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The Noob's Guide to the NCAA Finals

Has the time finally come for Arellano? (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

"IT'S about the last 80 minutes," that is how Coach Jamike Jarin describes the upcoming NCAA finals showdown between his San Beda Red Lions and the Arellano Chiefs. If you're asking, "What is this 'last 80 minutes' about?" then I will answer it for you.

A brewing rivalry

This is only the second time Arellano made the finals in its eight seasons in the league, but both championship series came against San Beda. In fact, both San Beda-Arellano finals clashes came within a three-year span. San Beda won the 2014 finals, but Arellano swept San Beda in their 2015 season series. The Red Lions swept the Chiefs in their season series this year, but Jarin downplayed it and, in a way, reiterated his agreement in the preseason that the Chiefs are the team to beat and that they are underdogs, somehow hinting that this series will be entirely different from 2014. With the Arellano-San Beda games in the juniors basketball (highlighted by wild finishes in their Final Four series) and the men's football tournaments also becoming epics, we have a new NCAA rivalry, folks.

The best "bus"

One key reason behind Arellano's recent success is Jio Jalalon. However, last year, he found a new ally in Kent Salado. This year, the "Bus Driver" Jalalon and the "Conductor" Salado showed their peak form, earning raves from the keen hoop junkies, including Jarin, who now believes "they are the best backcourt in college, even in the UAAP." The finals is their time to shine.

The inside job

While it seems like the guard combo of Jalalon and Salado will wreck havoc, the real battle could be inside the paint. With Donald Tankoua out due to an ACL injury, San Beda found an unlikely big men hero in Ben Adamos. Not to mention Javee Mocon improving by leaps and bounds. On the other hand, Arellano has the high-flying Lervin Flores, who has become the team's defensive anchor, and Dioncee Holts, who has slowly yet steadily regaining his deadly shooting form.

History vs. Destiny

Meanwhile, Coach Jerry CodiƱera is aware that San Beda is never an afterthought, at least in recent history, because the team, according to him, has the "culture and history." The Red Lions have never missed the finals since 2006. But Arellano is a team on the rise, and the time could be now. All Jarin can say about the series? "It's gonna be very interesting."

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno