MANILA, Philippines – Whoever wins Game 1 between the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles and the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers is likely to take the 75th UAAP men’s basketball crown, according to a basketball analyst.
Sid Ventura, Yahoo! Philippines Sports Editor, said in an interview on ANC’s Top Story that the victor in Game 1 is likely to dictate the outcome of the title series.
“Ateneo is actually 8-1 in championship games during their 4-year run. They only lost in 2009 to UE (University of the East) and they bounced back to get the championship in Game 3. So every time Ateneo wins Game 1, they go on to win the series,” said Ventura.
He said the Tigers will need to fire all cylinders in Game 1 to gain a psychological edge against the defending champions.
“To get any psychological advantage, I think they better come out and get Game 1. Otherwise, Ateneo will have the advantage going to Game 2,” said Ventura.
Key indicators for UST
Ventura said the performance of two UST players will be among the key indicators of the Tigers’ fate in the best-of-3 title showdown.
He said UST will need high scoring output from Tigers Aljon Mariano and Kevin Ferrer to win against Ateneo.
“I think the production of those two will be very, very important for Coach Pido. Ferrer has to come out and play the same game he played against NU (National University) in that Final 4 series… UST needs his outside shooting. Mariano exploded in the meeting between these two teams, he basically willed UST to victory,” said Ventura.
In their 63-57 win over NU, Ferrer scored 17 points, while Mariano tallied 14.
Ventura said the two Tigers will also pose match-up problems for Ateneo coach Norman Black because of their height.
“They're both 6'2-6'4" and they played wing. How Norman Black will match up those two players will be very crucial,” he said.
However, the weakness Ventura sees in Ferrer is his lack of consistency.
“He's been a little inconsistent this season. UST hopes he will find his shooting touch in this championship series,” he said.
Major roles for Kiefer, Ryan
Meanwhile, Ventura said 2011 Rookie of the year Kiefer Ravena and 2010 Finals MVP Ryan Buenafe will be taking on important roles in Ateneo’s bid for a 5th straight crown.
“Ravena averaged 18.5 points against UST in those 2 elimination round games. He's been playing high level right to the end of the elimination round and going to the final 4 against La Salle. His production will also be very very important for coach Norman Black,” said the analyst.
Buenafe, on the other hand, is expected to be deadly on the perimeter now that the Eagles have returned to the finals.
Ventura said the 6’2” forward might become Ateneo’s go-to guy if UST double teams Filipino-American center Greg Slaughter.
“If UST decides to double Greg Slaughter in the low post, Buenafe might be the guy that they seem to leave open, so he has to be able to connect on his shooting,” said Ventura.
“This guy seems to rise to occasion during championships... he's a player who elevates his game when stakes are high.”
Game 1 of the best-of-3 finals will be played at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena on Saturday and will be aired live over Channel 2.