UAAP Final Four Preview: FEU vs. Ateneo

In his final year, can Kiefer Ravena and the Blue Eagle defy the twice-to-beat disadvantage to cap his stellar collegiate career with a title? (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

THE STAGE is now set. Four teams remain in the hunt for the UAAP championship. In this two-part series, I'll take you to the things to expect for each series. First up, the 2 vs. 3 series between FEU and Ateneo.

History: The last time the Tamaraws and the Blue Eagles met in the postseason was in the 2011 Finals during Kiefer Ravena's rookie season. Nico Salva anchored Ateneo's push to the title, the fourth of a string of five straight championships from 2008 to 2012, earning him Finals MVP honors.

What Now: FEU swept its season series against Ateneo. The Tamaraws roared to an 88-64 rout of the Blue Eagles in the first round. FEU then needed to surpass Ateneo's gallant stand in their recent meeting to take a 66-61 win. However, the Blue Eagles had a shot at turning their Final Four series a virtual best-of-three only to be stunned by the UE Red Warriors in their last assignment on Saturday. Now, Ateneo needs to beat FEU twice to make the Finals in what will be the swan song for Ravena, Von Pessumal, and Coach Bo Perasol.

Key Match-Up: Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal vs. Mike Tolomia and Mac Belo-The key match-up here is a no-brainer. Ravena, the soon-to-be-named back-to-back MVP, and Tolomia are expected to not just score in bunches but also to be their teams' respective leaders. Also expected to be good helps are Pessumal and Belo. With these four expected to be first round picks in next year's PBA Draft, all eyes, including the scouts, are on them.

Stats to Watch Out: Both teams are good in stopping their opponents. FEU (67.6 ppg) is ranked second, while Ateneo (68.1) is third in points allowed. But if there is one thing that could decide this one, it's on whether they can score well. The Tams, tagged as preseason favorites, are on top of the league in terms of points scored at 74.7 ppg, while the Eagles are only fifth at 71.5. But for a motivation of sorts, NU, the league's top defensive team, downed FEU in their match on Saturday, limiting the latter to only 68. In fact, the Tams scored less than 75 in their last two games. Depth could also be a key. FEU leads the league in bench points at 37.4 ppg, while Ateneo is only fifth at 29.7 In fact, Coach Nash Racela leaned on his subs in their match against the De La Salle Green Archers, and they responded with a bang, triggering the game-deciding 20-4 run to eliminate the Archers.

Disclaimer: The opinion of the writer does not necessarily reflect those of Dugout Philippines.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno