Ola, Sorela and Art were part of the last three, Dela Cruz being the 2013 Finals MVP. You also can’t count out the younger guns in Sara and Bonsubre who have two a piece, while Tongco, Mocon and Cabanag had their taste too of a title. Check that, 10 guys out of the 15 in their lineup already know what it feels like to be on top of the world (the remaining five? All first year players).
The younger Knights on the other hand, had their big three in their last finals appearance (Cruz, Racal, Nambatac). Letran has been on the top of the standings most of the season but lost twice in their three very close meetings. Even with the odds in San Beda’s favor, this is still going to be a dogfight. Nobody can count Letran out with the kind of basketball they’re showing to the world. At the same time, the Red Lions will not let the opportunity of making history slip away.
This is going to be an interesting three games (Yes, I called it).
Advantage: San Beda