In 2011, the Ateneo Blue Eagles won 16 of 17 games. Their only loss was against the eventual 3rd placer the Adamson Soaring Falcons in the second round of the eliminations. This year's Ateneo team might be one of the best in years. Best first 5, perhaps. They have a dominating center with Greg Slaughter. A high leaping forward with an outstanding shooting range in Nico Salva. A tough defender of a swingman in Kirk Long. A wily point guard in Emman Monfort. Last but not the least, a high scoring freshman guard in Kiefer Ravena. On paper, it's hard to find a collegiate 5 that can compete with them. On the court, they are indeed harder to beat. With a big time coach like Norman Black, the team can win 99% of the time.
FEU never figured them out after playing 4 games in the UAAP season and always coming up empty-handed. Ateneo must have luck on their side that Noundou, Sentchou, and Cawaling were injured. With those three, I guess FEU would have competed better.
So, what is in store for the next year? Long, Monfort, Bacon Austria, and Chris Sumalinog will no longer be on the team. They will have another marquee name in Chris Newsome, a 6-2 Fil-am guard. They will likely elevate Kris Porter from the Blue Eaglets. Ryan Buenafe could come back and suit up. For the other slot, Ateneo can give other schools a run for their money in the recruiting wars. The Ateneo war chest is deep and they can be capable of winning 10 straight titles in the UAAP with the current playing field.
UAAP is becoming the battleground of billionaires. Unlike the US NCAA where perks and incentives are strongly regulated, in the Philippines anything is possible. I could envision that eventually blue chip recruits might opt to play here rather than the states. The UAAP is eclipsing the PBA when it comes to popularity. The schools have bigger following than our top pro teams. That is why it is not surprising to see rich people backing a UAAP school.
Manny V. Pangilinan supports Ateneo. NU now has Henry Sy. If there is a team that could challenge Ateneo in the next few seasons, it could be NU. They now have Ray Parks, a blue chip guard who was supposed to go to Georgetown. We do not know who else they might be "hiding".
These kind of recruitment practices might be good for the spectators but I am hoping that they will not neglect the local basketball talent. Imports have come to invade our college scene recently. Even the lowly UP has an African"import". They are taking slots that were supposed to be for Filipinos who uses their athletic abilities as a means to earn a college degree from a prestigious school. I hope our basketball leaders will see what is happening before it is too late. A league will surely lose following if only one team or just a select few wins every time. Just look at the PBA. ;)
It was a great season but hopefully season 75 will be more competitive and showcase more Filipino talents. :)
Congratulations, Ateneo ! (The expected happened).